During The Walking Dead‘s first season, there was an enormous amount of momentum that came from being on the road. As the characters who would become the core of the main group came together, we followed them from place to place where Walkers were seemingly (and often actually) were hiding around every corner. Then, early in Season 2, the group made their way to the Greene Farm, and we commenced the interminable “Sophia Watch” that marks the series’ low point.
As this fourth season began, and life settled into a sense of normalcy in the prison, it seems the writers obviously learned the most important lesson from that second season on the farm: Keep the story moving forward. The plague outbreak was an effective way to break up the stagnation of staying in one place, and it allowed for a surprising amount of action in the prison. Episode 6, “Live Bait,” took us away from the prison entirely, bringing the story back to The Governor. We caught a glimpse of him eyeing the prison at the end of last week’s show, igniting questions about where he’s been and what kind of havoc he’s been wreaking since the fall of Woodbury.
The Governor, we learn, bounced around for a while with Caesar, his trusty baseball bat-wielding henchman before the two parted ways. (I’m still not sure exactly what happened; the Governor woke up in his tent one morning and it looked like Caesar had just left him). So The Governor wanders the countryside in what seems like a goofy karaoke video, stumbling around, ignoring walkers who got close and growing a long beard. He made his way to a pretty depressing apartment building, where we met new characters: Tara, the tough-talking wannabe cop; single mom Melody, and her adorable daughter, Megan (will they become The Governor’s replacement family?)
I’m sure nearly everyone saw that development coming a mile away. As The Governor slowly thawed and warmed to the trio, he cemented the transition by burning the photo of his family. At first, I thought this was an overly dramatic way of making the point that he was adopting a new set of loved ones, but anyone who remembers his daughter Penny knows this was pretty significant. Losing his family was the traumatic event that brought about the rise of The Governor as we knew him in Woodbury, and finding some kind of cure for the zombie plague that took Penny was what motivated his bizarre and often immoral acts.
When the new, somewhat happy family left the apartment building, the momentum change was apparent almost immediately, even if the travel scenesfelt a bit tossed together. First, it was the open road. After their vehicle breaks down, it’s a march on foot — and sure enough: walkers! There was always a chance that Megan wouldn’t trust The Governor after she watched him bash in her grandfather’s face (more on that below), but we were pretty sure that she’d come along. Assuming everyone survived (we didn’t see whether Tara and Melody made it), The Governor has a new, ready-made family. But fleeing the walkers, he ran straight into the old biter trap and the waiting Caesar. Once his most loyal henchman, Caesar might be a loose cannon — it’s not clear whether he’ll be willing to follow The Governor’s orders again.
Zombie Kill Report: Overall, this episode was slow. There were only a few walker kills during The Governor’s venture into the retirement home. The scene where the grandfather died was sufficiently brutal. The second The Governor heard that he might have been dead for a while, both he–and we–knew what was coming. Smashing his head open with the oxygen tank clearly changed his relationship with Tara and Melody, but they seemed to get over it quickly enough. Megan, not surprisingly, took that much harder, but in the end she came around as well. The Kill of the Week was absolutely The Governor using a bone to snap open a walker’s head. Nicely — and ickily — done.
So about those defenses… Much of the time we spent in Woodbury, we heard about how secure it was. Guards always stood atop impregnable ramparts, holding hordes of walkers at bay. But during The Governor’s music video/journey into despair, he commandeered an armored truck that he drove through Woodbury’s front gate, smashing it into a million pieces. With no more guards, Woodbury is now overrun with walkers, a sad shell of the dream community he used to rule with an iron fist.
Family matters: We’re left with two big questions from the final scene in the walker pit. First: Did Tara and Melody survive? The characters come out of Robert Kirkman’s novel, The Rise of the Governor, and there was a lot of buzz online this week that their presence would mean we would go deeper into The Governor’s past. But they’ve been slotted into the time between the fall of Woodbury and the reappearance of The Governor at the prison. The story could continue without Tara and Melody–Megan was the important part of this trio–but if they didn’t survive, it would be the end of The Governor’s new budding romance. The second big question: What will happen with Caesar? There was a time when he loyally followed The Governor’s orders, but given how he greeted him in the pit, something happened between them that soured the relationship. We’ll probably find out next week.
The Path Ahead: All we know for sure is that The Governor heads back to the prison, eyeing it from afar with a sinister look on his face. He has a beef with Rick for his role in bringing about the end of Woodbury (at least that’s how he sees it) — will that bad blood bubble up and start a new war?