As I predicted last week, “Dead Weight” was a Governor focused episode, giving us the second half of the story about things we pretty much already knew but needed to be repeated in order to set up the mid-season finale. And there was no Carol. And little chance of Carol next week. I am being deprived of the satisfaction of my Carol story arc. By the time next February rolls around, I probably will forgotten why I was so mad about her getting kicked out by Rick, which may be what the writers are counting on, so that no one will riot when Daryl shrugs his shoulders and tells Rick he did the right thing.
As a character study, this pairing of “Live Bait” and “Dead Weight” — which rhyme of course, and are too cutesy for the subject matter – is fairly satisfactory. As two episodes that move the story along… they’re a bit of a snoozer. There is no revelation within these episodes about the kind of man that Phillip/Gov/Brian is that is surprising. The replacement family doesn’t give him much depth in my book – I get it, but so does everyone else, and if we’re supposed to be sympathetic to where the Gov is coming from, well, maybe the writers veered too far into “murderous psychopath” territory for it to work.
Martinez is now King Shit of Camp Martinez, having utilized his Woodbury training to keep a ragged band of survivors up and going for a couple of months at least. He rescues Brian and Meghan from the pit and claims he’s only willing to take the group in because of the women, but there’s a glint in his eye that says maybe he’s a little happy to be able to lord his new superiority over Brian, despite what the Governor has done, or maybe because of it.
The entirety of the episode is the unraveling of the Brian personality. @Moretta observed last week that, unlike the Governor persona, who was ice water cold in his vengeance, the Brian persona erupts into excess violence at the first opportunity even as he plays at being a father and lover. The Governor protected Woodbury ruthlessly, but it seemed an exercise at inflating his own ego. He could keep them safe. He knew how to protect them. Everyone just needed to follow him. Brian is more feral. He’ll protect what’s his, but only what’s his, showing the teeth and claw right under the tissue thin veneer of man. This is Alternate WD world, where Shane ended up in charge of the group, with Lori and Carl as his new family. Any threat would have been exterminated. Any limb amputated, until the body shrunk to just the three of them.
Brian is sorta-kinda accepted into the group, though he’s given a rash of shit by Mitch for being the mysterious unknown quantity in their midst. Which means Mitch is as stupid as dirt. Didn’t he see a single Clint Eastwood movie before the fall? The laconic stranger is always the coldest killer.
His role as second tier camp member only lasts a short while. The Governor, who in Woodbury still lived in a pretty nice apartment, had wall to wall aquariums filled with zombie heads, and hosted town socials every Saturday on the lawn, is put out by his leaking trailer and his inability to give his old-new family the kind of middle class post-apocalyptic life he feels is their due. If only there had been some sort of walled town with limited electricity and running water for everyone to live in! In short order, Brian decides that Martinez doesn’t have what it takes to provide a safe environment for his new family, having shown the sins of human decency (not killing the other camp and stealing all their shit) and a terrible golf swing. These are not the traits a leader has in the NWO. So Brian beats him with a golf club and throws him in a walker pit. Later, despite the laughably large camp we are suddenly introduced to, not a single person noticed this murder happening.
Pete, one of the few other named Camp Martinez survivors and almost-decent guy, names himself temporary leader of the camp until a democratic vote can take place, which immediately proves that he is not the right ruthless murderer to keep Family Brian safe, so he gets knifed in the gut and tied to cement block, which itself is cast into the lake. Brian, not yet finished, then threatens Mitch, Brian’s brother, into being the new Martinez to Governor Take 2, because Mitch has a certain coarseness of character Brian finds encouraging. Also, he has a tank. Don’t ever teach anyone else to operate that tank, man.
Back in charge – and suffering for it, let’s not forget how heavy the head with the murder crown is – Brian whips the camp into shape, digging more walker trap pits, consolidating the weapons under his control, and lining the camp with razor wire, all to provide a safe environment for Meghan to run around in. But apparently he doesn’t assign anyone to “Look for Obvious Walkers Standing in the Middle of Camp” duty, because, hey, there’s one right there and it’s going after Meghan. Unbuttoned Shirt Brian dramatically shoots the walker in the head when Tara is proven complete incompetent at saving her own niece’s life. (Note: immediately preceding this scene, Brian has his eye patch off and Lily is looking at his wound, which is where they both are when they hear Meghan screaming and rush out to see what’s going on. However his eye patch is back in place when Brian shoots it. I actually thought this was an interesting character touch, that he is either so vain or so embarrassed about the missing eye he’d take the time to get the patch back into place before rescuing his substitute daughter.)
We’ve now set up all the pieces for next week. Brian, who is clearly back to being The Governor, needs to find a more secure place for his new family to live. And he knows of one. No, silly, not the reasonably safe apartment complex he originally met Meghan, Lily and Tara in, where they lived for over a year without being turned into zombies, but the fortified and guarded prison, full of people who hate him and won’t give up their location without a fight.
This time, though, he’s got a tank.
Almost more fascinating than the main story are the glimpses of what is going on in other people’s lives as the world falls apart. The headless corpses and Mortal Sins placards that lead to a cabin with two female walkers in it are interesting. That’s a story I want to know more about. The sad wood camp where everyone dies? I want to know how they got there and how they got surprised so badly they all got their throats slashed. We see glimpses of desperation everywhere the camera turns. Even the romantic entanglements have a hint of it. At the end of the world, you don’t have a lot of choices. So you get involved with the only other lesbian left (Tara), or the only heterosexual single male of your age demographic (Glenn/Maggie), or you play house with the woman and kid you find who are close enough substitutes for what you lost, because that’s what’s available. And you tell yourself its love, and maybe it is or maybe it isn’t, but it’s what you happen to have.
Mid-Season Finale Guesses:
It’s not a spoiler to say that the Governor is going to attack the prison in the midseason finale. The show basically stopped short of hiring a skywriter to get that message out this week. Plus the previews indicate a big fight and the tagline is “All will fight. Some will die.” So place your bets in the comments. Who is on the chopping block?
I’m putting money on Hershel, Beth, Judith, Sasha, Team Prison Redshirts, Camp Martinez Redshirts and Meghan as possible deaths. Maybe even the Governor. They gave him two full episodes of character development and he was the Big Bad last year, so I feel like his time is counting down.