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'The Walking Dead' S4 Ep6: 'Ello, Governor (or Burn, Woodbury, Burn!)

Disco Inferno! The Governor (David Morrissey) tries to dance away from his sociopathic past.


Disco Inferno! The Governor (David Morrissey) tries to dance away from his sociopathic past.



These are the days of the anti-hero -- your Walter Whites, your Don Drapers -- complicated TV gents whose very fabric is a patchwork of decent and duplicitious, a compelling morality cha-cha. AMC phenom The Walking Dead has had its own share of anti-heroes, most recently Carl, Rick's creepy kiddo, who appears heroic one day, murderous the next. What's going on under that sheriff's hat? Do we root or do we shudder? Exactly.

And yet, when it comes to the Governor, that psychotic cyclops who drove the mayhem of Season 3, the Show About Zombies That Never Utters the Word "Zombies" has always been clear: Ol' Phil is a madman, a complete nutter driven past the brink by a lethal cocktail of watching his family die and then watching his town die. "He just lost it," the Governor dryly said about himself on Sunday's polarizing episode, a stand-alone hour that featured none of the cast regulars. "The man in charge."

Lost it??? You had a burbling aquarium of heads!! You tortured, you raped! You massacred an entire group of innocents with rapid tugs of a trigger!  And yet, the writers of the hit show are now asking us to see the one-eyed Gov as an anti-hero, a misunderstood fella who makes pirate jokes to little girls, who fetches backgammon boards as a favor, who teaches a little girl chess. Awwww, how cute -- wait, what?!!

You have two options here. At the risk of getting too religious, you can believe that all of us are worthy of redemption. You can trust showrunner Scott Gimple, that he is leading us somewhere revelatory about the human condition. The writers went out of their way last night to show a thatchy-bearded Gov BURNING DOWN HIS PAST. First he torched his old Woodbury stomping grounds, then he symbolically set his original family ablaze, swapping them for a milquetoast matriarchal crew of survivors/second-rate actors. (Yikes, were there some clunky line readings last night or what?!) We saw the Gov (new name Brian Heriot) battle the AARP of the Damned in a nursing home, all to get oxygen tanks for a dying man -- who died anyway and then had his face kersplatted by, well, the Governor with, well, an oxygen tank. But it was a mercy killing!

Option 2: You can gripe and moan and refuse to follow the Governor down the road to redemption. After all, when it comes to eeeeevil, this guy was high-fiving Freddy Krueger at the annual Psycho Convention. In the undead apocalypse, are the rules that different when it comes to apologies? The Gov's David Morrissey is a fantastic actor, and he no doubt believes his character is a deeply textured man. But rooting for the Governor at this point? That's a bit like saying, "You know, that Jack the Ripper isn't such a bad chap, after all!"

Do the writers truly believe in redemption -- or are they just trying to be edgy, twisty? Do you believe the Gov is a changed man? That he can change that much? And do we absolve him of his horrific sins, which now include tossing out perfectly good Spaghetti-Os? Or maybe this "kindness" routine is just a fugue state (to borrow from Walter White), an anomaly. Maybe the Gov's in shock and once he sees Michonne, he'll start shopping for a new head aquarium.

And the ultimate question: Do you still have faith in this season's writers? Can they redeem themselves?

[Last modified: Monday, November 18, 2013 10:20am]


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