Welcome to my recap of The Walking Dead Season 4, episode 6 (“Live Bait”). Also check out our live-tweet coverage from J. Lamb (@TheNerdsofColor) and me (@Reappropriate) that took place Sunday night!
And without further ado, click on for the recap action (and spoilers)!
Update: A previous version of this recap got a few facts wrong — mainly out of a problem I had when watching the episode: I couldn’t tell the two sisters apart, got thrown by Grandpa saying one sister was traumatized and not talking, and then misremembering all the actions of Sister 2 as coming from Sister 1. Based on this Huffington Post recap, I’ve edited my post to accurately reflect which sister is doing what. My apologies!
So, I’m just gonna put it all out on the table: episode 6 of season 4 sucked. It answered one burning question that we’ve had since last week’s edge-of-your-seat cliffhanger reveal that the Governor is back: what was the Governor doing in the intervening time since the fall of Woodbury and his reappearance on the outskirts of the Prison?
Well, we got the answer to that question last night, and the answer is: oh, God, I don’t care.
The pre-opening sequence reveals that the Governor and his last remaining henchmen — y’know, the ones he didn’t irrationally gun down on the side of the road — have fled for their lives and are living deep in the woods. The henchmen, understandably, abandons the Governor because… well, the Governor is liable to murder you in cold blood.
The Governor wakes up alone and — after a brief detour to check “Torch the Abandoned Remnants of Woodbury” off his to-do list — takes to the road where he hopes to reinvent himself.
After a few weeks or months (judging by the sudden appearance of wild facial hair to rival Rick’s), the Governor is taken in by a small family who are mostly knock-off imitations of characters you’ve already seen: two sisters (Fake Maggie and Fake Beth from Season 2), Fake Beth’s younger daughter (Fake Lizzy, Fake Sophia, Fake Mika — take your pick), and an ailing bedridden grandfather (who is irrelevant, as we’ll see in a second). These women are annoyingly cloying, sheltered, and incompetent; like Peach Girl and Baby Eminem from a few episodes back, it’s unclear how they could have survived for as long as they have in a world overrun by zombies.
This is particularly irritating in Fake Maggie, whose brash sassiness was endearing when Maggie did it but which comes across as totally forced (in that bad acting kind of way) here. She claims to be a former cop, acts like she can handle herself around a gun, and threatens to take out the Governor if he hurts the family. Then, she actually has the gall to put out a fist-bump and ask the Governor to “pound it” to seal his promise of non-violence. That’s right – “pound it”. She needs to die on sheer principle alone.
Anyways, the Governor (now under an assumed name) quickly integrates himself into this small family unit — this borders on unrealistic given that the family was so distrusting of him just a single scene earlier. It quickly becomes clear however that this is because 1) both Fake Beth and Pound It Chick are way in over their heads and the latter is not nearly as capable as she claims to be with a gun, and 2) Fake Beth wants to get in the Governor’s pants. This, incidentally, (along with Andrea and (real) Beth) marks the third time that a female survivor has prostituted herself for the promise of physical safety in The Walking Dead. This incredibly sexist, and now clearly chronic, trope is starting to rival the show’s ongoing problem with Black masculinity.
Early in the episode, there is a tantalizing scene wherein the mundanity of the family’s home is broken by the Governor’s discovery of an undead Walker in the bathtub with one of its legs missing. The Governor quickly dispatches the Walker, but not before sending the Twitterverse (myself included) aflutter with anticipation that this apparently mundane family was actually inspired by the cannibal storyline from the comics (quick recap: human survivors hunt other survivors for food, keeping the victim alive while harvesting a limb at a time to preserve freshness). Sadly, it turns out we were wrong.
Instead of the Governor making the chilling discovery that the mystery meat in the baked beans is human flesh, it turns out that the family is exactly as boring as they appear to be. The Governor is conscripted by Fake Beth to go to a nursing home to retrieve some oxygen tanks for the ailing grandfather, which he does in a scene where he battles geriatric zombies. After last week’s Fence Walkers and Infected Walkers two-fer, the threat posed by wheelchair-bound zombies is pretty anti-climatic, and we spend most of the time in this scene wondering why a clearly sociopathic Governor would be risking his life to run errands for a family he barely knows.
The Governor comes back with the oxygen tanks, but alas, ailing grandfather dies of his cancer and turns into a Walker, much to the horror of his grieving children and grandchildren. Without a second thought, the Governor dispatches Grandpa Walker with the aforementioned oxygen tank (squish goes the skull!) and tries to leave. Fake Beth insists that he take the women with him (because all women need a strapping man to protect them in the apocalypse, right?). The Governor relents, at least in part because he sees Fake Sophia as a surrogate daughter figure. On the road, the Governor consummates his relationship with Fake Beth and solidifies a lightning-fast father-daughter relationship with Fake Sophia (who I guess could also now be called the Governor’s Fake Penny).
And then, the episode ends when the Governor and his new family is discovered by his lost henchman, who has now joined a new survival group in the woods.
Cliff-hanger? Not really. The Governor is a conniving and charismatic man, and a natural-born leader. He’s got a chip on his shoulder about Rick and the Prison, as well as Michonne and his daughter. If he doesn’t take out his former henchman and assume control of this new group, which he will then lead in an attack against the Prison, it would be horribly out-of-character. So, we can pretty much predict everything coming next week.
After a spectacular episode that hit the mark and on all cylinders last week — wherein The Walking Dead used a focus on Hershel to prove that the writing staff is capable of insightful and intimate character sketch while still moving plot forward with necessary action and gore — this episode was a real disappointment. The problem was in pacing and scope: the episode listlessly plodded through its scenes at a glacial pace, and spotlighted several new characters whom we really don’t have any reason to care about. Meanwhile, shedding some light on the Governor would be great; except, nothing in this episode revealed anything about the Governor that we didn’t already know from the events of season 3. We’ve already explored the Governor’s strategic genius and calculating sociopathy, as well as the emotional torture from the loss of his family. We already knew that he was, at core, a grieving family man who has been twisted by his rage into a sinister villain. What else did we learn about the Governor, or about life in the apocalypse, from this episode? Nothing that warranted the ham-fisted and patronizing symbolism we endured: for example, the Governor teaching Fake Sophia how to play chess with the life lesson that you can “lose all your pawns and still win the game”.
The only (and I do mean, only) highlight of this episode was the ending: in the after-credit teaser, we were treated to a brief shot of Kirk Acevedo, an alumnus of HBO’s Oz and a phenomenal character actor, whom I learned from The Walking Dead Wiki will be playing Mitch. Here’s hoping Acevedo can salvage what is otherwise turning out to be a criminally boring two-part backstory tangent.
Lingering questions: How will the Governor integrate into and ultimately take control of this new group without murdering people? How long will the Fake family survive (I’m guessing not much longer)? Will Carol find and be inducted into the Governor’s camp, and help them take the Prison? Will we finally get a reveal that Stookey is a Governor mole?
And, is it even possible for the second part of the Governor’s ‘Secret Files Origin’ to not suck as much as the first?