As some faithful readers may recall, my review of last week’s installment of TWD had it positioned among the best the series has produced thus far. Everything that holds the show back (dialogue that would never be spoken by actual humans, retreading the same plot beats ad nauseum, forgetting that zombies are what makes a zombie show a zombie show) was conspicuously missing, while we were given a great acting performance by Scott Wilson as Herschel, the satisfying resolution of the sickness plotline that had been driving the first few episodes, and a cliffhanger to leave the audience salivating with the hinting of the long-awaited Rick/Daryl confrontation. It was everything I love about the show tied up into one action packed, suspenseful hour.
And then this week, we swing 180 degrees in the other direction (720 degrees? 9,361?). Not only is the Governor back, now we know where he’s been, and where he’s going to be before he’s back. I actually loved the first several minutes of what was essentially a horror montage of Philip/Brian’s rapid decent into madness. I wouldn’t have minded if they had gone full bore with it, complete with visual stimuli, unintelligible voices mixed in with the music, etc. I absolutely loved this shot, and thought that the entire episode was worth it just to get it:
This show is SUPPOSED to be over the top! I don’t think they use insane artistic imagery like this nearly enough. In the rush to achieve “Prestigious TV Drama” status and be counted amongst the Mad Mens, Wires, Breaking Bads, etc., the show has often lost track of what it is. Imagery like the Governor standing in front of a blazing Woodbury building makes me think Scott Gimple has a decent handle on the level of bombast he needs to shoot for. Sure, he risks spilling over into Camp Campiness, but fuck it, IT’S A FUCKING ZOMBIE SHOW.
The rest of the episode is literally torn straight from the first Walking Dead novel, Rise of the Governor, although the chronology has been screwed with a little. After he’s ditched by his machine gun-wielding colleagues (Martinez and Shumpert, for those interested, I prefer to imagine that this Shumpert is the Knicks Iman Shumpert, although he’s 6’5″ and about to be traded) the Governor that we’re re-introduce to is a walking contradiction. He’s at once fighting to remain anonymous but obviously craving human contact (as long as no one knows who he was), he meets a family similar to his old one but burns the picture he had kept since everything went to shit, and he doesn’t seem to think he deserves redemption, but his actions lead the viewer to believe that he’s actively penitent anyway.
It’s one thing for a person like the Governor to ask for forgiveness, it’s quite another for him to be forgiven. I don’t think Walking Dead writers are asking the audience to forgive the Governor (does one ever get forgiven after gunning down a dozen or so innocents?) but rather they are asking the question, once a man has committed an atrocity, but there’s no one left in the world to punish him, where does he go, and what does he do with what’s left of his life? It’s a fascinating question, and I hope it’s the primary focus of next week’s episode.
I have to confess that I was a little disappointed that we didn’t just jump right back into the prison shenanigans this week. But what we did get could have been a major letdown (especially since AMC obviously only kept the Governor around at the end of last season because he was a ratings bonanza, HELLO SHOWTIME/HOMELAND/BRODY/DAMIAN LEWIS) and instead proved to be well shot, well written and full of intrigue. From a season that could have been stagnant and full of repeated storylines, I’ve been thoroughly entertained from the outset. We also have been given a perfect setup for the remainder of the half season, and I have nothing but good feelings right now from Zombie Apocalypse-ville.