Last time we saw the Governor (his cameo last week excluded) he was gunning down his own people and driving off to parts unknown. Now? It's all fist bumps and pinkie swears.
After existing off-screen as a boogieman for most of the season, the Governor made his return in Sunday's episode, "Live Bait." While a big piece of what he's been up to was filled in, we still don't know exactly how he ended up lurking outside the walls of Rick's prison at the end of last week. There's more to this story, surely, and it's not going to be pleasant.
Or maybe it will be?
The TV version of the Governor, as played by British actor David Morrissey, has always been a little more sympathetic than the out-and-out psycho portrayed in the original comic book, and this new post-Woodbury chapter in his life seems to be taking great pains to make him even more human.
We see the Governor lose his last two followers, Martinez and Shumpert, who sneak off in the night while the Governor sleeps in his tent. We see the Governor grow an Al Gore post-2000 election depression beard. And finally we see the Governor find himself a new surrogate family, with Melody, her daughter Megan, her sister Tara and their cancer-ridden father. They're all holed up in an apartment building and somehow haven't figured out that shooting a zombie in the head is the only way to stop it.
Lucky for them, the Governor is an expert in the ways of zombie-kiling, making himself incredibly helpful when it comes to going out and retrieving stuff for this scared little family. And lucky for the Governor, the frightened little girl Megan serves as a welcome way for him to let go of his own daughter-turned-zombie Penny, who was finally put to rest by Michonne last season.
That transformation in the Governor, from a haunted soul grappling wth how to move on from the life he once knew to a man finding a new reason to live by protecting a little girl, is the crux of this episode, which doesn't even give us a glimpse of what Rick and the rest of the crew are up to. And while Morrissey is more than able enough of an actor to give the Governor all the shadings of character and nuance he deserves, we have to wonder if it really is too late for the Governor. How can we ever truly care about someone we've seen commit horrific acts? Is seeing the Governor doing a pinkie-swear with little Megan enough to make us forget (or forgive) the rest of the awful stuff we've seen him do?
Keep in mind, the Governor's situation could completely change next week, but for now, we're existing in a world where his past sins have been forgiven, and we're supposed to be actively rooting for him to keep the girl safe from harm.
The episode's conclusion brings the Governor and Megan back into contact with Martinez from the Governor's old Woodbury days, proving that it's near-impossible to completely escape your past, even in a zombie-ravaged landscape. He knows just how awful the Governor can truly be, but will that past be brought up in front of the Governor's new family? Undoubtedly. The only question that remains is whether or not the writers of "The Walking Dead" are truly committed to rehabilitating the character or whether this episode of good samaritanism was just a detour on his eventual road to hell.
Here's betting on the latter. It just makes for better TV.