“You can’t think forever. Sooner or later, you gotta make a move.”
In a previous recap, we talked about how effectiveness of The Walking Dead‘s cold opens. More than just setting the tone and direction, they can also gives an overview of what’s going to happen before the closing credits.
The opening sequence of “Dead Weight” offered a pretty good microcosm of events to come. We saw The Governor and Megan playing chess outside of an RV, a scene that was intercut with one immediately following where we left of last week, where Martinez pulled The Governor and Megan out of the biter pit. We learned a few things, most notably (and probably not surprisingly) that The Governor had a rough childhood and an abusive father, but the chess game was the central metaphor: The Governor needed to stop thinking, take one last look at the board and go ahead and make a move.
He made several moves over the course of this season’s seventh episode, starting with cold-cocking Martinez, his ex-henchman, with a bit of a sucker punch (actually, a sucker golf swing) when Martinez was drunk, then dragging him to the biter pit to be summarily torn to pieces. He then evaluated what was left of the camp’s leadership. Pete, who stepped into Martinez’s leadership role, was too soft; while Mitch was perhaps too reckless, and certainly too stupid. But at least Mitch does what needs to be done without too much thought about morality, so Pete was out and Mitch was in. By the end of the episode, The Governor was back in charge of a new group, with Mitch as his right-hand man and zombie Pete trying, very unsuccessfully, to shake his weighted chain and come up from the bottom of the lake.
Condensing the highlights into two paragraphs sure makes it feel like a lot happened in the episode; in reality, this was the second episode in a row that was heavy on character development and light on action. Perhaps the most nail-biting scene was when Martinez, The Governor, Pete and Mitch cleared the small cabin and a few walkers came out of the woodwork. But other than Pete freaking out a bit and The Governor breaking some skulls with a Maglite, the scene was pretty pedestrian. Same when the walker attacked Megan during a game of tag; other than Tara tearing the rotten flesh off of the zombies legs, the scene played out to its logical conclusion: The Governor arrived just in time to dispatch the zombie with a shot to the head.
Because of the way the story has been laid out, we needed to follow The Governor’s post-Woodbury journey, but the reality is the past two eps have been very slow and boring. And worse: they haven’t been particularly well-crafted, either. A TV-savvy friend of mine nailed it when she said that David Morrissey is such a good actor, he lends gravitas to anything he’s doing, but the past few episodes have been over-written and over-directed with lots of long stares and clipped sentences. Rather than an invisible hand guiding us through periods of tense drama, instead we have a fist beating us over the head saying, “See! We’re dramatic!” It’s a bit heavy-handed, and, thankfully, it’s pretty much over.
The closing scene of “Dead Weight” brings us back to where we first saw The Governor: just as the plague was subsiding — staring at the prison, plotting how he could get inside. We know why he wants to take over the place — he has a new group of people to protect and he needs a more secure home — and now we get to find out how. Given the relative safety of the security fences, it was very likely The Governor would try and take the prison to give his people a more secure place to live. But after seeing a smiling Michonne — knowing she dispatched his beloved Penny — he’s probably going to come with everything he has. After a slow couple of weeks, the fun can really begin.
Zombie Kill Report: Kill-for-kill, I think this was the slowest episode this season. In fact, it may be the first episode where as many humans were killed as zombies. The Kill of the Week would probably be The Governor with a Maglite, but if we’re allowing human kills to be in contention, then The Governor’s brutal dispatching of Martinez would win flat out.
Best Post-Kill Aftermath: Perhaps the best single shot of the episode was the image of zombie Pete trying to shake his shackles and swim up from the bottom of the pond. When The Governor dumped Pete into the water, I was pretty sure he didn’t kill him so that he wouldn’t turn. Is Pete a trophy? The first zombie in a new collection like the one the Governor had in Woodbury? Or is The Governor just a true sociopath?
Relative Morality: From time to time, TWD does a great job of examining the difficult issues of life under intense survival pressure, when people have to compete for scarce resources. The fall of civilization and the continued threat of the walkers means that life has reverted to the most basic, brutal struggle to stay alive. Killing zombies is pretty much a no-brainer. But what about the humans? In this episode we saw a stark contrast: Mitch was willing to kill people just for their supplies, while Pete was not. In the end, The Governor was in charge because he is completely unambiguous in his willingness to kill. He has his little family and will do anything — and kill anyone — to protect them. Does that make him evil? Let us know in the comments below.
What’s in a Name? In the comments last week, an alert reader pointed out that I was calling The Governor’s new squeeze Melody, when in fact the character’s name is Lily. I’ll take the rap for getting that one wrong. Another reader pointed out that I had been calling The Governor’s former henchman Caesar. According to IMDB, the character’s name is Caesar Martinez, but everyone on the show seems to be referring to the character as Martinez. You’ll find him referred to that way in this recap, but that shouldn’t be much of a problem in the future as Martinez is clearly dead.