Like a biblical figure reborn after wandering the desert, last season’s baddie the Governor reappears after months spent surviving in the zombie-ravaged landscape, seemingly undergoing his own transformation.
The questions on everyone’s minds at the end of the last episode were, “Would the Governor attack the prison?” and “Would he try and kill Michonne?” “Live Bait” answers neither of them; instead it delves into where the Governor has been over the long months since his disappearance.
We begin with a flashback of the Governor massacring his people after the attack on the prison last season. In a fit of rage, the Governor mowed them down for running away during the fight. The story picks up shortly afterward with the Governor in shock from his actions, abandoned by the few allies he didn’t kill. The Governor returns to Woodbury, the enclave he ran, and burns it to the ground before setting off on a long journey.
He wanders for months in a blind haze, half-heartedly sidestepping walkers and with seemingly little drive to live. His hair grows longer and he has a snaggly beard. Just when he can’t go any farther he looks up and sees a young girl (who reminds him of his dead daughter) watching from an apartment window. The Governor stumbles to the building and finds two sisters, a young girl and an old man suffering through late-stage lung cancer.
At first the Governor seems uncomfortable with human contact, but before long he reveals his name to be “Brian” and takes on the role of protector for this small family, who have been holed up in the building since the apocalypse started and don’t know the most basic walker defense (such as in order to kill a walker, you have to pierce its brain).
After being wary of the Governor, the little girl draws closer him. She asks what happened to his missing eye and he tells her laughing, “I’m a pirate.” It’s obvious that he sees the daughter he lost when he looks at her. During one telling scene, the two are playing chess and the little girl draws an eye patch on the king. She asks him to explain the rules of the game. “You can lose some soldiers and still win the game,” the Governor tells her.
As the father succumbs to lung cancer, the Governor makes a run to a nearby retirement home, where he encounters senior citizen zombies and escapes with a pair of oxygen tanks to help prolong the man’s life. The tanks only keep the father alive a little longer though. When he dies, the father turns into a walker and tries to kill one of his daughters. The Governor bashes his head in as the women watch horrified.
He packs to leave, realizing he has become too close to the three women. First though, he burns the photo of his dead wife and daughter that he carries with him. It’s time to put the past behind him. As he leaves, the oldest sister corners him and says that they are coming with him.
The story closes with the three on the road. Their truck breaks down and they are forced to flee from walkers that chase them through the woods. The Governor runs carrying the little girl in his arms, until he falls into a pit where they are trapped with three walkers. With the little girl in danger, the Governor ruthlessly dispatches the walkers with his bare hands and sweeps the little girl into his arms, promising to always protect her. As they embrace, Rodriguez, one of the men from the Governor’s old group, appears at the edge of the pit and stares down at him. The Governor’s new group is safe — at least for the moment. But is he?
“Live Bait” was heavy on storytelling and showing the inner turmoil that drives the Governor. Will he continue his feud with the survivors at the prison or will he redeem himself? New questions for future episodes.