'Walking Dead': Where's the Governor? The Producers Weigh In

Executive producers Robert Kirkman and Scott M. Gimple talk with THR about the zombie drama's missing villain and why it was important to allow some time to pass before he resurfaced.
"The Walking Dead's" David Morrissey

Halfway through the first part of The Walking Dead's fourth season and there has been no sign of David Morrissey's dastardly villain, the Governor.

"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."

Indeed. Through four episodes of The Walking Dead, the series based on Kirkman's long-running comics has reestablished the prison community and created multiple new threats. Those include a killer among them (Melissa McBride's Carol), a deadly flu and a mysterious person baiting walkers to the prison's weakened fences. Like season three, is it all setting the group up to be at its weakest point for when the eye-patched villain responsible for Andrea's (Laurie Holden) death returns to exact revenge on Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira)?

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"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 explains. "These characters are having real struggles and going through a lot of really bad shit. Viewers 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."

For her part, Michonne also seems to have given up hope in tracking down the Governor, noting that his trail has gone cold after he was last seen going on a brutal massacre before Rick transferred the remaining Woodbury women and children to the prison community.

"The Governor lost the battle he was building up to; he lost this town that he had built up, that he was ruling with an iron fist, that was so much of his identity," Kirkman notes. "This guy was completely driven by ego and the fact that he lost all this and it drove him to a point where he slaughtered his own people -- this is not a guy who is just going to be able to come back from that. We're going to see a very different Governor when he does come back."

For those familiar with Kirkman's comics, the Governor ultimately was responsible for Lori and baby Judith's deaths when he attacked the prison and forced the group out from their safe haven. He also has a savage confrontation with Michonne -- which was only briefly touched on during the AMC drama's third season.

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Kirkman teases that it's unclear just how the brutal events of the season-three finale will change the Governor -- if they'll make him more dangerous or more passive in rethinking his life.

"The Governor is going to see quite a leap in who he is and what his motives are. The Governor that we saw at the end of season three was this homicidal maniac who lost control of his town, and we haven't seen him for a long time. He's been stewing, and we may be seeing a very different Governor when we finally do catch up to him," Kirkman says of the character's eventual return. "We like to keep people guessing, and he definitely will return this season. Just when you think things are getting to a breaking point, that's when the Governor layer will be thrown in to make things that much more deadly and dangerous. It's going to be a really big, memorable moment in the show."  

Adds Gimple: "What the Governor has done weighs upon him; that is the first time he has done something like that. When the Governor comes back, it's going to be in a very significant way but in a way that we significantly exploit the character and go even deeper into who he is. Because who the hell is he? He has his public face, he has his private face. We know a great deal about him, but we don't know the truth. When all is said and done, is he the guy who enjoys being a leader and being the salvation to people? Is he this tortured guy who needs to stare at the heads of the men and women he's killed? Which one is he?"

How do you think the Governor will return? How will he have changed? Hit the comments below with your thoughts. The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

E-mail: Lesley.Goldberg@THR.com
Twitter: @Snoodit