(Spoiler alert: Maybe don’t read this if you still plan to watch Sunday’s “Walking Dead.”)
“The Walking Dead” has had two great episodes in a row, and on Sunday the show took a big, welcome turn by focusing for the first time entirely on The Governor.
The Governor, now calling himself Brian, is a rich enough character that “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman and Jay Bonansinga have written three novels about him as companions to the show and Kirkman’s excellent comics. Sunday’s episode, “Live Bait,” borrowed heavily from the first of those novels, 2011’s “Rise of The Governor,” which also found the Governor holed up with a dying father and two sisters.
But the show added a new wrinkle: One of the women has a daughter, Megan, who reminds him of his own daughter, Penny — the one he kept in chains long after she turned, because he couldn’t let her go, and the one Michonne killed. The Governor sees a chance to protect Megan — like Penny, near-mute and trapped in a small space — in a way he couldn’t help his daughter. You can feel his longing to save Megan, and it’s good to finally have a kid on the show who doesn’t feel like a prop.
Are we willing to forgive the Governor (David Morrissey) after he tortured our heroes, threatened to rape Maggie, and mowed down his own followers? He would’t fare very well with Rick’s three questions: How many walkers have you killed, how many people have you killed, and why.
But the Governor was a good man once, and maybe he’ll do good again. In a way he’s the Walter White of the “Walking Dead”: A good man who used protecting his family as justification to do terrible things. But as Walt admitted in the “Breaking Bad” finale, he was out for himself all along. Sunday’s episode suggested that the Governor, like Jesse Pinkman, cares more about children than himself.
It’s unclear how closely the show will hew to the Kirkman-Bonansinga novels — it sure doesn’t stick to the stories in the comics — but “The Rise of the Governor” makes very clear that The Governor was every bit as ineffectual as a precancerous Walter White before he assumed a new name (shades of Heisenberg) and got in touch with his dark side.
Now he’s a man with dark gubernatorial powers — he takes out zombies like a boss — but perhaps a rediscovered moral core. He’s no longer burdened with leading a small-town bureaucracy. He could be a force for good, if he lets go of his rage at the people in the prison.
The question is, can they forgive him?