Image credit: Gene Page/AMC
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.
The women rode with the men back to their base. A doctor attended to Andrea, and then Merle came in for a chitchat. "I bet you were wonderin' if I was real," he said -- an indication, I think, that the Walking Dead writers also never want to talk about that dream episode ever again. "I guess this ol' world gets a lil' smaller toward the end," said Merle. Ain't so many of us left to share the air." Merle pulled up a chair and sat down on it backwards, interrogation-room style. Andrea updated him on what's been happening with the group. When she mentioned Rick, Merle grimaced: "He's that prick that cuffed me to the rooftop." Merle doesn't know anything about the Ricktatorship; when he left the camp, the Grimes Gang was still living in a relatively benign and mostly-ungoverned commune. Michonne didn't say too much, and the hard stare she flashed Merle's way indicated bad things to come.
But Merle was just the advance guard for the man in charge. The leader of the gang came in. Andrea and Michonne accused him of killing the soldiers; they hadn't been bitten, after all. But the man clarified that everyone becomes a walker, bitten or not. "I put them out of their misery," he explained. He took them outside and took them on a tour of a lovely little All-American town: "Welcome to Woodbury." He showed them the gates of the town, where Merle and his squad take out walkers who come to Woodbury, maybe because they can smell humanity, maybe by accident. Andrea asked if they were military, but the leader explained that they were self-trained: A militia, like the Minutemen who fought against the redcoats in the Revolutionary War. Merle told his boss: "Got us a creeper, Governor." Andrea asked the man about that "Governor" stuff. "Some nicknames stick whether you want them to or not," explained the Governor. He smiled, looking like a man who didn't mind his nickname one bit.
The ladies wanted to leave, but the Governor asked them to stay. He offered them a hot shower, food, fresh clothes; he promised to give them keys to a car in the morning, if that was what they desired. In the morning, he had a sweet local lady show them around the community. Woodbury has a population of 73, she explained; it'll be 74 soon, since one citizen is pregnant. It's been months since any walkers have breached the gates. There's a mandatory curfew. It became clear that Merle and his security force hold a place of significant authority in town: "Those men put their lives at risk every day to defend this town," the local lady explained. The pitch on Woodbury was clear: This is a town that has somehow defeated the apocalypse and achieved a state of triumphant normalcy.
In dark rooms in a dark corners of Woodbury, however, dark things were happening darkly. The Governor paid a visit to the injured helicopter pilot, who spun a sad tale of woe. The soldiers had secured a zombie-free base; one of the walkers got in, and the place fell into anarchy within minutes. It was just like 28 Weeks Later, except without the bruised nobility of Jeremy Renner's sad blue eyes. The pilot said that there were more soldiers out there. "Let me go find the rest," said the Governor. "If they're alive, I'll bring them in."
After his visit, The Governor consulted with a bespectacled colleague named Milton. (AMC completists will recognize Dallas Roberts, the actor playing Milton, from his role on the endearingly overcomplicated canceled drama Rubicon.) Milton was doing some kind of experiment on Michonne's pets, keeping them alive with an apparatus that vaguely resembled the Martian technology that led to a headless romance between Pierce Brosnan and Sarah Jessica Parker in Mars Attacks! "Take away their ability to eat, and they lose interest," said Milton. It's not clear what exactly the nature of his experiments are, but it vibes a bit like Day of the Dead. Is he trying to pacify the zombies? Or, more intriguingly, is he trying to put them to work for Woodbury?
NEXT: Michonne explains that her s--- never stopped being together, thank you very much