Plot: In a reunion that neither of them was expecting, The Governor (David Morrissey) has come face-to-face with his former ally Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo). Martinez has become the leader of his own group and begrudgingly lets The Governor in because of who he is with. He also notices that The Governor is a changed man. Could this be the beginning of a new friendship, or is revenge a dish best served after deception?
Well then, that sure escalated quickly! After last week’s “Live Bait” where we saw The Governor form a new identity with his new group, people began to wonder if he truly wished to change his ways. Granted it’s difficult to move on from a past filled with murder and betrayal but stranger things have happened in this new world. This week however showed that everything we saw prior was simply a cover for The Governor to slowly pursue his true intentions of revenge. He has a lot of people he wants to kill and not a lot of ways to do it, but over the months the pieces have really fallen into place. “Dead Weight” saw The Governor rise back into power with this new group and set into motion a plan that will pit him against Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) once again. In many ways, “Dead Weight” was a very compelling episode that was anchored by Morrissey’s acting chops, but the rushed timeline and questionable decisions made me scratch my head one too many times.
This plot was, from start to finish, all about The Governor. It was the second Governor centered story we’ve had this season and it only featured Rick and his group in the very last minutes. The episode opens up with The Governor and Meghan (Meyrick Murphy) playing a nice game of chess, interspersed with flashbacks to the tense reunion with Martinez. While everything appears to be all hokey dory for the new additions, it was just a charade for The Governor who still has revenge on his brain. His first “I’m still a crazy asshole” move last night was smashing Martinez upside the head with a golf club and force feeding him to walkers. If anything, that was The Governor getting his due diligence after Martinez and Shumpert (Travis Love) abandoned him. His repeated screaming of “I don’t want it!” also portrayed his inner turmoil towards being the leader. The Governor doesn’t want to be a leader, but doesn’t trust anyone to be in that place otherwise so he does whatever he can to be on the mantle. Shumpert died off screen by the way, giving poor Mr. Love absolutely no lines in his entire time on the show. The Martinez force feeding scene is easily one of the most jaw dropping moments on this show to date, leaving me stunned but not particularly surprised. That’s The Governor we all love to hate.
Most of this episode took cues from The Rise of the Governor novel as well, just like last week. This time around it was The Governor/“Brian” seizing a chance to become a ruthless leader once again. While the novel had The Governor becoming the leader of Woodbury, on the show it was him becoming the leader of a non-descript camp outside The Prison. All the elements were there though such as “Brian’s” friendly introduction to the rest of the group, the leader dying and military men taking over, and then “Brian” killing the military men and putting himself in as the head honcho. It’s still cool seeing the writers find a way to bring the novel into the show and watching The Governor quickly rise to power was really great. Morrissey especially brought his acting to an entirely new level, still giving us a nuanced portrayal despite The Governor still clearly being a crazy person. This man is cold, calculating, and can’t live unless he’s the one in charge, and you only needed to see “Dead Weight” to know what he would do to get ahead.
What caught me off guard this week was how quickly The Governor’s individual story was wrapped up. Next week is already the mid-season finale and that’s being teased as the big, violent confrontation with Rick’s group that we’ve been wanting since last year. While we had five episodes of Rick’s group trying to combat an illness, we had The Governor recovering from his failed assault over two episodes. Those two episodes saw him enter a romantic relationship, find new purpose thanks to Meghan, and then take over a brand new group with apparent ease. It still feels so rushed, almost as if The Governor’s return was an afterthought this season. I’m all for speeding through to the good stuff but we definitely should’ve had at least one more episode of Governor growth.
This is probably a side-effect of the rushed timeline but last night was also filled with a lot of questionable decisions. For starters, why would Martinez ever put his guard down around The Governor? This is a man who got abandoned after senselessly murdering over 20 of his biggest supporters. Combine that with the Governor’s ingrained desire to be on top and Martinez’s death was guaranteed. Honestly, Martinez has no one to blame but himself for being force fed to a walker pit. Also, the people in this group are far too trusting of The Governor after knowing him for only a short amount of time. Lily (Audrey Marie Anderson) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) are so willing to stay with him that they try to escape the group on the flimsiest of premises, only to return like nothing happened. No one even questions why this one-eyed man is suddenly calling the shots. I honestly don’t know what tapestry of lies The Governor will weave to get these people to follow him into war against Rick but I’m convinced they would believe him if he just said, “They’re bad people!” without any evidence.
The previews for next week’s episode, the mid-season finale, make it look like that epic battle we wanted at the end of Season 3 will finally happen. I was extremely disappointed with the lackluster ending of “Welcome to the Tombs” last year so I’m wary of this show’s inability to deliver when it counts, but I can’t help but have at least a little bit of excitement. If anything, the shot with the tank in The Governor’s camp is enough to get me pumped. For those who don’t read the comics, The Governor riding to battle in a tank is one of the most iconic scenes of this franchise. I’d be really happy if they could bring that to screen, complete with The Governor yelling “Kill them all!” Also, if the battle is what I hope it will be, I’m keeping my eye out for Carol’s (Melissa McBride) big reappearance.
Honestly, the set up is there for something huge next week. Will the writers actually be able to deliver on their promises unlike last season? We’ll have to wait until next week to see but they do have everything set up beautifully. It’s honestly up to them to get it all together. As for “Dead Weight,” this episode was really enjoyable despite the rushed timeline and I’m glad The Governor is back to being ruthless. That’s who we want, not stepdad of the year.