Sunday, February 25, 2018

The Walking Dead - Live Bait



*** / ****
I can see why many Walking Dead fans might not warm up to Live Bait, a totally devoted episode to The Governor (David Morrissey). Considering The Governor’s awful behavior (killing his own with a machine gun) after Woodbury fell, and getting a somber music montage of his journey afterward, on his own when left behind by the last two footsoldiers no longer willing to tolerate his presence. If you hate this man (or perhaps hate the way he was developed by those involved in the creative process of The Walking Dead), having to spend an entire episode that appears to be a type of “reclamation project”, attempting to humanize this heel, might not be ideal. But I personally like the idea of seeing this world of The Walking Dead from a different perspective, an almost seemingly isolated mood piece, completely involving none of the principle cast. It feels very experimental and independent of the typical storytelling the show would often grind us through for episodes when the obligation for filling out a season seems to counter the effectiveness of the meat weighed by dangling, heavy fat.

Just the same, The Governor returning to Woodbury, setting it aflame, leaving it behind as he faces an uncertain future which includes his own version of a Walking Dead, set to a tune mellowing out his embarking towards his eventual encounter with the Chamblers, Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson, her sister, Tara (Alanna Masterson), and daughter Meghan (Meyrick Murphy) has a certain power to it that certainly left me impressed. Evolving a character I’m not against—particularly if the process adds dimension to him—so this attempt to color outside the lines, not boxing him into a particular form of antagonist whose demise we just anticipate is a welcome change of pace for me. All that said, if all this effort is failed by later storytelling “returning to the norm” then I see it as wasted time.

But for this episode, The Governor sits in front of a fire early in the episode without a concern about being attacked and bitten by a female zombie in a blouse. In fact an associate at his side guns the zombie down before she can reach him. Awakening from a tent, he’s alone, initiating his own journey to parts unknown. The Chamblers hole up in an apartment in a complex with a food truck crashed in the front. The Governor spotted Meghan, investigating who else might be in the complex. The Chamblers’ patriarch is dying of lung cancer, an oxygen tank his companion. His days are numbered and Lilly knows this because in her pre-apocalyptic life she was a nurse. Tara claims to be a former Atlanta cop, but this blather is later admitted as a partial life…Tara attended the academy. Meghan eventually talks to The Governor, with his shield of silence (or few words, chosen cautiously only when necessary) gradually dissolving. Oh, The Governor remains guarded, but his defenses gradually alleviate. The Chamblers are good people, seemingly unaware of a lot of horror that has been occurring outside their insular world. There are plenty of these stories, outside the time we spend with the main cast and those they encounter. I think too often some really good stories that could be told are sacrificed in favor of staying so close to the vest, remaining tied to a certain group, favoring them as a wider canvas might be too creatively taxing.

Lilly won’t give up on The Governor, always conversing with him despite his wall of brief words. The security of not getting too close, his reservations of allowing himself to become so invested with anyone else, The Governor doesn’t want to get too attached to The Chamblers. But Lilly continues to ingratiate herself to him, even asking him to aid her in carrying her father to bed and securing an oxygen tank from the local nursing home.











The nursing home interlude, a road walk that eventually is interrupted by a herd of walkers (or as Governor calls them, “biters”), and the fall into a trench present The Governor interestingly as a battle-tested survivor with capable escape and kill techniques. Bare-handed, The Governor takes care of several walkers to protect Meghan. In the nursing home, The Governor carefully avoids and dodges elderly and disabled zombies, eventually finding a carrier of tanks, only able to flee with one due to the accumulation of the undead marching glacially through the halls at him. The thought that they were left on their own is horrifying (but more than reasonable even if we don’t want to rest our thoughts on such awful events), so we can only imagine how this was for The Governor when opens the door to the nursing home, seeing the zombie in the wheelchair. Finding Bill in his bathtub, a war veteran with no legs and a mangled, bloody face, is another harrowing experience for The Governor, finishing off the zombie so it would no longer cry out in need of flesh and meat. A gun found next to the body by The Governor might just indicate how Bill wound up a zombie. Losing the food van after The Governor’s trip with the Chamblers (who leave the confines after the death of their patriarch) on the road eventually comes to a stop (these vehicles don’t seem to have much of a shelf life), they must get off on foot away from the dearth of undead herding at them. This episode is quite a dedication to the character of The Governor, much as Internment was to Hershel.

Avoiding the biters and collapsing to the street from fatigue and hunger, bearded and disheveled, a shell of who he once was, The Governor, by episode’s end, has cleaned himself up and seems ready for his “final chapter”. Live Bait does present The Governor often as bait for the zombies, yet he perseveres. For this episode, The Governor comes off rather incredible. It is the episodes before this that tell of us of someone else entirely. The Governor of Live Bait doesn’t seem like the same man who guns down those who lived with him for some time in cold blood.

The Chamblers bonding with The Governor and his burning of the photo of his "former family" during the length of this episode would often indicate something substantial going forward. A potential new story arc, featuring The Governor and a new *family*, but such would require altering a creative course that seemed destined for only one direction.

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