It’s a slow slog toward the inevitable on the Walking Dead. Having thrown his lot in with a bereft family, the Governor has reinvented himself as Brian Herriot, an adopted father of sorts, and defacto member of the family.
But try as he might, he’s unable to escape his nature. Even playing an innocent game of chess with young Megan, his surrogate daughter, he can’t help but give away the baser parts of his nature. He coaches her to be ruthless and self-preserving. Despite this, his affection for her is clear: there’s nothing he wouldn’t do to keep her safe.
Escaping the family’s squalid one bedroom apartment, they come upon a makeshift camp, run by non other than Martinez, the Governor’s own erstwhile #2. Martinez has reinvented himself as well – he now runs the camp with the same philosophical iron fist that he learned from the Governor at Woodbury. Dead weight will not be tolerated, everyone must contribute.
The Gov knows immediately that Martinez’s rule is unsustainable – not because the idea is faulty, but because the leader lacks the courage of his convictions. On a supply run, the Govenor gets the opportunity to judge the mettle of Martinez’s men in practice: Pete doesn’t live up to his role, screaming bloody murder when a walker takes him by surprise, then recoiling in horror from two severed heads chomping at the air from underneath a bed.
It doesn’t take long for Martinez to let his guard down around the Gov. He asks the Gov if he’s changed, and the Govenor’s facile answer yes belie a deep-seated conflict yet to come to fruition. Martinez seals his own fate, later in the episode, as they idly drive a few golf balls into the ether. Drunk on pilfered beer, Martinez admits that he doubts his ability to love, that he couldn’t keep a family safe. His vulnerability is weakness, and Brian can’t afford to let the camp be run by such a man. He knocks Martinez to the ground and drags him to a pit full of walkers: a fitting death.
With Martinez gone, Pete steps in as the new leader of the camp. The Gov smells a kindred spirit in Mitch, Pete’s brother and Martinez’s lieutenant. A former tank operator, Mitch is hard in ways that Pete and Martinez are not. On a supply run, they come upon an encampment, modest like their own, of 10 or so survivors. Mitch immediately urges them to attack and steal the supplies. Pete refuses. In the time wasted debating, another group infiltrates the camp and kills everyone there, making off with their supplies.
Knowing that he’s setting off down a familiar path, Brian convinces Lily and Tara to leave with Megan. They take off in the night, but their escape is thwarted by a mud pit filled with walkers slowly sinking to their deaths. The road impassable, the Govenor returns with his new family to the camp – and his inescapable urge to control everything.
He immediately dispenses with Pete, dropping his corpse into the placid lake to writhe for eternity beneath the surface. He goes to Mitch next, weaving a tale around the necessities of survival, actions that must be taken, and punishments that don’t befit the crimes. Terrified, and having lost his brother, Mitch agrees to Brian’s rule. The Govenor has officially been reborn.
But his overarching goal still remains unachieved: keep Megan safe. He wants to install her in a place as secure as Woodbury in its heyday, he knows the camp is vulnerable. When a walker creeps beyond the fence and nearly devours Megan during an innocent game of hide and seek, Brian knows their days in the camper are numbered.
And what is the most secure location in the area? Why, Rick’s prison, of course. Nestled behind two barbed wire perimeter fences, with walls of concrete and bars separating every inch from another, the prison is a veritable paradise of protection. Just what Brian needs to shelter Megan.
And so, the showdown that started last season finally comes around again. Rick vs the Governor: this time, it’s for real.