It has taken five full episodes of "The Walking Dead," to finally give us a Season 4 Governor sighting. Yes, it was only for a couple of seconds, but now we know: He's lurking out there, just beyond the prison fence. So now what kind of evil mayhem does the one-eyed monster have in mind?
The Governor served as an ominous last-shot cliffhanger to an episode that mainly dealt with the growing consequences of the flu plague and put the spotlight on the considerable acting talents of Scott Wilson (Hershel).
But back to the Governor for a minute. I realize a lot of fans had grown tired of him and his psycho ways by the end of last season. And some of us wanted him gone -- permanently.
But I've actually been anticipating the return of David Morrissey's forceful presence and the way he ramps up the tension. The show could use some of that right about now.
Moreover, I'm interested to see what kind of scheme he has up his sleeve, and how certain characters, like Michonne, will react to seeing his despicable mug once again. I'm ready for some fireworks.
Of course, the Governor's return is coming at the absolutely worst time for the prison residents. They're especially vulnerable as they continue to battle the mystery infection that has folks bleeding from their eyes and dropping like flies.
And poor Hershel. He's struggling to keep up. He's also trying to maintain a sense of optimism and compassion, which is particularly difficult under these dire circumstances. But try he does -- instructing Glenn not to stab a fallen patient in his bed, in front of other quarantined residents. Better to whisk the dead away on a gurney and do the stabbing somewhere in private.
This has Glenn just now realizing that Hershel never has had to directly administer a cranial puncture on a walker -- a common procedure that so many of our intrepid survivors take for granted by now. How has the good doctor managed to avoid it all this time?
Speaking of Glenn, he's not looking so good. His eyes are sunken. He's sweating like an NBA point guard. And soon, he'll be coughing up blood. This has his girlfriend, Maggie, especially worried. And she's also fretting about her overworked dad. But despite her continued push to enter the quarantined cell block, Hershel insists that she remain outside and help out with fence patrol.
Also feeling shut out of things is Carl. Daddy Rick has him and Judith ensconced away from the others and Carl is getting a little itchy to get out and shoot somebody.
"You can't keep me from it -- what always happens," Carl tells his protective father.
"Yeah, but I can try to," Rick replies.
Of course, you know how TV works. Eventually, a dire situation occurs that causes both Carl and Maggie to bust the shackles, provide much-needed support and, indeed, rescue their parents from imminent doom.
In Maggie's case, she saves Pops from a zombie from whom he's desperately trying to procure an intubation bag that he needs to aid a wheezing Glenn. Maggie fires a well-timed shot into the walker, the bag is saved and so is Glenn.
While all hell is breaking loose in the cell block, a zombie horde outside breaks through the fence, forcing Rick and Carl to take up automatic arms. Soon, gunfire is ringing out all over the prison yard. It's a veritable shooting gallery. At one point, Rick runs out of ammo and it's the quick-thinking Carl who gets him a fresh magazine.
It's the kind of suspenseful and riveting action sequence that "The Walking Dead" does so well, with the focus quickly swiveling back and forth between the yard and the cell block. When all the commotion, finally dies down, a frazzled, downtrodden Hershel is alone in his cell with his thoughts.
By now, the man who has resolutely clung to his faith through unrelenting turmoil and heartache, has had to deliver his first cranial stabbing (to Caleb). And he's has had to rescue Sasha and Glenn from near death. And he himself nearly fell victim to a zombie bite. Somehow, he still thinks there's "a plan," or a "reason" for all this. But when does it end? When does relief ever come?
He breaks down in his cell and weeps.
Some other developments and random thoughts:
-- We didn't get much in the way of development on the Carol situation. So we're still waiting to see how Tyreese and Daryl react to her banishment. Maggie, though, believes Rick did the right thing.
-- Caleb's demise continues this season's trend of deaths involving characters we have little or no attachment to, though it looked for a while like poor Glenn might be a goner. Whew.
-- "A sad soul can kill you quicker, far quicker, than a germ." -- Hershel quoting John Steinbeck from "Travels with Charley."
-- "Walking Dead" comics creator (and show producer) Robert Kirkman was interviewed by the Hollywood Reporter earlier in the week. He had this to say about the Governor and why the character's return was delayed this season: "He was never supposed to die in season three; we always knew there was a bigger story with him, and taking a break from that story is going to make things more heightened when he comes back," Kirkman explained. "These characters are having real struggles and going through a lot of really bad s---. Viewer s are watching this the entire time knowing that the Governor could emerge from anywhere at any time and add another threat to whatever these characters are dealing with -- it adds another layer of tension. We wouldn't be able to do that if we move right into his story."