The Walking Dead recap: Mr. Governor, I Presume?

Rick and the Governor meet on neutral ground to broker peace. It works about as well as the Treaty of Versailles
Ep. 13 | Aired Mar 10, 2013

CAN'T TAKE MY EYE OFF OF YOU In the comic books, The Governor was a great villain, but he was essentially a grotesque: All bad, all the time. Whereas TV-Governor has an intriguing lust for world-building, a character trait shared by all the great leaders and terrible despots in history. This nominally makes him a more interesting character. But does it make him a better villain?

Gene Page/AMC

They both offered their perspective on recent events. The Governor claimed that Merle didn't kidnap Maggie and Glenn on his orders; "I was trying to sort it out when you attacked." Rick cross-examined his opponent. "I thought you were a cop, not a lawyer," said The Governor. Rick was blunt: "You're the town drunk who knocked over my fence and ripped up my yard." The Governor more casual. He had heard of Rick. He mentioned casually the great Original Sin of The Walking Dead: The baby that might not be his, that might in fact be the daughter of the best friend he killed. Then the Governor concluded: "I brought whiskey."

Outside, Milton had a suggestion. Maybe the hench-people could explore the issues themselves. Milton is a toadie for a post-apocalyptic despot, but there is a side to him that is still recognizably modern. He brought out his notebook and explained that he'd been recording everything. "It'll be part of our history." Martinez scoffed at that. So did Daryl, probably. The idea of recording the events of this sorrowful life must seem ridiculous. Either the human race doesn't have a future...or it does, and no one will want to remember the terrible days of the zombie plague.

As if to remind them of that fact, a few walkers showed up. Martinez broke out his baseball bat. He and Daryl engaged in a Measuring Contest: "You first." "After you." We haven't really gotten to know very much about Martinez this season; he's one of those characters, like Tyreese, who seems mostly defined by his choice of weapon. Martinez prefers a baseball bat, which he swings around like it's a ninja weapon. Daryl stole one of Martinez' kills with a throwing knife. But Daryl also grabbed cigarettes off a dead walker and offered them to Martinez. "Eh, I prefer menthols," said the Governor's henchman. "Douchebag," responded Daryl. Oh, get a room you two!

Listen, I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. But as much as The Walking Dead tried to structure the Rick-Governor meeting as an Event, I found that the best scene of the whole episode was what came between Daryl and Martinez. They were like those soldiers in WWI who called a truce during Christmas. "I just hate these things," said Martinez, "After what they did. Wife. Kids." "Sucks," said Daryl." "Thanks," said Martinez. It was a solid human moment, unadorned, helplessly badass but also realistically traumatized. And, just like those soldiers, both Daryl and Martinez knew exactly how this was going to all end up. They'll have each other in their sights soon, one way or another. Milton and Hershel had their own bonding session -- a meeting between two thinking men. Milton asked to see Hershel's stump, leading Ol' Stumpy to declare, "At least buy me a drink first."

This was all light stuff, given gravitas by the sense of approaching terror. Back in the shack, The Governor and Rick were talking about larger matters. "This fight, it's a failure of leadership," said The Governor. Both men are leaders, and both men take their leadership seriously. They aren't in danger of being replaced. The danger is more existential: If they can't make their people believe in them, then their whole society will fall to pieces. Or at least that's what they believe. And their power is real. "If we choose to destroy, we're going to kill everyone we know," said The Governor.

From there, The Governor segued into talking about the day his wife died: How she had left him a voicemail, and how he had listened to that voicemail after she was already dead, a voice from beyond the grave. Rick, you may remember, had a full-fledged phone conversation with his dead wife earlier in the season. On one hand, I found this connection intriguing: Just a couple dudes, talkin' dead wives. The Governor's main point seems to be: We're not so different, you and I. The show seems to agree with this, too.

But they are different: In the very first episode that we met The Governor, he gunned down a whole platoon of soldiers in cold blood. Rick has gotten his hands dirty, but he's never killed without provocation. At a certain base point, Rick still feels too obviously heroic -- and The Governor too obviously evil -- for the Heat comparison to hold. Dramatically speaking, this was Evil One-Eyed Darth Hitler talking to Nobly Widowed Daddy Franklin Delano Eastwood.

NEXT: Merle has a plan

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