The Walking Dead, Season 3

Off With the Governor’s Head!
Talking television.
Nov. 26 2012 10:52 AM

The Walking Dead, Season 3

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The Governor steps from villainy to despicability.

Michonne (Danai Gurira), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).
Michonne (Danai Gurira), Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Oscar (Vincent Ward) and Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).

Photo by Gene Page/AMC.

The best TV villains are the ones that walk the fine line between contemptibility and lovability. They’re evil enough to intimidate but smart enough, witty enough, or entertaining enough to warrant our respect, even some morsel of our support. Between his zombie daughter and aquarium of zombie heads, the Governor has offered us some shocking moments — but, after his bizarre sexual assault of Maggie last night, the writers have perhaps intentionally pushed him over the line, on the side of pure detestability.

“He’s a charming lunatic and a tyrant already, does he also need to be a potential rapist? Does this really further his character or the narrative?” writes Eric Kain of Forbes. “On the other hand, now we’re all even more eager for someone to put a bullet/axe/katana through his ugly, fascistic skull.”

His assault on Maggie seems more heinous than his other wrongdoings. “This was the first time we saw him actually — apathetically — using his power to completely, soullessly dominate another human being,” writes Shaunna Murphy at Hollywood.com.

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If this smooth-talking “Jim Jones type” was ever popular, now viewers seem to be calling for his head. Are The Walking Dead writers priming us for a Governor beat-down in the mid-season finale, or will we wait for the season finale or beyond to see his demise?

While the Governor evolves to new levels of creepy, Michonne remains disappointedly the same comic book-y woman we’ve always known her as. She’s spent the whole season remaining tight-lipped about anything and everything, even, as in last night’s episode, her name. Eric Goldman of IGN writes:

Her behavior when first brought into the prison was just ridiculous. Enough with the glowering. Enough with the silence. This was not the time. I get that she’s a very guarded character, but this was just exasperating to watch, and Rick calling her out on it (“You came here for a reason!”) didn’t make it better when she initially wouldn’t even say her name.

Slate commenter Jack Strawb found it uncharacteristic of Michonne to help Rick after he squeezes her gunshot wound. “It was a trick the writers resort to far too frequently, or trying to make a point about one character (what Rick is willing to do) at the expense of how another character would authentically respond,” he writes.

The ill-fated woodlander also drew some head-scratching, and so did the promptness with which Rick’s gang used the hermit’s corpse as zombie bait. “Could you imagine Rick allowing such a thing to happen three or four months ago, or at least happening without a great deal of hand-wringery and arguing with Shane?” writes Jeffrey Goldberg at the Atlantic roundtable.

Scott Meslow at the Atlantic roundtable noted how Rick and his crew ignored a zombie stumbling toward them in the background on their way to Woodbury. “On this ‘zombie drama,’ the zombies have literally become a part of the scenery—so unremarkable that neither the characters nor the series even bothers to comment on their presence anymore,” he writes. “Which means, of course, that this is a human drama.”

Chris Kirk is Slate's interactives editor. Follow him on Twitter.

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