Monday, November 18, 2013

WALKING DEAD, Live Bait, Dead Meat, and GINO's Fate

When last week's episode of THE WALKING DEAD ended with a shot of GINO watching the prison, I suggested, in my comments section, a way to bring him back into the story I would certainly find acceptable. The next ep would begin a few seconds after that final moment. GINO is standing outside the prison. Then he's being spied through a rifle scope. It's Maggie. She's in one of the guard-towers with, say, Daryl. Spying the arch-fiend practically at their door, she pulls back away from the scope, wide-eyed, mouth agape in standard TWD overdone melodrama fashion.

"Holy shit!"

"What is it?"

"I think it's... GINO!"

"What? Where?"

"Down there!"

"You sure?"

"Pretty sure!"

"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,[1] 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.[2] 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.[3]

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.



[1] 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.

[2] 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.

[3] 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.


  1. Nice review, jriddle, when I watched this I thought it was a well written and well acted episode. At first I questioned the relevancy of this episode, but then I remember one of my own personal preferences in storytelling: creating an entire world. This comes out of my love of authors like J.R.R Tolkien.

    However, like you I am not the biggest fan of the reemergence of the henchmen.

  2. Overall that was an excellent episode. And I was impressed enough that there was a point about halfway through, before they the road, that I thought the new Governor could conceivably be spun off as a Fugitive-type character, wandering around, meeting new people, always leaving before he gets too close emotionally. Or before he goes berserk and kills them all.

  3. I don't want "Brian Herriot" to reconnect to GINO. I don't want them to change him back, and I'd rather he just have no contact with the prison group. The preview for next week makes it look like another episode centered on this plot thread, which seems an odd choice when there's only one ep after it before the break.

  4. This is how the series should have been from the start. Spooky little anthology episodes about the zombie apocalypse would have been much better the what we got the last two season

  5. I agree with your assessment of this episode. Some commentators on various boards found it boring as it broke away from the main story arc, but lets face it, the prison and illness story arc has been stuck in molasses so far and I’m quite tired of it already. So to see GINO post Woddbury was interesting. Some saw this episode as a complete reimaging of the GINO and were displeased, but I thought it actually made sense and fell inline with the persona the show painted for us last season. This is a guy that changed because he felt he wasn’t initially strong enough to protect his wife and child when the apacolypse began, and was losing his humanity along the way and then went completely beserk and destroyed everything he worked for in the process. In many ways you can make the same analogy of Shane, Carol, Rick, or even Carl. This world brings out your demons in order to survive and even one’s “good intentions” can be morally questionable. I’m still convinced he’s a sociopath and if bad things happen to his new found family he’ll quickly regress to his maniacal “age of Woodbury” ways. I don’t think he was at the prison’s perimeter last episode for a socoal visit! But this episode sort of goes back to that first episode of this season with the woman the lures Rick back to her camp who asks Rick if he thinks there is any coming back from the terrible things one may have done to survive in this world.

    Side note: I was more under the impression that GINO’s henchman ditched him while he was sleeping at the beginning of the episode versus he left them.

  6. Re: Robert Kirkman's involvement

    This is just one incident that happened already a year ago. I think it was the Talking Dead episode after Axel got killed off because Lew Temple was on. Along with Robert Kirkman. At one point, Lew was talking about when he first came on the show and how the call sheets use fake names. And then when Lew started to give examples, Kirkman stopped him, saying the show would have to change the fake names.

    My impression then was that Kirkman really jumped on Lew and was being overly protective. So when people say Kirkman says X about the show and then Y happens, I think its very possible he's giving disinformation.