The Justified finale had a scene that summed up one of it’s greatest strengths: Raylan, the putative hero, and Boyd, the putative villain, demonstrate how parallel they are to each other: Raylan points to Boyd’s career and sneers at the thought that Boyd imagines himself anything other than “the bad guy.” Boyd points to Raylan’s actions and sneers that Raylan thinks he’s any different. Perfect: They are different, and make different choices, but both focus on different aspects, highlighting the ambiguity of the moral dilemmas that, taken one way, lead to acclaim and promotion in the US Marshall’s Service and, taken another, lead to universal contempt and jail.
Which they’d similarly set up with the Governor and Rick in The Walking Dead. Rick crazily hung on to the voice and visions of his dead wife while making the fateful decisions necessary for survival, the Governor hung on to the physical body of his dead daughter while doing the same. While the hard truth is that both are in the business of ordering the brutal actions that are necessary to make their group survive, Rick soothes himself by wallowing in guilt based on pre-zompocalypse morality. The Governor steels himself by sitting and staring at decapitated heads in fishtanks that are still gnawing to get at him. But why do people dwell on things? To bolster their weak spots: Rick’s belly-aching about morality implies that he needs to remind himself to not let it disappear, while the Governor’s zombiequarium implies that he needs to remind himself to never let himself relax. A similar point was made when the Governor said that, had he acted forcefully from the beginning, his daughter would fear him, but be alive. Meanwhile, we saw that Rick’s son is a little disdainful of his Dad’s morality.
But instead of developing the theme of parallelism between Rick and the Governor, they just put the Governor on the crazy train. Oh, he wasn’t just brutal, he was a sadist. He wasn’t just committed to pre-emptive murder, he was a psychopath. And most frustratingly of all, in the finale, he wasn’t a competent leader. And not only wasn’t he a competent leader in his assault on the jail, he apparently had never been competent in training his people to have the proper level of paranoia and response to deal with sneak attacks.
And just at a basic dramatic level, they cheated us of a final confrontation between the Governor and one of our protagonists. Instead, he slunk off with his A-team baddies and will now be a possible occasional appearance. Very disappointing for a show whose greatest strength is its willingness to kill off established characters.