Few characters have ever received a grander introduction than The Artist Formerly Known as Phillip. In the space of one hour of television, he practically stole the show away from the regular characters. He was a slithery charmer, an All-American politician, a homicidal gun-freak, a political despot, a man with a fifty-year plan, a man with a few dozen undead heads in his man-cave. At the season's midway point, he became a flat-out Big Bad; he spent a whole episode hunting Andrea through the forest, basically doing his best imitation of an '80s slasher villain.
Through all those permutations, there was one rough constant in the Governor's mindset: The importance of Woodbury, of maintaining his curious kingdom by any means necessary. But that all went out the window, in the end. The Governor told his militia to turn back to the prison. The militia refused: They didn't sign up for this, for killing actual real people. "Rabble rabble rabble!" they screamed. "Rabble rabble!" The Governor couldn't take it. He had a headache. He was in a nasty mood. So he pulled out his big gun and shot everyone. Everyone. He killed every member of his militia, and for good measure, he turned around and shot Allen. (This all happened mostly offscreen -- an incredibly effective choice by the episode's director, Ernest Dickerson, who also helmed the brilliant season 3 premiere.)
The Governor didn't even stop there. He slowly meandered over to the field, took out his pistol, and shot his dead citizens through the head. (He missed the only citizen who was still breathing, but only because he ran out of ammo.) He walked back to his truck, got in, and waited for Martinez and Lackey #1 to join him. They did, and off they drove into the sunset.
Now, this scene was terrifying on multiple levels, but it was also frustrating. It might have had greater heft if the Governor hadn't already seemed like a mustache-twirling crazy person for half a season. It seemed to fly right in the face of everything we knew about his long-term intentions. The scene seemed designed to draw a line once and for all between the Governor and Rick. Certainly, it transformed the Governor once and for all into a complete black-hatted supervillain. But really, did this come as a surprise to anyone? In the Governor's very first episode, he wound up gunning down an entire platoon of soldiers (in slow-motion!) More to the point: Did this provide you with anything approaching season-finale closure on the Governor's character arc? And where does the show take him from here? The Governor, Martinez, and Lackey #1 don't have many resources, and from what we saw, they didn't return to Woodbury. Are they just setting off into the American wasteland? Will they just became a Mad Max road gang?
The Governor's future is open-ended. The same can't be said for another key character in the Deadverse, though.
NEXT: Farewell, Andrea