Remember when The Walking Dead humanized a villain in Live Bait?

The Governor (David Morrissey) in Season 4, Episode 6 of The Walking Dead - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
The Governor (David Morrissey) in Season 4, Episode 6 of The Walking Dead - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

Let’s look at how the Governor, one of the Walking Dead’s biggest antagonists, was further humanized in season 4’s “Live Bait.”

What makes a great villain? Is it that they have a distinctive, evil look and diabolical agenda? Is it how they talk, or their sinister laughs? It can be all of these things, but some of the most memorable villains can remind us of ourselves, as tragic characters somehow lost along the way. The Governor matches so much of this criteria, especially by The Walking Dead in the season 4 episode “Live Bait.”

We had seen him unleash his homicidal fury on his own army, for failing to capture Rick’s prison. Now, as episode 406 begins, he first appears as a hollowed out shell of a man. In fact, it seems the walkers themselves have trouble distinguishing him from themselves. It seems like he’s at his lowest point, having been abandoned by his remaining men, Martinez and Shumpert while he slept. He crashes through the walls of Woodbury to see it similarly abandoned, and burns much (if not all) of his old home down.

Previously he boasted of how the walls and people there were safe, but now there is nothing to protect — not even himself. Had he stayed alone for much longer, he would have likely committed suicide, or simply wandered around aimlessly until his demise, or a combination of both. However, something else happens.

Brian Heriot: A new reason to live

He first sees a little girl, Meghan, who reminds him of his own daughter, Penny (who he had memorably kept even after she became a walker). Eventually, he ends up meeting her family: Lilly, Tara, and David Chambler. When asked his name, he tells a little white lie, calling himself “Brian Heriot” — a name he had seen written on a wall not too long before visiting their apartment. At first, the Chambler’s don’t fully trust “Brian,” but he proves himself over time. In fact, his despondent, quiet tone was likely disarming for them, as it would be for most. They come to recognize him as someone of value, who they can trust.

It seems the Governor is not merely putting on an act. Instead, we see someone who, at least partly, has seen the error of his ways. This new family is potentially a reason to go on living, as a new vision to serve and protect. They are like a new Woodbury. So, in some ways, this is another Walking Dead episode offering fire (the burning of Woodbury) as a perverse purification symbol, and a character rising almost like a phoenix from the ashes. Much like the fire at Hershel’s old farm, this reminds us that there’s an opportunity of hope from loss, if we can only find it.  Then again, it could be that there’s no hope at all, and only loss.  It really depends on how cynical we’re willing to get.

The walker pit

Although the episode is great aside from its walkers, one memorable scene is when the Governor protects Meghan in the walker pit. It’s a scene that not everyone probably remembers, because it’s a “bad-ass” action sequence. However, it’s also an interesting symbol of The Walking Dead. Meghan has clearly become a reanimating force for our villainous hero. He has also essentially come back from the dead, and is ready to put up a vicious fight to protect anyone he truly cares about. It provides insight into the character’s would-be psychology, revealing complex motivations behind even his worst deeds.

Yes, the Governor likely had justifies his behavior as something to protect stability in his life. Because he feels he’s needed as a leader, or a protector, any instability in his life is a threat to the whole. This is why, when it comes down to it, his relationships always end up draconian. He can’t deviate mentally from the belief that he must protect those he ultimately oppresses, and oppress people to protect them. The walker pit is perhaps a sign that he’s rediscovered these trappings. He will return to his old patterns, as opposed to letting someone else dictate the terms. This was his main problem with Rick, which makes him one of The Walking Dead‘s most interesting and truth-revealing characters.

All named character deaths from TWD season 9. dark. Next

What do you think of season 4 episode 6 of The Walking Dead titled “Live Bait”? Let us know in the comments!