This week’s episode of The Walking Dead Episode 406, “Live Bait”–is flat-out the strangest in the show’s four-season run. And despite the fact that no one we have come to care about came close to getting bitten or otherwise terminated, it might also be most frighteningWalking Dead episode ever. (Spoilers, of course, for The Walking Dead, up to Episode 406)
The Walking Dead is a show that prides itself on its parallel story telling. Even in last season’s gut-wrenching fourth episode, in which Lori is giving birth and ultimately dies, the writers cut away from that action to show us Andrea’s tryst with The Governor.
Not this week. As Glenn recovers, Rick tells Daryl about Carol, and Carl harvests those snow peas, we ignore them all in favor of all Governor, all the time.
Based on last week’s ominous closing shot of Eye Patch Phil standing outside the prison gates, we might have expected to see him leading a paramilitary unit in full payback mode.
Instead, we see The Governor barely hanging on. He’s wandering aimlessly, walker-like almost, teetering on the edge of survival. Then he hooks up with Lilly and Laura and Meghan. I don’t know about you, but I spent the hour on the edge of my seat, wondering whether he’s going to rape and kill or kill and rape.
Yet he didn’t. He acted with humanity, and even heroism. He taught them to kill walkers. He got oxygen for their dad and when the time came, he put him down. And once they hit the road, he saved them all from the pack of walkers.
To a viewer who hadn’t seen last season, it would be pretty hard to believe that this is the same sociopath who killed Andrea, ordered Glenn’s torture, and negotiated the hand-off of Michonne for Silence of the Lambs-style sadism.
This episode represents a rewind to the damaged guy whose wife was killed in a car crash, and like Herschel, couldn’t bear to admit that his daughter had turned into a walker. The guy Andrea kinda fell in love with.
Which is the scary part. This show delivers one powerful, and terrifying message: If a decent guy like Philip can morph into the power mad, kill crazy Governor—and at least briefly turn back again– then it can happen to anyone.
“He just lost it.”
“The man in charge.” That’s The Governor’s eight-word explanation for the miracle turned disaster that was Woodbury.
It seemed like he had put that all behind him. Until he sees his man Martinez in the waning seconds of the episode.
Of course, the man in charge at the prison has had his own problems. This time last season, Rick Grimes was a full-fledged nutball. On the next hallucinogenic phone call, Lori might have instructed him to cave in Herschel’s head and make Carl into sushi.