The Walking Dead: The Governor and His Mental Health Issues

In the last 2 episodes of The Walking Dead, we have exclusively explored the world of Brian/the Governor, the antagonist to Rick and the prison tribe in season 3. With the producers and writers taking so much time to evaluate the character before the mid-season finale to be aired on Sunday, Dec 1, I can only assume his antithetical role will be reprised as a major plot push for the second half of season 4.  I truly enjoy the Governor as an anti-hero to Rick’s prison tribe and have enjoyed these episodes more than I thought I would. It is important to remember that times in the post-zombie apocalypse are difficult enough to warrant mental breaks in even the gentlest demeanors. Note both Carol and Beth. These women shifted from weak, scared individuals to cold and calculating because of the experiences inherent to the world situation. What about those who are not as calm and balanced? Those who have a penchant for violence or ambivalence, or even those who have seen too many horrible things happen and cannot mentally heal? Let’s talk about the Governor.

The Governor and his daughter. cr: AMC
The Governor and his daughter. cr: AMC

Episodes: S04xE06 “Live Bait”


S04xE07 “Dead Weight”

While we’ve touched on the importance of physical health and the need to stay safe and well, mental health as a part of holistic wellness is easily overlooked. Individuals take mental health for granted–both our own and others. In a world in which therapists are nonexistent and killing a loved one who has been or will be turned into a flesh-eating monster is a very real threat, mental health is constantly under siege. While some, such as Glen and Maggie, not only have a person in whom to confide, which allows for a mental reboot, but also an opportunity for physical closeness, mentally scarring incidents can be dealt with in a quasi-healthy way. Maggie can speak to Glen about the physical attack (S03, at the hands of the Governor), or her father or sister. These mutually beneficial relationships allow individuals to share personal burdens, reassess situations with the advice of loved ones and remain mentally fit to engage in a world that revolves around extreme violence and difficult decisions. Working through the fear, pain and loss of a post-apocalyptic society within a community of like-minded individuals seems to be the only way to not only physically survive, but remain in-tact mentally as well. The Governor holds too many secrets to be able to share them with any one person, or so he firmly believes, which is why he compartmentalizes himself, as seen in the last 2 episodes focusing on the evolution of “Brian Heriot” (a name he reads off a barn).

The Governor and Sheriff Rick are two sides of the same fucked up coin.
The Governor and Sheriff Rick are two sides of the same fucked up coin.

For the Governor, the experience of his daughter turning into a walker, as well as the numerous other mental health issues that arise from attempting to protect and then losing one’s community to flesh-eaters, have forced this man into a mental breakdown. Even Andrea in season 3 could not break the Governor’s exterior mental walls, although she related to him better than any person, at that point. While the Governor’s original intentions with Woodbury most likely were commendable, the secret, violent way he protected community safety eventually revealed themselves. Still, the differences between Rick and the Governor lie in the way each handles the difficult decisions to be made, which in turn stems from mental health and the relationships each has forged. While Rick surrounds himself with people who constantly question his decisions and with whom he is open and honest, the Governor does no such thing. His personality remains factioned off, even more so in this season. His new family knows only the quiet, helpful drifter who wandered into their lives sometime after the Governor massacred his army at Woodbury at the end of season 3. When they run into a group (I’m gonna call them the RV tribe) led by his former lieutenant, Martinez, who knows too much about the Governor, “Brian” swiftly turns into the killer audiences knows he is, murdering the former ally simply to silence him. “Brian” also recruits the most bullheaded and volatile member of his new tribe, even after murdering the man’s brother, and once again has the single-minded plan to ruin the prison-tribe and take everything they have worked to establish.

The Governor and his RV tribe. cr: AMC
The Governor and his RV tribe. cr: AMC

By surrounding himself with equally unstable henchmen and the well-meaning but ignorant RV tribe, the Governor is setting himself up to be the unstable leader to a group much like that in Woodbury. Using fear as a motivational tactic and with a dynamic personality, the Governor’s power over the RV tribe will soon become absolute. Still, mental health cannot be masked for long. The question is, what lengths with the RV tribe go to as the Governor’s mental break inevitably becomes clear?


The Collectiva Diva

Here’s a sneak peek of the mid-season finale, “Too Far Gone”.


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