In the previouslies, AMC takes us back to Woodbury and the Governor’s escalation towards becoming Michonne’s archnemesis. I had actually forgotten (and by that, I mean that I probably looked away the first time) that Michonne had stabbed the Governor’s daughter through the back of the head like that, and I had just started to forget the image of the Governor being stabbed in the eye, so I’d like to thank AMC for taking me back. We’re jumping back in time with this week’s episode to find out what the Governor has been up to this whole time.
(Full recap and spoilers after the cut!)
We open with dead bodies strewn all over the road. The Governor drives off with his two henchmen who are too dumb/scared/smart enough not to cross him. When night falls, we find the Governor sitting in front a fire, which has attracted the attention of a walker. She walks right over the campfire and falls, slowly crawling towards the Governor, who remains motionless. He doesn’t even flinch when Martinez takes her out with a shotgun. Instrumentals to “The Last Pale Light in the West” by Ben Nichols starts to play as daylight breaks and the Governor steps out of his tent to find that Martinez and the other guy have hightailed it out of there. The song continues to play as we watch him drive a truck through the previously impenetrable gates at Woodbury. We watch as he burns the town to the ground. A wide shot follows him straggling down an empty road, long-haired, bearded. His voiceover tells us that he’s been on his own for several months now and I think he’s talking to himself (or really, just us, because this episode is now his biopic) but then a woman’s voice answers. He tells us that things were going great in town until the man in charge just lost it. He barely got out alive. The production team is doing a really spectacular job at making me sympathetic to the Governor. I’ve never been more conflicted.
Who knows how long he’s been walking, what he’s surviving on. He collapses in the street of some random town and sees a girl in a window of a building. Or thinks he sees a girl in a window. He drags himself up and goes in. There are actually three girls in the house; a child and two young women. One of them shakily holds a gun to the Governor’s face. He drops his bags on the floor and creeps in as the opening credits roll.
This is who he’s been telling his story to. One of the girls, Tara, attempts to be brave and threatening and tells him she’s Atlanta police and has enough ammunition to kill him “every day for the next 10 years.” Gotta hand it to her for trying but she does not sound convincing at all. The Governor tells them his name is Brian Harriet. He’ll only be staying the night. The other woman shows up at his door later to give him a plate of Spaghettio-s, which he creepily mumbles a “Thank you” for and then promptly dumps out the window. Later he goes to return the plate and Tara’s sister invites him inside for coffee. He plops down on the couch and catches his reflection in a picture frame. Either these people have been starved for some social interaction for a long time and/or they just do not have very good survival instincts because the ladies bookend him on the couch, offer him snacks, talk about food trucks and whatnot, as if he’s not giving off a very dangerous, creepy vibe. Their dad says it’s time for him to rest. Tara sasses the Governor Brian Harriet to help them, and he hilariously rolls his eyes before hoisting himself up off the couch. Brian helps the father get into bed. He grabs his arm (and he flinches in response, by the way, just like he did when Tara reached for his hand earlier) and tells him that Tara has shot a bunch of “them” but they keep getting back up. Lawd, they don’t even know how to kill them. How are they still alive? How far back in time did we travel??
The father asks Brian if he has children. He says no. The father continues on about how he didn’t know what it meant to be a man until he had his daughters. Brian tries to leave but is beckoned back by a request. The old man says there’s a buddy of his in Apartment 303 with a backgammon set and he thinks playing with a real set would help the little girl happy again. And he actually goes to get it. He rifles under the bed and pockets some extra bullets. He hears something in the bathroom and sweeps a slow flashlight beam across a pair of wooden legs and a wheelchair. He pulls the shower curtain back to find a zombie sitting in the tub, legless. He stabs him in the head and takes his gun. He returns downstairs with the backgammon set and stares at the girl for a long second. Back in his own place, he takes out the photo of his family and looks at it. He folds over the corner to cover his face.
In the morning, Tara’s sister comes up to give him some things for the road. He refuses it but she chucks the paper bag at him and says, you helped us, so deal with it. She offers to return his gun as well but he tells her to keep it. He tells her to aim for the brain for the kill shot. She tells him that her father has Stage 4 lung cancer and only has 2 days of oxygen left. She says, “You’ve already done so much for us, but there’s an old folks home…” and asks him to get more oxygen tanks. First of all, what has he done for you? Get the backgammon set? In any case, he goes. I enjoy watching his grimaces when these people ask him to do things or try to engage him in conversation. As if helping people or interacting with people in a decent, normal way has been so out of practice for him that it actually hurts him. I keep wondering if his months+ solo journey through Georgia has really changed him. Who’s the shadowy figure that stood outside the prison at the end of the last episode? The Governor? Or this Brian Harriet fellow? Will these questions be answered within the remaining 20 minutes? I hope so because I’m getting bored.
Brian Harriet makes his way through the nursing home and appears to be safe since the walkers aren’t actually ambulatory. Or move slowly enough for him to dodge without needing to use weapons. He finds a cart full of oxygen tanks and tries to rush out, the sound of zombies growling getting increasingly louder. He runs into the staff zombies though, who are virile enough to be actual threats. He fires once, into nothingness. He loses the cart and only manages to grab one or two tanks before booking it. Back in the building, Melody (I thought I heard her being called Lily, but IMDB is naming her Melody so I’m going to stick with that) delights in being “a nurse again” and tends to Brian’s wounds all the while telling him that Megan (the little girl) thought he had been her father when she spotted him out on the street. Melody says that Megan’s dad left to get a Powerball ticket three years ago and never came back. (Really, writers? Really? What. Are you doing. Stop.) Just then, Megan wanders in with a, “Momma?” The Governor flinches at the sound of her voice. He keeps his eyes averted. Melody says she doesn’t have the ointment and says to her daughter, “Why don’t you watch my patient until I get back?” Brian raises his head like, Are you friggin kidding me?
As soon as Melody leaves the room, the girl asks Brian what happened to his eye, as all kids are sure to tactlessly do without an adult around to shush them. He tries his best not to engage. She asks him if it was a bad thing to have asked about the eye. He’s like, “No, I’ll tell you about my eye if you promise to keep a secret.” She pinky swears. He’s like, what’s that? Dude, you don’t remember what a pinky swear is? He extends a bloody hand and touches his pinky to hers. What the hell is going on with this episode. He tells her he’s a pirate, which breathes a little bit of life into the both of them as she skeptically goes, “No way,” and the Governor laughs to himself. He then tells her that he got hurt while he was trying to help someone, to protect someone he cared about. He got hurt and the person he was trying to protect got hurt anyway. She tells him she’s sorry. We cut to the next scene and he’s setting up a chessboard and telling her that the game is hard for some folks but she’s smart so she’ll get the hang of it. He has shaved now. And gotten some product in his hair. And found a clean shirt. Megan asks if the pawns die; he tells her that you can lose a lot of soldiers but still win the game. She picks up the king and he tells her that that’s the guy you want to capture. She draws an eyepatch on the white king and says now it looks like him.
They’re still in the midst of the game when Melody comes out of her father’s bedroom, looking bereft. She takes Megan to see her grandfather. She says he’s gone and it looks like he’s been gone for a while. We all know what that means and it’s going to be an awful moment to witness when he reanimates, probably any second now. Ugh. Brian Harriet casts a wary glance at the body and suggests that they all leave the room. Melody asks for a minute. Tara says, “I love you, Daddy,” and of course, Daddy’s eyes slowly open then. He grabs Tara’s hair, Megan starts screaming, Brian grabs an oxygen tank and starts bashing in the father’s head with Melody screaming, “What are you doing? Not my dad! Not my dad!” Just. Ugh.
Later, he returns from burying the body. Megan runs and hides from him as soon as he enters. Tara tells him that she understands “it happens no matter what” and reassures him that her father would have been grateful for what he did. She tells him they’re cool and they exchange the saddest fist bump ever. He looks over at Melody who shakes her head no at him. Whether that means she’s not cool with him or Megan isn’t, I’m not sure yet, but he leaves. Back in his place, he lights a match and burns his family photo. He packs his things and leaves, but not before knocking on the door to tell Melody he’s leaving. She steps out into the hall and says that they’re coming with him. She saw the photo of his family and says she knows they’re not them but for now, he’s stuck with them. He says he can’t. She says he already has.
Next thing we know, they’re all in a truck on the road. Tara is riding shotgun while Megan and Melody are sitting in the truck bed. Tara admits that she was never really a cop though she had been in the academy and apologizes for lying to Brian. He’s like, you don’t have to be sorry. But looking to start over, to be forgiven, to get his approval, she insists that she is. They stop at a pond or something for a break. Megan understandably, smartly, keeps her distance from the scary man with the eyepatch who bashed in her grandpa’s head. At night, they’re all huddled in the truck together. Melody is lying on her side, away from Brian but eventually inches her body closer to his and slowly turns to face him. It’s hard to tell if he looks confused or smarmy because it’s dark and I only have one eye to work with but he reaches for her quite tentatively and then it’s all mouths and heavy breathing. Allow me to remind you that Megan and Tara are right next to them. Ugh. At least get out of the truck and do it in the woods, or something. For shame!
The next morning, the truck won’t start. They end up walking. Tara trips and hurts her ankle just as Brian notices a hoard of walkers around the bend. He orders everyone to drop their bags and make a run for it. Melody is supporting Tara, so she can’t run back and grab her own daughter, I guess. So they just stand a few feet in front of her and coax her to move towards them instead of just running back to grab her. Finally, she dashes into his open arms and there’s a brief moment of sheer joy on his face, so I guess that’s this scene dragged on the way it did for a good reason. They run off the road, with the hoard of walkers right behind them.
Brian, still carrying Megan, runs through a field. The camera pans pretty widely but I don’t see the women behind him. He runs right into a ditch full of walkers. Okay, there’s 4 of them, but that’s still a lot. He manages to bash in the head of one, and literally rips out the throat of another with his bare hands. Punches through the head of the third and uses what looks like a femur to decapitate the fourth. Through the jaw. Like, I can’t even. At the end of this gross mess, Megan reaches for him and he tells her that he would never let anything happen to her. She makes him promise. He says, “Cross my heart.” We hear a voice from above. I’m hoping it’s the Melody and Tara, but no, it’s Martinez. Pointing a rifle at them.
Holy shit, indeed.