Whether you loved it or hated it, I think we can all agree that everyone needed a respite from last week’s brutal episode of The Walking Dead—which is exactly what we got last night with ‘The Well.’
Instead of skulls and souls being crushed, we got an episode with quite a bit of levity and one very awesome tiger.
Flowers, flowers, everywhere
The episode opens with Carol being escorted/carried by Morgan and his new armored pals to a place called The Kingdom. Along the way, they get attacked by walkers.
In case you’d forgotten about Carol’s mental/emotional breakdown from the end of last season, the show makes sure to beat that knowledge right back into you. As Morgan & Co. take out the zombies, Carol imagines all of them as living, breathing people who are being innocently slaughtered. That’s right—the same woman who once murdered two innocent people to keep an illness from spreading now feels pangs of sadness and regret over the undead being properly dispatched.
Forget what happened to Glenn and Abraham last week. What the show’s writers have done to Carol is infinitely more tragic and brutal.
Thankfully, we quickly cut away from that silliness to Carol waking up in bed to a smiling Morgan. He takes her outside in a wheelchair to tour the kingdom, which by all appearances is a lovely place.
Then Morgan takes Carol to meet Ezekiel. That’s when things get weird.
For starters, Ezekiel speaks like a guy who used to take his role as an RPG dungeon master a way too seriously. He also has a pet tiger named Shiva.
To Carol’s credit, she fakes politeness and waits until she’s outside again to berate Morgan for bringing her into what almost feels like a completely different television show. Carol also makes it clear that she’s ghosting both him and The Kingdom the first chance she gets.
Later, Morgan accompanies Ezekiel and his “court” on a pig farming mission in the city, where he’s surprised to learn that they’re having the pigs feed on walkers.
They also do a little bit of training for a kid named Ben, who has somehow survived the zombie apocalypse despite having the self-defense abilities of a wet carrot. Ezekiel asks that Morgan take Ben under his wing and train him, which pretty much guarantees that Ben is going to develop a bit more as a character before dying a horrible death to test Morgan’s pacifist resolve.
Later, it’s revealed that the zombie-fed pigs were actually for Negan’s Saviors, who demand a weekly offering for not destroying The Kingdom. It’s a brilliant plan if you think about it. Even if the tainted meat doesn’t kill them, the bad guys are all probably going to get wicked bad diarrhea.
During the bacon exchange, Ezekiel’s right hand man (Richard), gets into it with a Savior. The fight is halted by Ezekiel and the Savior’s attaché, but it serves as stark reminder of the inevitable tension that one group oppressing another will cause. Doesn’t matter if the side under the boot can reasonably fight back or not—contents under pressure and will eventually explode.
Oh yeah, and Morgan reveals to Ezekiel that he knows who the Saviors are.
Morgan and Ben bond and train together (DEAD MAN). Ben starts to become adept with a bo staff. He also tells Morgan that his father died in service to Ezekiel. Since then, Ezekiel has helped raise his little brother while he carried on his father’s service (DEAD MAN WALKING!)
He also revealed that Ezekiel has kept his weekly payments to The Saviors a secret from the rest of The Kingdom because he knows his people would want to fight back—and that they would get their asses kicked. Hard.
Maybe it was her strong desire to wander/die alone or the Bob Dylan a capella group, but Carol was all types of desperate to get out of The Kingdom. After stealing some clothes, a knife, and a chocolate bar (during the day), she makes it all the way to the community garden (at night) before getting spotted by Ezekiel.
Was I the only one wondering about that timeline? I get that it’s called “The Kingdom,” but that’s probably due to Ezekiel’s weird method acting, not because the community is the size of a medieval empire. If Carol were truly determined to leave, would it really take her from midday until nightfall to wander around looking for fruit?
Ah, whatever—it still leads to a pretty cool scene.
After attempting to put on her faux innocent act, Ezekiel lets Carol know that he’s onto her while also dropping his own mask/accent. The two finally speak to each other as their genuine selves. Carol declares that she thinks Ezekiel is full of tiger crap and his whole king persona is stupid. He responds by revealing his backstory, including how he came to have Shiva (working at the zoo and caring for her after she was injured/abandoned). When people saw that he had a pet tiger, they were instantly drawn to him as a leader—and can you blame them? Some dude shows up at the end of the world with a tiger that follows him around, you’re going to follow that guy, too. (Heck, I may follow them now).
Add in some community theater experience and need to care for others, and Ezekiel had found his calling. He would provide the people of The Kingdom with a leader who was both practically efficient and dramatically inspiring. It might sound crazy, but think about how tiresome it can get watching Rick constantly scowl at everyone while he gives depressing survival speeches. Now imagine Rick with a British accent and a giant grizzly bear that follows him everywhere.
Yeah, you’d be all about that, too.
Unfortunately, Carol still wasn’t having any of it. In a last ditch effort to keep her from leaving, Ezekiel offers her a chance to “leave and not leave.”
I thought it sounded pretty stupid at first, too, but it turns out to be a pretty decent idea. Ezekiel gives Carol a little house by herself not too far from the Kingdom. She can show up to The Kingdom to help whenever she wants or remain isolated (for now).
As Carol starts a fire in her own fireplace for the first time, Ezekiel shows up with Shiva in tow to offer Carol some sweet fruits. That’s not a euphemism, but judging from Carol’s wry smile at his arrival, it could definitely turn into one.
I still hate…HATE…the contrived crisis of conscience that Carol’s been having since the latter half of season six. That being said, I love the idea of her finding her way via a new group of people, particularly one with such a different leadership style than Rick.
Speaking of that, I think we’re all going to like Ezekiel. For those of you who think he’s totally ridiculous, I had the same reaction when he first showed up in the comics. He definitely grows on you, though. There is a genuine nobility and brilliant tactician hiding beneath the affected speech and mannerisms.
And he has a FREAKING TIGER. How can you not like that?
Also, we desperately needed a bit of levity after last week. That’s sure to come crashing down again soon, but for now, we have a much needed anchor of hope in what had previously felt like an aggressively bleak new season.
I’d also like to add myself to the growing army of people who are starting to ship Carol and Ezekiel (Carzekiel?). As a long time Daryl/Carol fan, this feels a bit blasphemous, but something about two people who have lived their entire post-apocalyptic lives behind masks of necessity—and who are both charismatic leaders—makes for an fascinating dynamic. And don’t even get me started on how cool it would be to see Shiva cuddling with Carol in front of the fire.
Maybe next week.