The Walking Dead 308: It’s all fun and games ’til someone loses an eye


In The Walking Dead episode 308 ‘Made to Suffer’, a classic adage is given new life: It’s all fun and games ’til someone loses an eye! In this case, that someone is the Governor.

Prior to this episode of The Walking Dead, the Governor seemed almost to revel in doing bad things. He may have been capable of emotional instability, but no one had truly ruffled his feathers quite like Michonne. I mean, nothing would annoy me more than somebody jamming a shard of glass in my eye!

However, it pays to look at how those two characters got to that point. After all, it certainly wasn’t all the Governor’s fault — or was it?

The Governor At It Again

When Made to Suffer starts, we have Rick, Michonne, Daryl, and Oscar attempting to rescue Glenn and Maggie. From what or whom, you might ask? The Governor, of course! So already we get an idea of where much of the blame lies. Of course, the Governor alone isn’t responsible for everything. Obviously, Merle Dixon played a major role in Glenn and Maggie’s kidnapping. And why? Because they had initially pointed a gun at him? Well, that’s not sufficient reason in a world where damn near everyone’s waving weapons around.

Instead, it’s reasonable to assume that Merle — who isn’t a genius — thought it would be a means of locating his brother and that the kidnapping and extraction of information would please the Governor. Unfortunately, he was right. Still, there was no truly good reason to kidnap them. Nor was there any attempt whatsoever to put themselves in the other people’s shoes (so to speak). On top of that, neither Merle nor the Governor considered possible consequences for their actions, including a possible all-out war. It seems that, to them, this was all just fun and games. No one who matters at Woodbury could get hurt, right? Wrong!

Also, the Governor quite notably upset Michonne (to put it lightly). Instead of simply letting her leave, he had sent Merle out to assassinate her. That’s basically not the way to go. At the same time, Michonne is herself somewhat at fault, as she had threatened him with her katana blade if he would not let her go. In other words, no one is totally free of blame.

Meanwhile, back at the prison, we have an example of how one should do things. When newcomers arrive at the prison, Rick’s loyal son Carl extends them a cautiously welcoming hand. He keeps his distance and sees them confined in a prison cell. It was perhaps the wisest approach, under the circumstances. Carl doesn’t completely trust them, nor does not particularly threaten them. Caution is the name of the game, and the message is, “We may accept you, but hold on.”

The Woodbury Escape

At this point in The Walking Dead, Glenn and Maggie are still held prisoner at Woodbury, and they have given precious little reason to stick around. The problem is, how does one escape? Maggie’s answer to that question: Any chance one gets. She stabs one of the Governor’s murderers in the throat with a walker bone (that was freshly removed by Glenn — how romantic!).

As Rick and the others locate Glenn and Maggie, Michonne heads off on her revenge trip. Meanwhile, to complicate matters, Daryl Dixon learns that his brother is one of the Governor’s head goons, but still wishes to find him (and presumably convert him back

Penny, The Governor’s undead daughter (AMC’s The Walking Dead)
Penny, The Governor’s undead daughter (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

to Rick’s group).

Aware that his control over Woodbury is jeopardized, the Governor instills a curfew. While that alone might symbolize his appetite for control, few things represent that better than what Michonne finds in his happy home: The aquarium full of severed walker heads and, of course, his daughter Penny lovingly chained up!

At this point, few people would believe the Governor abides such strange practices. Michonne herself seemed shocked, despite her ability to sense his deviant tendencies early on. Still, one wonders what a person would think upon finding Penny. At first glance, that Penny wasn’t a living, captive little girl could elicit a sigh of relief.

However, there is also something very strange and pathetic about keeping an undead family member locked away, out of the desperate faith that she can be seen as normal, or could somehow be cured.

In any case, when the Governor walks in on her, Michonne very quickly recognizes Penny as a weak spot in the Governor’s armored persona. She proceeds to skewer what’s left of Penny, and whatever’s left of the Governor’s fragile humanity. The ensuing battle is a classic, and not because it’s some standard “Good vs. Evil” brawl. No, at this point a savvy viewer could very easily question Michonne’s own motives here. While the Governor may be a bad guy, it’s very clear that she is herself motivated by revenge, and has a ruthless disregard for what may happen next. While it’s easy to see Michonne as a heroic figure, it’s true that sometimes an easy understanding isn’t always the truest.

The Governor’s Eye as a Symbol

What does the loss of the Governor’s eye symbolize? All such questions are debatable, but it’s doubtful that the Governor’s eye loss was a random decision. While one might look to interviews with Robert Kirkman for answers, it can also be interesting to look for one’s self, to see one’s own explanations.

Michonne battling The Governor. (AMC’s The Walking Dead)
Michonne battling The Governor. (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

Personally, I think the injury symbolizes the “Eye for an Eye” philosophy and its pitfalls, and shows how the all-seeing eye of a would-be dictator can easily be plucked out. Indeed, it’s interesting to think that, ultimately, the Governor’s wish to control everything he sees — and to see everything he controls — is the very reason Michonne sets out to kill him.

Also, that Michonne uses the aquarium glass for the deed perfectly symbolizes his need to control getting shattered, with the shards of his control getting jammed into his face. Ironically, then, it’s his hunger for power that creates a desire to challenge his power. All that being said, an eye patch does look cool.

Andrea and Michonne Clash

When Andrea enters to see Michonne standing over the Governor, it has the feeling of inevitability. There were hints at a branching off for the two characters early on. Yes, they survived together, and yes, they had ambitions that could have created a stronger bond, but nothing strains a relationship more than the need for comfort.

Michonne and Andrea in a little standoff. (AMC’s The Walking Dead)
Michonne and Andrea in a little standoff. (AMC’s The Walking Dead) /

Michonne’s comfort stems from her independence, apparently born from her distrust of people in general. Andrea, on the other hand, draws strength from the appearance of normalcy, and the idea that people should be able to depend on each other.

So, when Michonne flees the Governor’s building, and Woodbury generally, it clearly also symbolizes the weaknesses between the two personalities.

They were just too different, initially drawn together by sheer force of circumstance, and survival. Of course, this is just one example of that imposed need for social bonding. Virtually every character in The Walking Dead can hardly rely on someone because they want to. They seemingly only do it because they must. A crisis does break down genuine social bonds, after all, because the options are so severely limited otherwise. Few decisions can be freely acted upon, and often choices are just improvisations.

The Governor Blames Merle

Andrea and Michonne aren’t the only characters with a fractured relationship. The Governor has obviously learned that, despite what Merle Dixon had said, Michonne is very much alive. Merle is a liar, and liars won’t be tolerated (unless it’s the Governor who’s lying, of course). Not content with merely reprimanding Merle, the Governor no doubt wants Merle dead. He blames Merle for everything, from Glenn and Maggie’s escape to the outsider’s invasion of Woodbury.

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In a way, the Governor’s not entirely wrong. However, he refuses to assign any of the blame to himself. Yes, Merle has been at fault, but who listens to Merle? Who made him a leader (of sorts)? Mr. One Eye himself.

The Governor and Merle’s conflict is fairly similar to Rick and Shane’s. Both strains started with inaccurate information regarding someone’s death, and both stories involved an elaborate series of lies that spun out of control (though, to his credit, very few of the lies were ever Rick’s). Another similarity? Shane, Merle, and the Governor also have problems with tolerating different views and are very quick to punish those who fall out of line.

Also, quite obviously, many characters on The Walking Dead are quick to enact their own death penalties (much to the chagrin of saner folks like Dale). So, with all these trends mixed together, you get an elaborate, mostly informal system of blame and death put in a blender on a high setting. Then, when things spin out of control, there is yet more finger-pointing and death.

Next: Wade's review of The Walking Dead 307

When Daryl gets captured in the end of “Made to Suffer,” it’s clear that the pattern will not break. Instead, Daryl and Merle are to be pitted against each other, compelled to battle to the death. What a show! And hey, at the least the Governor can see it through his one good eye.