The Walking Dead recap: The Man Who Would Be Governor

Andrea and Michonne run afoul of an old friend, and meet a mysterious new ally who has a secret or three
Ep. 03 | Aired Oct 28, 2012

I AM NOT THE FINE MAN YOU TAKE ME FOR Roll with me on this for a second, but doesn't it seem like the show is setting up the Governor as an explicit mirror image of Rick -- the yin to his yang, the Wario to his Mario, the Samuel L. Jackson to his Bruce Willis? The Governor rules with a smile and has the aura of a kind leader, but secretly does terrible things to maintain his community; Rick rules with an iron fist and demands that his people all take equal responsibility for the terrible things they have to do to survive. The Governor = benevolent despot, Rick = democratically elected prime minister. If we're to believe that picture at the end of the episode, The Governor had a wife and a daughter who died; Rick has a wife and a son who survived. Almost a year into the apocalypse, the Governor has styled himself as a military commander, complete with a perpetual flak jacket; meanwhile, Rick has become an unshaven guerilla tribal leader. And they're both played by British actors using enjoyably broad American-dialect accents! Also, notice how the camera kept focusing on Governor's holster? I'm betting this whole season ends with a western-style standoff between the Governor and Rick. That, or something with zombies.

Gene Page/AMC

One of the most fun things about The Walking Dead is that it doesn't really have any long-running mysteries. Almost every new genre series that's arrived in the past decade comes equipped with a whole mass of questions. (Who caused the Flashforward? What is The Event? How did the world's electricity suddenly turn off? Why did anyone ever remake V?) In this sense, The Walking Dead feels like a throwback to an older, far more straightforward form of science-fiction. "The zombies are here and we have to survive" -- that's the concept, simple and effective.

With one exception: The Helicopter, which appeared twice in the show's first two seasons. In the series premiere, Rick followed the sound of the copter and rode straight into a downtown herd of walkers. In last season's finale, we saw the same helicopter inadvertently caused another herd to migrate to Hershel's Farm. In both events, the helicopter was a tantalizing glimpse of advanced technology. And if someone had a helicopter, then surely that same someone had food, shelter, and some kind of magic zombie-proof armor? To get really heavy for a second, the helicopter seemed like a window into a higher state of consciousness -- the rough equivalent of seeing the occasional Dharma Initiative logo in the second season of Lost. The helicopter was proof that someone more powerful than our characters was out there, maybe even watching over them.

So it was immediately thrilling when the first scene of last night's episode of The Walking Dead threw us into a helicopter flying over the wilderness. Soldiers were inside. They looked stressed out. There was some talk about "getting back in contact" with the other guys. There was some light turbulence. And then everything went to hell. The pilot told his boys to assume crash positions. The copter went down in the forest. Now, mind you, it's impossible to know if this helicopter is The Helicopter. But, in context, the opening sequence felt like a sly statement of purpose for this series: In this world, the gods really are dead.

Andrea, Michonne, and Michonne's mouthless pets watched smoke rising from the crash. An ailing Andrea wanted to check it out; Michonne wasn't too sure. Naturally, it fell to the lady with the sword to investigate the burning copter, while Andrea stayed behind in the bushes to vomit. Michonne found one of the soldiers: He was cut in half, and his top half was hungry. Then a car arrived, and Michonne lurked in the bushes with Andrea. They watched as a group of men got out of the car. These men were well-armed and well-trained. They didn't use bullets unless they had to. (Baseball bats are much quieter.) The man in charge took the lead in killing the soldier-zombies. He walked up to the half-man and stabbed his brain, methodically. In the bushes, the pets were acting up. Michonne did not hesitate: She pulled out her katana and chopped off both their heads, earning what could have been her third straight Zombie Kill of the Week award.

Alas for Michonne's perfect record, the two women were discovered by one of the men. But not just any man. He was a man of great passion and great humor. A man who has suffered great trauma, and has emerged all the stronger for it. He is a gentleman and a scholar; he may be the last true American. I'm talking, of course, about Merle Dixon, the half-crazy redneck warrior played by full-crazy cult legend Michael Rooker. Merle was last seen preparing to saw off his own hand on an Atlanta rooftop; some Walking Dead viewers claim he appeared as a dream-demon in an episode last season that focused entirely on Daryl Dixon climbing a hill, but that didn't actually happen and we're never going to speak of that episode again. Dixon said, "Hi, Blondie! You look good!" There was a walker approaching behind him; without even looking, he stabbed it through the head with his new prosthetic bayonet-arm, thereby ensuring an easy victory for the Zombie Kill of the Week. "How's about a hug for your old pal, Merle?" Heads up, people: Michael Rooker is back, and the government has officially declared a state of emergency.

NEXT: The Governor Cometh

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