The Walking Dead season 4 episode 7 review: Dead Weight

Spoilers ahead in Ron's latest review of The Walking Dead as the Governor is back in full force...

This review contains spoilers.

4.7 Dead Weight

The Walking Dead routinely indulges in a game of “What would you do…” with its viewers. Specifically, what would you do to survive in a post-apocalyptic scenario? What would you do if you knew one of the people in your group killed two sick, dying folks who might have been spreading plague around? What would you do if you found two women and a little girl hiding in an apartment building? What would you do to keep your loved ones safe? What would you do to keep yourself safe?

Given the past actions of Philip Blake, The Governor, Brian, whatever you want to call him, we know what he’ll do to keep his family safe, and that’s pretty much anything. He’ll lie, cheat, kill, steal, torture, threaten with rape… if you have something he needs, or something his group needs, or if you’re standing in the way of the goals of his group? Forget about it; you’re a dead man.

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The Governor might not want the mantle of leadership, but if he feels no one else can do the job, then, well… he’ll leave a pile of dead bodies in his wake until he’s officially the guy in charge, or someone he can support is in charge. Given last week’s episode, when the Governor is discovered in the walker pit by Martinez and his group of survivors, it seems like a great situation. The Governor has his family, but he no longer has to be the guy making the life-and-death decisions for a group of survivors. Of course, since this is the Governor, it’s only a matter of time before everything goes wrong. He had a nice set-up at the apartment, though they were really low on food, and now, he finds a helpful camp and it’s run by his former crony, who could deflate Brian’s phony story at any point without so much as a blink of the eye. It’s not too surprising when bodies start piling up.

Curtis Gwinn, who scripted this episode, does a pretty good job at giving the Governor motivation to take ruthless action, though sometimes it feels like it’s almost a little too easy for him to behave this way and get away with it. The camp alternates between being completely empty and being full of people. The death of Martinez makes sense—they’d set up at the edge of camp to play golf, and the nearness of the zombie catch pit means that there wouldn’t be a lot of foot traffic in the area. However, the disposal of Pete, the Rick-style leader who keeps doing the right thing without taking the needs of his people into account, is a little more problematic, even if the Governor does have a new right-hand Merle in the form of Mitch, Pete’s brother and someone who the Governor shares a kinship with.

The parallels are a little too overt to the folks the Governor surrounded himself with at Woodbury. It’s like he’s recreating his little community, right down to the zombie aquaria. At least he’s got a living daughter figure, rather than an undead actual daughter, so that’s a slight improvement, even if his little band isn’t as safe as they were once upon a time in Woodbury. I can’t help but wonder if the zombie that got into the camp was Philip’s idea, or just a random occurrence, but it’s strange to see the show take such a strong step towards redeeming the Governor then taking a really hard step back by having him randomly kill folks and lie to the group to cover them up. Perhaps Brian/Philip/Governor is irredeemably broken. Perhaps he’s lost so many folks close to him that he is only capable of taking the more extreme of actions in pursuit of the safety of his family.

In that sense, the Governor and Rick aren’t that far apart. Granted, Rick’s got a moral compass, but they’ve both gone too far in protecting their family and loved ones. Rick has tried to insulate himself and Carl from the zombie apocalypse by growing sone snap peas; the Governor has chosen to protect his new girlfriend and new Penny by bashing people in the face with golf clubs; the Governor’s confession to Lilly that he cannot lose them “again” is a great touch. He’s not fighting to spare Lilly and Meghan as much as he is fighting to save his original family again. 

Director Jeremy Podeswa continues The Walking Dead‘s talent-sharing programme with American Horror Story. He did the AHS Coven episode Burn Witch Burn and the AHS: Asylum episode The Coat Hanger, and he brings a little bit of American Horror Story‘s visual strangeness to The Walking Dead‘s universe. There’s a really cool shot early in the episode where the Governor is doing some laundry while playing chess with Meghan, and the camera starts from ¾ perspective of the two, then it pans down from the Governor’s face while he’s wringing out clothes to drop below the clothesline and reveal that his new camp doesn’t just have Dale’s Camper 2.0, but it also features an M1 Abrams tank. The shot of the Governor hanging out by the dead lake only to reveal that he’s looking down at the chained, thrashing, reanimated zombie of Pete is another great moment, set up well and executed with some fun visual flair.

The episode ends on yet another cliffhanger. This time, we’re back to where we started the Governor’s mini-arc. It’s a pretty fun little explanation of how he ended up back at the prison, and why he looks like he’s ready to take them on again with something close to confidence. I’m not sure he’ll be able to sell his new girlfriend and daughter on his plan, and I’m kind of hoping that he’ll let bygones be bygones and try to make peace with the prison only for someone like, say, Michonne to kill him and start a second war completely by accident.

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That seems like the kind of thing that would happen to Rick and company. Everything bad appears to happen at once, why not accidentally start a war by killing an enemy who is trying to make peace? That’s probably too much of a shade of gray for The Walking Dead, since it seems like the Governor and Woodbury 2.0 are back in full force.

Read Ron’s review of the previous episode, Live Bait, here.

US Correspondent Ron Hogan was kind of hoping to see a reedeemed Governor, but it looks like that’s not going to happen any time soon. Sadly, it looks like Brian Heriot is now Philip Blake again. Find more by Ron daily at Shaktronics and PopFi.

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