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'The Walking Dead' - 'Dead Weight': Fallen Heroes Feed The Ground, I Started Pushin' Forward Back

By TK | TV Reviews | November 25, 2013 | Comments ()


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Once again, an episode of this fourth season of The Walking Dead presents an unusual and somewhat complicatedly frustrating dichotomy. One the one hand, this story of Phillip and his post-Woodbury life, full of passion and violence and grim determination, presents a relatively compelling bit of character study. The problem, which is so glaringly difficult to avoid on the other hand, is that this all feels like too little, too late. It’s an origin story told after the fact, and what’s worse, it (at least from the current outward appearance) appears to have us simply headed back in the same directions.

‘Dead Weight’, the cleverly titled seventh episode of this season, felt like an episode that we should have seen 12 months ago. It wasn’t a bad episode — in fact, it was quite gripping. And I have to admit that the break from the prison for a second week was rather welcome. With Phillip’s family unit firmly established in the last episode, it was interesting to see how he would deal with the prospect of being faced with his old life. Of course, the answer to that question is: not well. From the chess metaphors and tales of family life in the opening minutes, we knew this was an episode that would build on that foundation, and where we would see whether the new kinder, gentler Phillip would be able to handle that potential conflict, or whether the Governor still lurked within.

The episode took its time bringing us to that answer, and did so with some solid, if albeit rushed storytelling. All along the way, it brought us horror after horror, from the prospect of a house full of heads and scarlet-lettered bodies, to a haunting and hypnotic mudpit full of undead, it was a spectacularly macabre demonstration. And on the other side, it also gave us a look at the strangely satisfying routines of their lives, and how precious things like laundry, and sitting around a picnic table, and a little casual flirting can be (though I am a little disappointed at how rushed the one gay relationship has been. It played out in a manner of seconds). It was with that juxtaposition as the backdrop that we saw how the craziness that was The Governor came to be, and how it begins to bleed back out.

As a result, there was nothing shocking about the turn of events, because we’ve seen it before — or rather, we’ve seen its conclusion. So when Phillip so savagely turned on Martinez, and then again on Pete, it was brutal and vicious, but hardly surprising. When he drafted Pete’s brother to his cause, we were not shocked. That darkness has always loomed high within him, and now, once again with something he loves at risk, that darkness finds its way out once again, though this time he may have a voice of reason pulling at him that’s more compelling than the misguided Andrea. The amazing thing was, other than his moment of remorse as he held Martinez above the pit, there was little regret and even less hesitation. But that’s how he got to be Governor, one supposes. That’s how he’s survived.

Therein lies the problem, of course. This storyline all feels like it’s designed to give us a sense of purpose for him, as if it’s the backstory we should have seen back in Season Three. My issue with that conceit is twofold — for starters, one of the things that made the character of The Governor so effective is that you knew so little about him. He was simply a dangerously brilliant and skilled character who built his own world out of the ashes of the old one. And this story, that we’re watching unfold, attempts to humanize that almost legendary character. The problem is that there’s little point to humanizing him when the endgame is simply to rebuild him as he was. And no, we haven’t seen the tale unfold in its entirety, but the hints are there. As such, the entire concept is puzzling — why give us the glimpse of the softer side in the prior episode if the objective is to simply bring back the beast that we know so well?

There is still a lot of time left in this season, and a lot of directions they could take it. But this episode was a frustrating one because it seemed like it was trying to make up for something, to give us a reason. Unfortunately, the time for that has passed. Instead, we’re left with a sense of imbalance, as if the show doesn’t quite know what it wants to do with Phillip — man or monster, damaged shell or charismatic despot. So while on a purely technical level, ‘Dead Weight’ was a solid episode, finely acted, full of vivid, startling, and terrible-yet-gorgeous imagery (the shot of Pete in the lake was remarkable), it also feels like we’re about to simply start playing the same tapes again. And given how refreshing the first half of this season was, for us to be headed down that road once more feels less like progress and more like a step back.







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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Three_nineteen

    The Governor was always leading, it's just last week there was no one to challenge him. As soon as he showed up in that family's home, they all looked to him for help, the available woman offered herself to him, and he became the husband/father/leader. This week he just met and disposed of new rivals.

  • Afferbeck

    I'm not really sure why the Governator was saying 'I don't want it' as he was killing Martinez. I assume he was talking about 'the crown' of leadership that Martinez said they would share. So he either doesn't want it if he has to share it, or he's just nuts and can't stop himself from seizing control.

  • St

    The whole episode was so damn predictable from the first moments. We all knew how it will end, we all knew that stupid Governor will kill Martinez and take leadership of his gang. That good guy was doomed and we predicted his death 10 minutes before it happened.

    And whole camp stuff was set up to only give Governor reason to return to prison and have new armed people with him. You could tell it by just looking at how camp was set – basically open in the woods. Where any zombie can show up from those trees and grass any second.

    Last episode was kinda surprising when they tried to fool us that Governor thought about what he has done and become better person. We almost root for him. But this episode returned him to where he was. And he is crazy psychopath again. And we have it all over again – Governor will attack Rick and co again. Just like we all predicted. Governor conveniently found gang of armed people to replace those one he killed and can now play Lex Luthor to superman Rick again and again. He is that villain that always fight good hero, always loses but is never killed. Because… I don’t know why. Probably because producers think that he is interesting villain. And they don’t know that public is tired of him and he becomes caricature. Kinda like Sue Sylvester in Glee too.

    P.S. At least it was refreshing to follow another gang of people. Because I’m tired of those whiny ones we follow 4 seasons. And thank them for Kirk Acevedo. Liked him since Fringe. And I liked that good guy Pete. I’m sad that he is killed so quickly.

  • Afferbeck

    Kirk Acevedo, that's his name! The instant I saw him, I said 'That's Alvarez from Oz'. I swear every face on that show is burnt into my memory.

  • St

    Aaand another episode without addressing Carol’s surprising departure from the show. Last episode, this one and promos show us that next one will be all about defending prison. No one will care about poor Carol. And then… well it will be few months brake. And then everyone will stop caring about Carol. This is how producers planned it.

    I told it before – they killed off Carol without killing her because fans would riot. So they just send her to a far away place. No one is gonna look for her. They will show us some quick reactions of Daryl and other her so called friends. And they will all react the same way as Maggie and Hershel. And maybe they will throw us one episode where they will show what Carol is been up to and then she will heroically die saving some newborn baby or something.

    I hate it because they destroyed reality in Walking Dead universe. I just don’t care about any character at all now. They are all sad selfish people that don’t care even about each other. You know that Governor will attack them in next weeks episode. And I don’t give a crap if he will win and kill anyone from main cast.

    P.S. Well Melissa McBride is still listed in titles. I guess that can give us some hope. But maybe they just didn’t take her out yet. I want to believe that I am wrong and she will come back. But I’m just 100% sure that she won’t.

  • Glory

    I cant concentrate on the Governor-centric stories because his new lady friend looks enough like Maggie to throw me for a loop.
    Does anyone else see this?
    In the first episode I thought i was deliberate casting to remind him of his previous awfulness and help with his redemption, though that has been short lived.

  • Uriah_Creep

    I cant concentrate on the Governor-centric stories because his new lady friend looks enough like Maggie to throw me for a loop.
    Does anyone else see this?

    Yes, absolutely.

  • RilesSD

    Yep. But she's from The Unit -- so she's awesome.

  • elsie_the_first

    I'm not really sure how I feel about these last two episodes. I really hated the Governor's story and character last season. I understand his character is over-the-top brutal in the comics, and while the show didn't get quite that bad, it was just so uncomfortable for me to watch. I tend to get really squeamish about real-life violence (rape, torture, etc.). I was kind of happy to just let him fade away, never to be seen or heard from again.
    Then when they brought him back last week, I spent the entire episode dreading the brutality he was going to rain down on those two women or, even worse, the little girl. But he clearly had turned over a new leaf and I was OK with that. In fact, I almost thought that they were going to pull a huge fake-out with us by making the previews seem like he was going after the prison, when in fact he ends up asking for forgiveness and shelter. It would be interesting (to me at least) to see how Rick and Co. dealt with that.
    But, that surely doesn't seem to be the way they're going. Now I'm back to dreading the upcoming episodes because of the Governor.

  • RilesSD

    There are some actors that can convey a lot in silence (Mads, for one). David Morressy is not one of them. His silence is drives me nuts, because its just a blank stare, sometimes with open mouth included.

  • Sean

    It is to make the Governor the anti-Rick. Showing how they deal with the same issues. How Rick does things sort of right, with a lot of mistakes, for the right reason. Where the Governor does the wrong thing, with fewer mistakes, for the right reasons.

  • Happycats

    The Governor was acting more like Shane than Rick this ep in my opinion. Screw everyone else, I'm going to do whatever I can to protect MY people, the greater good = not my problem.

  • Sean

    See, I don't think the TV version of the Governor thinks that way. He thinks he is doing what is right. It is just that his thought processes are wrong.

  • DarthCorleone

    This was the first episode of the new season that disappointed me. It just felt like a return to the sloppy writing that plagued the first three seasons.

    How many people are in this camp? I found out about a half hour in that there are A LOT. How exactly did The Governor commit that first murder in a camp that size without getting caught? Where had everybody gone? Were they down at the shopping mall?

    Well, they couldn't possibly be at the mall, because in the world of Walking Dead, I guess there's only ONE working highway. Seriously, the American highway system is QUITE extensive, and once again we're left wondering why people aren't exploring a bit more. Hypothetically you could hoard some gasoline and drive all the way across country to try to find other survivors in just a few days, whereas the course of action here just seems to be to drive around in circles within a five-mile-radius area of Georgia. And we're treated to hints of not one but two separate surviving groups also in this neighborhood? How exactly did that first group get slaughtered and lose those supplies with the Governor and his pals not hearing it? Weren't they right there?

    I might understand how psychotic Governor might see those zombies in the road and take it as a sign that he's supposed to hang around and become the leader again, but c'mon. The writers really need to get a better grip on geography and turn it into a sensible constraint.

  • elsie_the_first

    "How exactly did The Governor commit that first murder in a camp that size without getting caught?"

    My thoughts exactly.

    "How exactly did that first group get slaughtered and lose those supplies with the Governor and his pals not hearing it?

    "
    I've been trying to remember if the Governor spent the entire time with the other two, but I sort of assumed that he snuck off at some point and did it himself, just so he could set up his weird little test to see who was willing to do what.

  • stu

    Right?! Oh and BTW I offed your bro, but he was a bad leader and I'm much better, wanna join? "Puffs cigarette" Sure.... why not? He was JUST my brother!?! WTH?!

  • John G.

    Is Enver Gjokaj cursed? He was amazing on Dollhouse and then it was cancelled, and then he's in Walking Dead for 5 minutes and dies. Can he get a role that actually grows and continues?

  • Professor Sara

    He was also quickly murdered on Dexter and ... um, there were more, I'm sure. He's doomed to be a one-episode wonder, and it's a damn shame.

  • mairimba

    And what was up with Jose Pablo Cantillo's Zappa-stache on Talking Dead? I'll admit it looked pretty sexy.

  • Calvinthebold

    I liked seeing the Governor's aborted redemption. It shows his core values are too dark to be redeemed. But let that happen, and then let him lead a new group off into the sunset. Does it have to end up at the PRISON, AGAIN? Just let it go, dude. There has to be more than one fortified structure in the whole United States. This has been such a solid season, I'd hate for it to just slide back into a rehash of last season. Move on...

  • elsie_the_first

    In a situation where day-to-day living is a struggle to survive, one would think that it would be an incredible waste of energy and resources to spend so much time on power-mongering and revenge.

  • Naye

    I think the fact that the governor is bat-shit crazy is what's glossed over in this review. Motivations, motivations, power, child abuse, fear of loss but nobody has explained to me why he likes to keep zombies in aquariums. You know why? Because he's batshit. And there aint no 'splainin that kinda crazy. I think i was really nice to be pulled into thinking there was redemption for the Governor last episode. But I like this episode better for showing his true sociopathic nature, because that's how they operate. Like grown-up evil Sour Patch kids.

  • mairimba

    So that camp that Pete's brother wanted to steal from and then all the people showed up dead? That HAS to be linked to Bob. There were a bunch of people dressed in military uniforms. He was the only man standing from two previous groups. Bob is scared of what is happening. He doesn't seem to care much about living. Maybe he wants to eliminate everyone cause he doesn't see any point of going on with life? And that's why he drinks. He is feeding the Walkers rats so they run over the prison and kill everybody?

  • I'm going to slightly disagree. While most of the big beats were visible a mile away (I mean, of course the little girl was going to pull the sheet to reveal a zombie), I think the episode brought up an interesting question: Is Phillip/The Governor merely doomed to repeat the same bad decisions of before? Or can he change? While we got our answer (right back where he started), it's the reasons that make him compelling. If before it was megalomania and paranoia that drove him, now it's fear for those he has come to care for. Reasons change, but results are the same.

    And it was also interesting that he was screaming "Don't make me do it!" at Ramirez as he clubbed him, dragged him and fed him to the pit of walkers. It's like he was, for a moment, aware of what he was doing -- taking the first step towards being in charge. That he, like Rick, knew what leadership would do to them/bring out of them and he was trying to reject it even as he was killing the leader of the group. Unlike Rick though, he didn't just banish Martinez like Rick did to Carol.

    SO while I agree that the major moments were obvious -- he had to kill Martinez and Pete and, in Mitch, he's got his replacement for Martinez -- it's the tiny slivers into the dualities of Phillip and Rick that made this episode for me.

  • Dennis Albert Ramirez

    yeah i agree with this. it's almost like he's fated to be The Governor, since the universe basically put all the pieces that motivated him before (his family beforehand, which admittedly, i am inferring from what little they gave us about him before) right back in his path, culminating in killing Martinez and basically watching himself be swallowed up in that familiar darkness again.

    i still think the TV's interpretation of the governor is much better than the comic's. also, now that he's got a tank and we know he's going back to the prison, if they follow the comic's outcome, it's gonna get reeeeeal tragic for a lot of people. the setup isn't exactly the same as the comic's since they've been going in their own direction, but yeah, i'm pretty psyched for the midseason finale.

    on a side note, i hate midseason finales. what a tease

  • Lauren_Lauren

    And lo, The Walking Dead giveth Enver Gjokaj, and they taketh him away.
    *snif*
    They taketh him away.

  • I'm holding out hope that he turns up on SHIELD. He's such a huge talent and not hard on the eyes. He deserves better than zombie lake purgatory.

  • Kate the Greatest

    I almost cheered when I saw him onscreen!

  • grr arrgh

    Ever since Dollhouse I've wished for him to have a really good arc on another show, or even a lead role on a new show. Alas, it is not to be.

  • The problem is, we could see everything coming a mile off. As soon as we got that calm scene with the Governor and "pumpkin" playing chess, I figured he'd already killed a bunch of them off. I mean, who other than Chris Hardwick thought the dude had turned a corner?

    As much as I didn't care--this episode was better than last week's--I do think we'll be all the more anxious to get back to the prison gang.

  • PDamian

    I stopped watching Walking Dead sometime during the third season (too busy with other things), but dayum, David Morrisey is one fine-looking 49-year-old.

  • Jenn TheYellowDart

    This EPISODE was dead weight! HEYYYY-OOOO!

    …I shouldn't really say anything as I actually have to watch the episode still…I'm one of those weirdos that reads reviews BEFORE watching. Is that crazy?

  • Tecuya

    No, not crazy. I scanned the review b/c I wanted to know if this episode was all about Phillip again, and it is. Disappointed b/c I want to get back to the prison. They've put off us seeing Darryl's reaction to Carol being kicked out by rick. I don't really need to know the Governor's story, at least not two episodes of it.

  • axis2clusterB

    I feel exactly the same re: Daryl. It feels kinda cheap to keep drawing that out, like they really wanted a mid-season cliffhanger and this is the only way they could do it.

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