"What is it?"
"I think it's... GINO!"
"What's he doing?"
"Just standing there."
"Well... shoot that motherfucker!"
"Yeah." She takes aim.
Back down on the ground, GINO has a big self-satisfied smile. He's been checking out the prison and, with hands confidently grasping waist, chuckles to himself in his best imitation of Liam Neeson: "Looks like it's gonna' be a cakewa..." And then his head explodes to a thundering boom of a rifle report.
Back in the tower, Daryl: "Did you get 'im?"
"I think so." She looks through the scope, sees the corpse. "I think I did!" Looks up with one of those beaming, excited-Maggie looks.
YEAH!" They high-five. The opening credits begin.
And no one ever mentions GINO again.
Hey, it would suit me just fine. From my anecdotal perusal of TWD-related message boards I know that even some of TWD's hardest-core, least critical fans share my sentiment that the return of GINO is a thing to be greeted with the same enthusiasm as a Milli Vanilli reunion, ISHTAR 2, or a return of the bubonic plague. A few days ago, the Hollywood Reporter suggested similar sentiment may extend to the show's creative team:
"We've just devoted an entire season to the conflict of the Governor and [new showrunner] Scott Gimple came in and was like, 'You know what? I'm sick of the Governor.' He actually said that. It's not that we don't like that character; it's just that we needed to give that character a break," executive producer Robert Kirkman tells The Hollywood Reporter. "Going right back into that would seem like more retread of season three, and that's the thing we don't want to do."Kirkman has a history of making comments about the series that turn out to be wildly inaccurate and which call into serious question the extent of his involvement in its actual production, but tonight's episode, randomly titled "Live Bait," suggests that in this case he may have his story straight. The bottom line regarding GINO the Liam Lesser is that he's nothing more than a festering incarnation of the slow-motion creative train-wreck that was season 3, of the broader Mazzara era, and of the absolutely brainless, brutal waste of what had been one of the best storylines of the TWD comic. Tonight, the Gimple Gang rolled out their solution to this problem: they turned GINO into someone else entirely and added another solid episode to their roster.
I'd like to hope Kirkman's caveat ("It's not that we don't like the character...") is just diplomatically-dictated prevarication. Tonight's ep begins with GINO driving a truck into the abandoned remnants of Woodbury and burning it to the ground, which works well if read as a metatextual refutation of that entire storyline and season. He abandons the thugs who stayed with him, abandons himself, and takes to the road, a broken, lost soul with a thousand-yard stare who aimlessly wanders the wasteland the world has become. The cold opening is an extraordinary montage tracking these events. To the tune of Ben Nichols' excellent "Last Pale Light in the West," we hear him, in an audio flash-forward, explaining to someone how he'd come from a town where "the man in charge... he just lost it." He comes across a barn where people have left messages for passers-by. Several relate to someone named "Brian Heriot," who is said to be dead. A little later, he finds a family of survivors in an apartment building and, asked his name, that's what he offers.
And as a story of Brian Heriot, rather than GINO, what follows is quite good, a solid, standalone little story. The family who take him in is a pair of sisters, one with a young daughter. Their father is in the final stages of lung cancer, his death imminent. They've stayed in the apartment building throughout the zombie apocalypse in order to care for him. Initially intending only to stay the night, Heriot is pulled into their world, becoming a useful hand. The child reminds him of his own dead daughter. When the father dies, he deals with the corpse as it reanimates. As he sets out on the road, the sisters insist on accompanying him. There has to be something better out there.
This would have been a fine way to wrap up this character, if he had to be wrapped up at all--it certainly made more constructive use of him than my silly fantasy take on how to handle his return--but the Gimple Gang's plan for Brian Heriot is apparently bigger than that. He and his new family are just getting underway when a series of unfortunate events lands him in a zombie-trap overseen by one of his GINO-era henchmen. And that's how this week's tale concludes. To be continued.
Even with the new twist, I'm no enthusiast of this character sticking around. He doesn't just come with too much baggage; he is, himself, too much baggage. Tonight, the Gimple Gang had him walk away from GINO, burn his past, become a different person, assume the name of a dead man, and even destroy his only picture of his previous family, seemingly severing his last ties to his GINO-ness, but then he immediately runs into his former henchman, another unfortunate echo of that awful, awful season. Tonight was a good ep, and I'll watch where all of this goes, but I'd still rather it go away, and tonight's tale, minus its ending, would have been a good way to send it off.
 In that interview, Kirkman also asserts there was never any plan to kill GINO at the end of season 3. If true, it means all of the rubbish that preceded the season ender--episode after episode of doing absolutely nothing while publicly justifying this by asserting the season was building to a conclusion--never really had any conclusion in sight after all.
 The opening moment, in which a zombie approaches him, tramping through his campfire while he just impassively looks on, could have been eliminated. In the next scene, he emerges from a small, womb-like tent, and that would have worked better as a thematic opening shot. That is, I suppose, a nerdy filmmakers complaint, but when TWD is good, it does encourage that.
 This is partly a tip of the hat to the print mythos--in the novel "Rise of the Governor," the Governor's real name was revealed to be Brian Blake.