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'Walking Dead' Dissection: Scott Gimple Breaks Down the Governor's Deadly Journey

The showrunner talks with THR about the parallels between Rick and the Governor and teases what's to come during the midseason finale in our weekly postmortem.

Walking Dead Governor David Morrissey Season 4 Midseason Finale - P 2013
AMC
"The Walking Dead's" David Morrissey

[Warning: This story contains spoilers from the "Dead Weight" episode of AMC's The Walking Dead.]

With just one episode remaining in the first half of The Walking Dead's fourth season, the AMC zombie drama connected the second half of the Governor's recent backstory with Rick's present-day group, setting the stage for the duo to finally come face-to-face.

During the penultimate episode, the seemingly reformed Governor (David Morrissey) doesn't last long, killing Martinez and his No. 2, Pete (Enver Gjokaj of Dollhouse) and enlisting his brother Mitch (Kirk Acevedo, Fringe) to be his new right-hand man as he takes over the camp. After a brief attempt to break off on their own, "Brian" and his new family -- Lily and her daughter, Megan, as well as the former's sister, Tara, (and her new girlfriend, Alicia) -- wind up returning to the camp, creating an RV version of Woodbury -- going so far as to solidify the community with barriers and guards against walkers.

However, after Megan nearly dies in a walker attack, "Brian" goes on a supply run and winds up stumbling onto the prison, spying Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Hershel (Scott Wilson) outside of the fences and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl (Chandler Riggs) tending to the garden. The hour ends with the Governor, clearly back to the life he could not escape, taking aim at Michonne, the woman who put down his zombie daughter, Penny, and claimed his eye.

It all sets the stage for the Dec. 1 midseason finale: Will the Governor, in search of a more stable home to protect his new family, attempt to attack the prison? The Hollywood Reporter turned to showrunner Scott M. Gimple to break down the events of "Dead Weight" and tease The Walking Dead's final episode of 2014.

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The new Governor doesn't last too long. What changed from last week?

The Governor was really trying not to engage with Lily, Tara and Megan at all in episode six. He knew that if he got close to them, he'd probably fall in love with them. If he fell in love with them, he'd have to protect them. And if he had to protect them, he'd probably have to go to places that he didn't want to have to go anymore. It's all part of that equation. The thing that changed in him was the very thing he was trying to keep away from: love. He knew what that could mean, and it did change him.

So he's a killer for love? Was that always his motive during his Woodbury days?

The guy he was initially with his family is not necessarily the guy he wound up to be at Woodbury. Things got very mixed up for him. It started with a very benevolent agenda, but the death of Penny, which predated Woodbury, haunted him a great deal. He used to keep her and the love he had for his daughter was intense and very real. I believe that is one of the elements that brought out badness in him, as well as desperately trying to keep the purity of Woodbury safe. For every harsh thing he did, the universe gave him very positive reinforcement. Woodbury just got more and more built up and became more and more beloved. And he became more and more successful. When we meet him in episode six, he's starting at square one again.

We hear the Governor explain that he's not interested in protecting the people who always try to do the right thing -- even if it's at the expense of their own group. We've now seen him try to start over and learn that it doesn't work. Will he be any different now when he sees that Rick is trying to do the same thing and protect his son and their group?

That's a damn good question. It isn't for ego that the Governor is doing this; he's doing this for his people -- Megan, Tara, Alicia and the rest of the group. He wants them to be safe and to live the rest of their lives. He'd be happy if he didn't have to do horrible things along the way -- he's just ready to do them.

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The Governor has found the prison -- as well as Michonne and Rick. Is his interest in the prison more about finding a new home for his family and camp or exacting revenge on Michonne and Rick? Or both?

I wouldn't want to get into that story because I think that's a super interesting question that the story answers, because that really is the question: Is he the same guy? Upon seeing them, does this restart his warmth for revenge? That is a very different thing from what he's been doing. That's a question the story answers. One of the most pronounced moments in our story is the big moment when he strikes Martinez (Jose Pablo Cantillo) -- right after Martinez says he couldn't have another wife and child because he isn't sure he could keep them safe. That represses him on that point, and Martinez doesn't really provide him much of an answer. The Governor is surprised and he kills Martinez. It seems like that very much trips the alarm for him.

You've set up a mystery about who was feeding rats to force the prison group out. Is that something we'll see answered in the midseason finale?

It will absolutely be answered, but I'm not going to tell you if it's in the season finale.

It feels like season four -- and most of season three -- has been a lead-up to Rick and the Governor's battle. What will their next encounter look like?

The first five [season-four episodes] were in no way a lead up to [a match-up between] Rick and the Governor. We mentioned the Governor a bit but not much. He appears at the end of five but to finish the story we wanted to tell. This is a different story. Without even getting into the Governor and what he's doing in the finale, this isn't about a couple of guys lining up head-to-head. There's a Rick story in the first five threaded throughout, and then there are a lot of character stories within that. And [episodes] six and seven are very much a story about the Governor, which is like the flip side of episode five, where at the end of that episode we saw the Governor, at the end of seven, the Governor sees the prison.

Can these two groups coexist?

Both Rick and the Governor are trying to step away from who they were and from the brutality of this world. There are very stark parallels between these two guys and their stories this year. One way or another, the stories are going to crash together. Obviously, we know that at the end of seven. But can they coexist? Has Rick come that far? Has the Governor come that far? Quite possibly -- but maybe not. (Laughs.)

Is the Governor's takeover of Martinez's community all part of a larger plan to claim the prison?

No, the Governor absolutely didn't expect this to happen. This is something that he was trying to resist. It was a part of Lily, Tara and Megan's life. He was absolutely trying to avoid becoming a leader in Martinez's group. As he was killing Martinez -- and it's a very conflicted moment -- he said, "I don't want it. I don't want this." It was such a point of anger for him. It was everything he didn't want, but he didn't want love and attachments, which is a seemingly a new wife and little girl and having a family again. With the good things he didn't want, he's also getting the terrible things that he didn't want, too.

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Why was it necessary to spend two episodes exploring the Governor's attempt to start over when ultimately he's still the same man at his core?

I wanted to get to know the character better. I like the character a lot. He's a great villain, but I wanted to know what made him tick and what he's looking for -- and tell a story of a guy fighting his destiny to be a villain -- or at least to be brutal or violent, which is very much what Rick is going through. Rick is fighting his destiny to be a leader in this world and facing brutality. Seeing characters try to change, everything they have to change, and still falling short, and if they can even achieve that change -- I love seeing stories like that. It was a challenge to go to a new world and do a little Governor movie in some ways.

How would you describe the midseason finale?

I believe that it fulfills the story of the first seven episodes. It is very much an ending of sorts for a lot of these characters' stories. I can't wait for people to see it.

How long can Rick's group stay at the prison? We've seen the weak fences and we know the Governor is eyeing it potentially for his group. Plus Rick's people are not at their strongest right now.

That's a great point. They're not exactly at full strength right now. A lot of people just got through a horrible illness; they lost a lot of people -- including Carol (Melissa McBride) -- and on top of that, Carol being sent away is a potentially explosive situation unto itself. A lot of things are coming to a head all at the same time. It really unfolds at a breakneck pace -- a lot of big things happen. It's a big episode. It's incredibly dramatic.

What did you think of the Governor's journey? What do you think will happen when -- and if -- Rick and the Governor come face-to-face in next week's midseason finale? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. Check back to THR's The Live Feed later this week for more on the midseason finale. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Email: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit