All season it’s been known that the Governor was going to return on “The Walking Dead,” but we’d be lying if we said we thought it was going to be like this. Even with Scott Gimple and Robert Kirkman’s warnings that the Governor would be a changed man in Season 4, his appearance at the Prison at the end of “Internment” still seemed to be foreboding.
But maybe he won’t be the bringer of death and destruction that fans were expecting. “The Walking Dead” has continuously been exploring the idea of change in Season 4, and the Governor’s storyline seems to be a part of that. Can someone walk away from evil, from darkness and from the worst parts of themselves in order to live a renewed and good life? Rick is certainly trying, though he’s been struggling to find balance with his new peaceful self and the Prison’s need for violence. Carol finds herself asking it now after being exiled from the group for becoming too hardened and cold. But the Governor, the embodiment of evil in Season 3, now becoming a reformed and good man? It almost seems too much to hope for.
That’s exactly why we find ourselves hoping for it. While we wanted nothing more than for the Governor to be defeated at the end of Season 3, it is so exciting to consider the possibility that Gimple could turn this around into a redemptive story for the former villain. “Live Bait” picks up right from where the Governor’s story left off in Season 3, but it’s clear from the get go that the person he’s become shatters him. Abandoned by his men and basically degenerating into a living walker, the Governor finally finds himself at his breaking point when he stumbled across a family living alone in an abandoned town.
There he follows the path Rick suggested for Carol in “Indifference”: he reinvents himself as Brian Harriet. He says he doesn’t have a family, and does his best to help the survivors he is staying with as he slowly becomes a real person again. When describing the persona of the Governor, he says that man “lost it” and “barely got out alive.” But “Brian” is alive and seemingly good, as doesn’t have any reason to prove himself as a changed man or try to convince these people he’s something he’s not. When he makes the decision to take this group with him and consider them his own family — and even start a romantic relationship with Lilly — it’s clear that that sentiment is coming from a real place.
While the Governor’s need to return to goodness seemed to be present in the immediate aftermath of the slaughter of his people, the real trigger for the character seems to be the presence of Megan. She clearly reminds him of his daughter Penny, and also replaces his deceased child in his heart. Here’s hoping that he actually can keep her as safe as he promises when he stumbles across his own men — and own zombie traps — at the end of the episode.
The Governor wouldn’t be the first person we’ve seen undergo a radical transformation on “The Walking Dead.” Hershel could in many ways have been considered a villain in Season 2, but episodes like “Internment” remind us just how far he’s come. Could the same happen with the Governor? After all he’s done, it’s hard to believe that Rick, Michonne or anyone else at the Prison would take him back with open arms, but maybe they at least could put their enmity behind them and move on with their lives.
Of course, that’s all assuming that the Governor who is watching the Prison is the same man in this episode. He could be going to the Prison for help or because he wants to make peace, but he also could have returned to his evil self at that point in the story after reuniting with his men. Why they’re keeping up his unsavory practices like the trenches is unclear, but it’s unlikely that they’ve suddenly turned into “good guys” like the Governor has. Regardless, this is a great way of giving “The Walking Dead” a “Rise of the Governor”-type arc while also making it entirely new and fresh. So bravo, Scott Gimple. Good work.