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

The soldiers had no time. The Governor walked up to a fallen soldier and picked up his machine gun; then he beat the soldier's head in. Blood splattered over his face, and the Governor looked like he was in ecstasy. One soldier made a run for it; the Governor picked him off, a perfect sniper shot. "Go put a merciful end to that young man's days," he told one of his men. The Governor has some kind of moral code, then: If you kill someone, at least have the common decency to make sure that they stay dead.

The squad returned to Woodbury. The Governor gave a passionate speech about finding the soldiers dead from a zombie attack. But like a good politician, the Governor managed to strike an optimistic note. The soldiers died because they didn't have walls, like Woodbury. He explained that, in order to honor the soldiers' sacrifice, the people of Woodbury must not take their safety for granted. (Another thing to not take for granted: The heavy artillery the soldiers left behind.)

Everyone cheered the Governor's thrilling oratory. Andrea walked up to him, flashing bedroom eyes. She asked him for his real name, flirtatiously. "I never tell," said the Governor. "Never say never," said Andrea. The Governor listened to what she said. He smiled enigmatically. He looked into the middle distance, as if remembering something from the past. He laughed about it. And then he said, "Never." It was an awesome moment, and also offered proof that David Morrissey has been taking lessons at Richard Gere Acting School:

I want to mention something important: Almost nobody from the regular Walking Dead cast appeared in this episode. Heck, the only character in the episode who's been around for longer than two minutes was Andrea. Instead, the meat of this episode focused entirely on a new character. That's a thrilling risk for a show to take -- and if you ask me, it's a risk that paid off for Dead. With Shane gone, the show needed to introduce a new human threat. And in sharp contrast to crazypants lovelorn Shane, the Governor has a complicated set of ethics. It's clear that he believes everything he does is for the good of Woodbury -- and, for that matter, it's clear that what he's doing for Woodbury is working fantastically well. But like all despots, he also fundamentally believes that his civilization couldn't run itself without him.

And then that final scene happened, and something else about the Governor became clear: He is some kind of crazy. He was up late sipping scotch. The kindly tour guide from earlier lay on his bed, naked: If you're the man in charge, it's not too hard to find a ladyfriend. He looked at an old picture: A smiling Governor, with what appeared to be a cute wife and a  daughter. Then he took off his key-necklace and opened a secret door. He sat down in an easy chair, bathed in light. He sipped his scotch. He finally looked up. His face shifted: He looked scared, but also just a little but turned on. We saw what he was looking at: A row of human heads, all still alive (or at least undead), stacked on top of each other. Michonne's pets are there; so is the head of the injured pilot.

Fans of the comic book series were probably watching last night's episode with extra tension: The comic version of the Governor is one of Dead's best characters, and he's also considerably different (at least in presentation) from the version we met on last night's episode. (David Morrissey explained that his Governor is intended to be a portrayal of the character between his origin story Rise of the Governor and his appearance in the comic book series. The thing to take away from that is that David Morrissey apparently read Rise of the Governor, and therefore, is awesome.) TV-Governor is less openly sadistic than Comic-Governor; I'm intrigued to see how they develop him from here.

(IMPORTANT NOTE: Feel free to chat about the comic book in the comment boards, but if you do, kindly put a big SPOILER ALERT on top of your comment. Given that recap readers seem to enjoy talking about the comic book about as much as they enjoy anything Lori does, we might set up a separate space to chat about the differences between the comic and the TV show -- let us know if that would interest you! END OF IMPORTANT NOTE.)

Lots to chat about this week, readers. Zombie experiments! Violence in the service of a greater good! Michael Rooker's trademarked Stabby-Stump™, the perfect gift for your youngster this holiday season! Did you enjoy this first peak of Woodbury?

Follow Darren on Twitter: @DarrenFranich

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