After his return at the end of last episode, this week's The Walking Dead, Live Bait, focused solely on the Governor in a subdued yet effective tale of his attempts at redemption. David Morrissey's maniacal villain was too good a character to leave out of the show for long, but instead of the violent entrance we were expecting, the episode surprisingly eschews its main cast to flash back to the aftermath of his slaughter of the Woodbury militia.
The episode's opening montage was brilliant - the stoic Governor burning the town to the ground, before growing a beard and sleeping rough as he aimlessly wanders across the Deep South. Looking like a jaded pirate, he appears at the end of his tether until he spots a little girl, Meghan (Meyrick Murphy), looking at him from an apartment window.
A New Group
The group she is part of reluctantly takes him in, comprising tenacious sisters Lilly (Audrey Marie Anderson) and Tara (Alanna Masterson), and their cancer-stricken father David (Danny Vinson). The opening scenes between them contain very little dialogue but are filled with tension, the Governor giving short replies to the interrogation he suffers.
But after helping them out he's integrated in to the group, first retrieving a backgammon board from the floor above for Meghan, before later looting some oxygen tanks from a nursing home, in a terrifying scene complete with wheelchair-bound zombies.
Shot at Redemption
Cleverly dedicating a whole episode to the Governor's story, when this uneasiness between him and group starts to thaw and he slowly but surely breaks out from his melancholia, it comes as a natural progression rather than an abrupt U-turn for the character.
Rather than paint the Governor as a diabolical villain, we're given a glimpse of the man he once was before losing his daughter. The pairing with Meghan might be a contrived shot at redemption, but it's the subtly of their exchanges, such as when she asks what happened to his eye, or the explanation of chess that evokes the scene in The Wire, that most impresses.
"Cross my heart"
The lack of action means that when the blood does flow, such as the scene where David turns and the Governor must bash in his brains with one of the tanks, it is all the more shocking. Whilst last season The Governor was clearly a bad man with a loving heart lurking somewhere underneath, he's now trying to do good for this new group whilst burying away his violent tendencies.
David's death causes the group to leave, driving out in a delivery truck, and when that breaks down they soon finds themselves in jeopardy. The Governor's savagery comes to the fore once more, but this time it's spurred on by a desire to protect Meghan, as he brutally takes down each Walker that surrounds her with his bare hands. Just as the two hug to cement their bond, Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) looms over the pit, the once loyal soldier a violent reminder of the Governor's past. How will he reconcile his new-found heart with his old hate?