This week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” introduces us to the screen version of one of the most memorable characters from the comic, The Governor. Tonight’s video blog is all about how I wrote his theme:
SPOILERS BEYOND: “Walk With Me” lays the groundwork for the major story arcs of the season. This episode is important not just because of what happens, but because of what will happen down the line. As a result, I had to write a theme for The Governor that would prove malleable in the future. His theme had to fit the dramatic scenes in tonight’s episode and, at the same time, have enough musical DNA to expand into more menacing variations when the time comes.
As I discussed in the video blog, the Governor Theme is divided into two parts: the melody and the ostinato. The melody is almost always performed on a solo viola. Despite all my string writing on this series, I realized that I almost always featured a violin or cello during solo passages, so I wanted to give this frequently-maligned instrument a moment to shine. The Governor melody is evocative and lyrical:
When we first meet him, we really aren’t sure if he’s a bad guy. So, the melody is used to portray him as a leader who’s had to make tough choices. In many ways, he seems similar to Rick. But, as the episode goes on, we catches glimpses of ruthless calculation. During these moments, we hear The Governor ostinato:
This simple, clockwork-like repeating pattern is usually played on acoustic guitars and dulcimer. The first chord is minor, and the second chord is major with a raised fourth that gives it an almost uplifting quality. The two chords, Gm and C#Maj are in totally unrelated keys, so the fact that the pattern jumps back and forth between them gives the ostinato a disorienting, almost schizophrenic, quality. This pattern is the musical representation of cracks in the paint, giving us glimpses of the man just beneath the surface. It represents who he is inside.
Our best view of that inner Governor is in the episode’s last scene, which is also my favorite cue from the episode. Throughout the episode, you’ve been hearing snippets of his theme — the melody here, the ostinato there. Finally, in this last scene, it all comes together. As the Governor sits in his creepy zombie-head-aquarium room, the solo viola melody builds intensity over the acoustic and electric guitars playing his ostinato. Finally, the percussion and electric guitars enter, pounding furiously as the camera pushes in on him.
We are left wondering what is running through his mind, wondering what choices he will make that will lead his path to cross Rick’s. The score here is less about the present, and more an ominous prophecy of conflict to come.
The Governor has a fascinating story arc this season, and scoring it has been one of the highlights of the series for me. I think you’re going to enjoy seeing (and hearing) where the story goes from here!
Happy Halloween! And stay out of that hurricane if you’re on the East Coast, ok? 🙂