The Walking Dead has had few villains that have captivated our hearts. There have been several antagonists, but not many we can remember many seasons later. The Governor was the first such villain that really appealed to viewers. He was an outstanding antagonist, and a deeply despicable person as well.
Unlike Negan (who easily ranks as the top villain on the show), the Governor never had a sense of humor that would make him likable. However, the point of the character was for us to both hate and admire him, and he definitely did make us uneasy in a variety of ways. There were a select few words in particular that gave us goosebumps. These were delivered in all kinds of situations, which is what makes them unsettling even years later.
This one gave us goosebumps for the wrong reasons when we first heard it. It was upon first appearance, and the Governor was convincing Andrea that Woodbury intended to make civilization proper again by taking the world back from the Walkers. At that time, we were taken in awe of this inspiring new figure – especially because Rick had been a dictator-type leader in his group.
However, this line now gives us the chills because of the double-meaning attached to it. In actuality, the Governor was slyly telling the audience that he intended to take over whatever he could and rule over it. Hearing this quote (and watching the episode) again gives a fascinating dual picture of what he meant.
The Governor always played the part of holding morality in regard, but he had decided long ago that there was nothing black and white about the world anymore – it was all dark. Not only did the Governor kill Peter – the leader of the camp Governor was residing in – he ended up recruiting Pete’s brother Mitch to his side.
What made it rather horrifying was how he convinced Mitch despite having just murdered his brother. He did so by uttering this quote, promising Mitch that the Governor was responsible for everything, and his world didn’t have a “right or wrong”. In Governor’s world, what he wanted was the law.
If you don’t have context to this scene, you’d think the Governor said this as a warning to an enemy, but he spoke to a little girl. What he really was doing was reminding himself that he wanted revenge on Rick.
The scene had him play chess with Tara Chambler’s niece, and again playing the part of a savior with good intentions. The little girl’s overthinking about making her move prompted Governor to impart this advice. You have to believe that, had the girl been exposed more to his philosophy, he’d have converted her into his brutal manner of thinking. Adding subtlety to this scene is the fact they were playing chess, which served as a nod toward the Governor planning his move against Rick.
If anyone thought by this point that the Governor had some redeeming qualities, those thoughts were thrown out the window when he refused to let teenagers stay in Woodbury while he planned an assault.
According to the Governor, anyone who could pick up a gun was capable of killing. It marked the end of innocence in his minds, arguing that adolescence didn’t exist anymore and there was nothing separating brutality from potential guilt. Even Negan has regard for children retaining that childish quality about themselves, but the Governor wanted kids to become killing machines if it meant they would further his cause.
By the time the Governor made his final assault on the prison, it was all too personal for him. He didn’t care that Rick and company had made a happier home for former residents of Woodbury, nor that Rick wasn’t even in charge anymore. All he wanted was revenge.
The Governor showed this all too well when he demanded Rick be the one to face him when the former arrived with a tank and a small army at the prison. We all reacted with fear when the Governor called Rick out, as it was the first hint that things would blow out of control.
The idea behind the Governor ever since his death has been that he was a dictator who didn’t have the charm or temperament to keep a community thriving. But that’s glossing over how he did have the power to control a situation when he wanted.
This was seen in a highly tensed interaction between him and Rick that looked ready to end in a gun fight, before the Governor awkwardly calmed things down. Out of nowhere, he raised his hands jovially and announced he’d brought whiskey for himself and Rick. Viewers thought they’d had the Governor figured out, but this sudden change in demeanor shoved us all in the back foot.
In the same conversation with the little girl while playing chess, the Governor silently threw in another reference toward his inner workings. While watching this episode, the scene at first wanted to make us believe he was a changed man, but this line sealed it that he was just waiting to form his army.
Even though he lost Woodbury and his soldiers, the Governor still saw those people as pawns for him to control. This total disregard for life was extremely unsettling to watch, more so as he was talking to a child, someone who was meant to represent the protection of life for the future.
There’s no way you can watch this episode now and claim to be over how creepy it was. The Governor was so hard to understand over what he wanted to do by this point, that it made us jump in fright when he smacked Martinez with a golf club.
He then followed it up by feeding the poor sap to a ditch full of walkers. But Martinez being ripped to shreds was not the scary part, it was the Governor muttering (then screaming), “I don’t want it!” that made it scary. Martinez had earlier offered him a co-leadership, and this was the Governor showing his disgust at having to share leadership with anyone.
Throughout Season 3, we weren’t sure what exactly was the Governor’s end mission. He wanted to be in charge of a community, but he also kept killing people as if it was fun. The last episode made it clear what his life philosophy was, and he made it abundantly clear by saying this quote.
For the Governor, being alive now meant killing people – that was the only way to live. As for what came after death, that involved taking lives as well. Basically, his viewpoint on both life and death was killing. He was sadistic and nihilistic in many ways.
Just the one word, and that too spoken in barely a whisper, and the Governor sealed the fates of more than dozens of people. When he uttered, “Liar,” it was confirmation that this monster had absolutely no redeeming qualities, and that he was going to die and take everyone with him.
All of us viewers were biting down our nails as an inevitable all-out assault from both sides was inevitable, but Rick’s impassioned speech had us believing something could be salvaged. However, the Governor only had blood on his mind, and he drew it first by beheading our beloved Hershel. It led to the Governor’s own death in the end, but something tells us he’d do it all over again even if resurrected.