[This is a review of The Walking Dead season 4, episode 7. There will be SPOILERS.]
A fair amount of stories that revolve around zombies generally have something to say about the nature of humanity and the basic principles of morality, and how, when things like, say, the end of the world happen, those two concepts pretty much get tossed out the window. And while The Walking Dead has spent plenty of time working plots in and out of various examinations of that notion, it's never more overt than when the show is depicting the Governor (a.k.a. Philip/Brian) flipping the evil switch and killing with impunity all those who stand in his way.
Last week was spent in Philip's company as he wandered around the South, in a post-Woodbury funk, until he came upon some survivors in need. This kinder, gentler Philip seemed to cringe at the thought of violence and confrontation, and was even reluctant when it can time to assume a leadership role with the new family he'd inadvertently picked up. And the way 'Live Bait' concluded, there was a hint of worry that Philip and his surrogate family were in a bad way after they wound up in the company of Martinez and his new traveling companions. But as it turns out, it was Martinez, the trusting soul, who allowed a dangerous sociopath into his group and wound up paying for that mistake with his life.
As far as episodes go, 'Dead Weight' didn't have much more to offer in the pacing department than last week's sometimes plodding entry, but it did serve as build-up for the mid-season finale next Sunday. Generally, episodes that spend most of their time in anticipation of what's coming up next leave the viewer wishing that the writers would just get on with it, and lay the groundwork for the following chapter with a little more spirit. There was certainly some of that going on here, as the episode went the heavy-handed route with the young Meghan (Meyrick Murphy) asking Brian all sorts of questions about what constitutes a good or bad person. Of course, all of this was handled within the framework of the two playing chess because clunky, obvious symbolism is important in terms of even more obvious foreshadowing, apparently.
And while those parts of Philip/Brian's journey back into villainy were perhaps more ham-fisted than they needed to be, this was an episode centered on a guy who once (and maybe will again?) called himself the Governor; and a guy who does that is pretty much going to dial everything he does up to eleven – which he did when Martinez made the ill-advised suggestion the two bond over a bottle of whiskey and some golf clubs. Sure, emotions were probably running high with the suggestion that Martinez could keep a place safe better than the Governor could, but listening to Philip say "I don't want it," over and over again while dragging his former brother-in-arms into a pit full of walkers definitely felt like David Morrissey was checking to see if he could take it to twelve.
Still, despite the oddly placed energy and uneven pacing, the episode made good use of Kirk Acevedo (Oz, Fringe) and Enver Gjokaj (Dollhouse), even though it was only Acevedo's tank-driving Mitch who will live to see the mid-season finale. And that's really what 'Dead Weight' was around to do: set things up for another go-round between the Governor and Rick at the prison.
This time it seems the Governor believes victory will come through superior firepower. Let's just hope, for their sake, none of his followers get in the way of that tank.
The Walking Dead will air its mid-season finale 'Too Far Gone' next Sunday @9pm on AMC. Check out a preview below: