The prison was once again absent in Dead Weight, this week's episode of The Walking Dead, as the Governor gave up his shot at redemption in order to ruthlessly take control of the camp. David Morrissey was once again in fine form as the twisted leader, and even though his personal journey since Woodbury might not justify two full episodes, it was a thoughtful examination of the show's antagonist that sets us up for what will surely be a thrilling confrontation with Rick's group in the mid-season finale next week.
The Governor, under new alias Brian, is welcomed in to the group by old comrade Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo), but under his two rules: "I'm in charge. No dead weight". He agrees with the second statement, and initially accepts the first, until in his own mind he realises he must take on the burden of leadership himself.
For this is a group that is clearly vulnerable. He goes out on a supply run with Martinez and army brothers Mitch (Kirk Acevedo) and Pete (Enver Gjokaj), the latter two dismissing him as "One-eyed Bri". But the way he keeps calm in the creepy cabin, a great horror moment where the slow build up reveals a room filled with decapitated undead heads, highlights his capabilities.
"I don't want it"
Poor Martinez looked on the verge of becoming a major character, until during some drunken golf drives on top of a caravan he reveals to the Governor his insecurities about leading the group and protecting them from danger. Suddenly the Governor snaps, bludgeoning Martinez with a club before throwing him in to one of the zombie-infested pits.
It's an initially shocking moment for viewers led to believe the Governor has changed his ways since Woodbury, but make sense when we realise his one man coup d'état is part of his pledge to protect Meghan (Meyrick Murphy) taken to its' extreme.
He might scream out, "I don't want it," as he murders his former henchman, but in his mind the Governor sees that no-one else can protect his newly created family. If last week's episode Live Bait was all about convincing us the Governor had turned a new leaf upon finding a new family to care for, then this episode revealed it is this desire to protect his family that sees his violent tendencies surface again. He repeats his mantra that he has been "surviving", but in reality he has been looking for something to live for, and everyone else to die for.
The only way
It's a convincing character turn provided by Morrissey over these two episodes, as he slowly opens up to Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) and Meghan, a passive figure thinking over his options, before like in the contrived chess metaphor, making his move. The scenario to provide this is a little too neat, contrasting the weak and indecisive Pete to the more pragmatic Mitch (who even acts like his former henchman Merle), as well as having the robbed camp nearby provoking him in to action. Initially trying to run away from responsibility, the shot of the Governor looking down on the undead-infested swamp was a beautiful shot that even if unnecessary, brilliantly encapsulated the dangers of venturing out alone.
So in its switching from Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) group to the Governor's, we're all set for a similar showdown between these two camps, and their leader's opposing ideologies. Whilst it appears unoriginal, there are some interesting angles that hopefully will be explored, such as how Michonne (Danai Gurira) will react to seeing the Governor again, and what will Lilly and Meghan do when they discover who "Brian" really is? Who's going to end up dead weight?