‘The Walking Dead’: All hail the King

The Walking Dead
“The Well”
October 30, 3016

While Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Maggie, and the others were watching Negan crush their souls, Carol and Morgan were in the middle of their own considerably less horrific drama. Carol left Alexandria in a fit of guilt or something, ambushed a bunch of Saviors, took their weapons and almost got away with it until Morgan and one of the Saviors caught up with Carol. The Savior did that dumb thing that bad guys do where he was all: “Imma gonna shoot you in the arm to drag out your pain but also to give someone an opportunity to sneak up from behind and kill me before I kill you,” which is exactly what happens. Morgan kills the Savior; Morgan has a moral crisis.

And then out of nowhere, some dudes show up on horses and offer help. They load Carol up into a wagon and head towards their home, Morgan marking trees and phone poles so that they will know their way back. At one point, they have some trouble with walkers. Carol, all delusional, runs away, and begins seeing the walkers as the people they used to be, and they are beckoning to her. Fortunately, Morgan and his new friends are able to rescue Carol, and Morgan marks the spot by flipping up the flag on the mailbox where they find her.

After sleeping two days straight, Carol wakes up to find Morgan watching over her. To answer her questions about where, exactly, they are, he loads her up into a wheelchair and pushes her through what appears to be a lovely community that has everything: gardens, school children, laundry, horses, hope … you know that thing you have when Jeffrey Dean Morgan hasn’t bashed your best friends’ heads in with a barbed-wire wrapped baseball bat?

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Morgan explains that they call it The Kingdom, and the person in charge is one King Ezekiel, whom Morgan takes Carol to meet. Oh, and King Ezekiel has a pet tiger, Shiva, which Morgan does not lead with. ALWAYS LEAD WITH THE TIGER.

Morgan wheels Carol into a theater where King Ezekiel, an African-American gentleman with spectacular gray dreads, your new favorite character, Jerry, and Shiva, are awaiting them. King Ezekiel is all, “My fair maiden, welcome to my kingdom. This is Jerry, my faithful steward. If thou art a friend of Morgan’s than thou shall be considered a friend of my realm, blah blah blah, more Ren Fest talk. What dost thou think of my kingdom?”

Carol:

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King Ezekiel explains the overriding philosophy at The Kingdom: you may drink from the well as long as you replenish the well. He then offers Carol some fruit — namely a pomegranate, but she declines, explaining they are too much trouble. (WORD.) Instead, she asks for a hairbrush which is why Carol is the most relatable character on this entire series. OH, AND COMB YOUR HAIR, DARYL.

As Morgan returns her to her room, she’s like, “Look, Morgan, this is some made-up nonsense, and as soon as you’re not looking, I’m grabbing the guns and I’m gone.”

Later, Morgan goes out on a run with King Ezekiel and some of the kingdomites to herd a group of pigs into a warehouse so as to nom on a walker. “A walker?” Morgan asks. And Richard, one of the kingdomites, confirms that he wants the pigs’ “bellies full of rot.” Uh, OK, cool?

A small shuffle of walkers approaches, and King Ezekiel encourages a younger member of the group, a teenager named Ben, to work on his machete skills. It turns out that Ben does not actually have any machete skills, so Morgan Jedi Sticks the walker, saving the kid.

When they return to The Kingdom, King Ezekiel asks Morgan to train Young Ben in the ways of the force, and so he does.

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Meanwhile, Carol is busy stealing shit while pretending to cry over cobbler.

Later, King Ezekiel takes Morgan on another, more secretive run where they meet with a group of Saviors to deliver them the pigs they had been herding earlier.

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One of the Saviors gets lippy with that Richard guy and they proceed to fight until King Ezekiel calls Richard off of him. The Savior pops Richard in the face a few more times just to be an asshole before his boss orders him to cut it out. Boss then informs King Ezekiel that next week they expect produce before they take their tainted meat and leave.

King Ezekiel seems to know that Morgan knows who these people are, and asks if the man he killed to save Carol was a Savior. Morgan admits that he was, and wonders if that’s why he was brought today — to kill again if he had to. But King Ezekiel cryptically replies that actually it’s actually the opposite.

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That evening(?) Morgan has dinner with Padawan Ben who reveals that his father was tight with King Ezekiel before he died on a run with seven other men. He then explains that King Ezekiel believes they shouldn’t fight the Saviors for fear of losing people. Padawan then asks about the Cheesemaker’s inscription in the copy of The Art of Peace that Morgan lent him, the one about not killing people, and Morgan’s like, “yeah, sometimes people change their minds.”

Morgan then goes to check on Carol who obviously is long gone.

Except she totally isn’t. King Ezekiel and Jerry find her picking fruit from their garden. King Ezekiel dismisses Jerry … DUECES!

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… and asks Carol what would have happened if he hadn’t found her just then. Carol puts on her cobbler-cryer act, but King Ezekiel suddenly becomes King Zeke, and instructs Carol to “not bullshit a bullshitter.” They sit down and Carol explains that she finds The Kingdom to be a joke, that it’s a fairy tale and she thinks he just likes having his ass kissed by all of these people.

King Zeke explains that people just want someone to follow, and if they find a guy walking around with a pet tiger, they are inclined to follow him. Before the apocalypse, he was a zookeeper who had a special bond with Shiva, the tiger he saved this one time. After the end of the world, he went back and saved her again and in return, she protected him. Together, they became larger than life and with a little help from his time in community theater, he was able to become King Ezekiel and build this place. Oh and he’d prefer it if she’d keep all of that to herself.

Carol is like, “No worries, I’m leaving. BYE.” But as she walks away, King Zeke tells her that he’s sorry for whatever it is that she’s been through, but to try to remember that where there is life, there is hope and heroism, grace and love. He then suggests that she leave, but not leave, to embrace the “contradiction.”

And so, she does. Morgan returns her to the house where he found her, the one marked by the mailbox flag, which apparently was a cemetery caretaker’s home according to The Walking Dead wiki, so OK, sure. Inside, Carol dispatches of the former homeowner and buries her in the backyard.

Carol soon has her first guests: King Zeke and Shiva. He comes bearing a housewarming gift: a pomegranate, which he insists she has to try. And even Carol can’t help but smile. Just a little.

Oh, damn, these two. That is HAPPENING.

Look, I am still mad at The Walking Dead for last week’s episode. While I never said I was giving up on the series forever, I understand the sentiment. That said, I’d be lying if I claimed I wasn’t charmed by this episode and King Ezekiel, Shiva and Jerry. Jerry! How much do we love Jerry?!

But what I am really digging is this vibe between Ezekiel and Carol. The moment between the two of them towards the end of the episode, when Ezekiel drops his act and is open with her, is just a great scene. It’s exposition that not only feels natural but also goes towards developing the characters and their relationship. Khary Payton, the actor who plays Ezekiel, does a great job of slipping between this persona of King Ezekiel and the real Ezekiel. He conveys this person who is not just charming and smart, but also a good read of people. And his chemistry with Melissa McBride is palpable. Sorry, Caryl shippers.

Comic spoilers! Scroll over to read:

So! King Ezekiel is introduced in the comics via the Hilltop with whom they trade. After The Kingdom is introduced to Rick and his group, Ezekiel and Michonne become romantically involved. Remember, in the comics, Rick is with Andrea who is long dead on the show. 

Eventually, King Ezekiel and The Kingdom join forces with Rick and the Alexandrians and The Hilltop to fight against Negan and The Saviors. Shiva and a number of Ezekiel’s friends are lost in the fighting and he undergoes a crisis in which he no longer wants to lead. But Michonne is all “STOP BEING A PUSSY.” So he stops being a pussy and he eventually helps Rick defeat Negan. 

The happy times are short-lived, however, and Ezekiel is beheaded by our next big baddie, Alpha of the Whisperers. Sad.

And so, I believe that in lieu of the character mentioned in that comic spoiler passage, Carol will become King Ezekiel’s love interest. Queen Carol has a nice ring to it.

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But aside from all of that, this episode was a much-needed cleansing breath after last week’s violence. King Ezekiel and his message of hope and cooperation and salvation, it comes as a welcome point of light in an otherwise bleak universe. Now, all of this hope and cooperation and choirs singing Bob Dylan songs comes at a price: a literal one in terms of their offerings to the Saviors, and an emotional one in the humiliations they suffer at the Saviors’ hands. The thing is, Richard might have taken a few embarrassing punches from a jackass, but at least I’m not watching his headless body twitching in a puddle of his brains.

Of course, this is The Walking Dead which means this can’t possibly last. Either Ezekiel’s people will grow tired of taking a few embarrassing punches from jackasses, or they’ll end up meeting some other people who are tired of taking punches from jackasses (~cough~ Maggie and The Hilltoppers ~cough~), or there will be some sort of attack that they won’t be able to tolerate, but something will happen to this (relative) paradise. Because nothing good can last in this world — which is one of the reasons I am personally growing weary of it.

Finally, I just wanted to point out a few symbolic notes in this episode and the last one. I was too angry last week to discuss it, but Negan ordering Rick to harm his son only to stop him at the last second was a definite Abraham and Isaac moment, symbolizing Negan’s now God-like power and control over Rick.

As far as this episode goes, Shiva is named for one of the highest Hindu gods, and the supreme being in Shaivism. He is the “creator, destroyer and regenerator.” Shiva is a contradiction: he is terrifying and benign; he destroys all things, he brings all things back to life. Shiva the tiger represents this tension: she is this wild force that could kill Ezekiel at any moment, but she also is his source of power and thus helped him create this place of (relative) peace. She is the creator, she could potentially be a destroyer.

As for Ezekiel, he was a minor Old Testament prophet who prophesied the destruction of Jerusalem for a good five years to the immense irritation of the Israelites. But then Jerusalem was sacked by the Babylonians around 587 BC. So who had the last laugh? Ezekiel is important to some Christian traditions because he later prophesied the construction of the Third Temple which they interpret as being Christ’s return in the end times. Basically, Ezekiel was an apocalyptic prophet who offered both warning and hope to his people.

But more interestingly in this episode was the use of the pomegranate. Ezekiel first offers Carol an apple, before insisting that she try the pomegranate, describing it as something so bitter surrounding something sweet. You know, kinda like Carol herself. BUT HERE’S WHAT’S KINDA COOL: Many people believe the forbidden fruit in the Garden of Eden was not, in fact, an apple, but instead a pomegranate, which was not only more common in the Middle East, but had long been a symbol of fertility, sex and love. And so it is particularly symbolic that Ezekiel would offer Carol this particular fruit: he’s trying to tempt her into staying with him in his garden. Sadly, however, we know how that particular Bible story ends, aaaaaaand what I am saying is don’t get too attached to The Kingdom.

 

The Walking Dead airs on AMC on Sundays at 8/9 p.m.

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