“I don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way!”
This week was such a refreshing change of pace. The writers made an excellent decision to leave Rick, the gang and Negan behind and to focus on two of the most interesting characters on the show. And it was happy! And funny too. It reminded me in tone of my favourite episode from last season, ‘The Next World’. After last week people were calling for the show to be taken of air or threatening to never watch again, this episode went a long way to restore some of the hope that was lost.
Things pick up right where they ended when we left Morgan and Carol last. Morgan is coming to terms with killing again and Carol, well she’s bleeding to death and is crazy. As this episode opens she starts seeing things. Shot in that faint, Vaseline on the lens way, we see walkers become human and confuse the hell out of Carol. One thing is clear straight away, she took some real damage is not herself. After fainting she awakes in a new community and is rushed by Morgan to meet the leader. This is where things get really wacky. The leader calls himself King Ezekiel and has a pet tiger. Anyone who has read the comics will be jumping for joy at this bit like I was. They actually did it, one of the craziest parts of the comics, an actual tiger and they managed it. With CGI obviously, but it looked great! As good as the direwolves from Game of Thrones at least. Some people might thing the show has gone too far, too weird. But they just needed to suspend their disbelief until the end of the episode where Ezekiel comes clean and explains everything. And Khary Payton is perfect as King Ezekiel, bouncing between regal scripture and quiet soliloquies. Him and Shiva will be a lot of people’s new favourite characters after this episode.
This episode does it’s fair share of world building. It introduces us to an interesting new settlement, The Kingdom, and gives us a larger idea of the world around Rick and the gang. We now know of The Hilltop, The Kingdom and Alexandria, and they all exist around the threat of the Saviors. As we see in this episode even the mighty King Ezekiel isn’t free from Negan’s grasp. The new community immediately appears different from the others we’ve seen. They have a school, a choir and movie nights. It’s doing better than both the Hilltop and Alexandria, having both guns and plentiful food too. This seems to be down to the fact that Ezekiel is handling The Saviors better than either of them. First of all he hasn’t told the people about the deal with The Saviors, avoiding mass panic. He also keeps them on good terms, delivers on time and doesn’t let his followers piss them off. Plus he is giving them wild pigs as part of the deal, fattening them up with diseased walker meat first. This is either because he’s poisoning The Saviors, or (more likely) that he’s just sparing The Kingdom’s food stores by feeding the pigs zombie flesh. Whatever it turns out to be, it reveals Ezekiel as a more pragmatic leader than either Rick or Gregory.
One of the best changes from the comics to the show is what they’ve done with Morgan. In the comics he shows back up and doesn’t really add anything to the story, then he dies and it’s pretty disappointing. Thanks to Lennie James’s exceptional performance in the show Morgan is one of the most watchable characters, the episode he had to himself (‘Here’s Not Here’) was almost perfect. In this episode he is dealing with a lot of issues. He’s conflicted over the man he killed, he is trying to keep Carol from running off and on top of that Ezekiel has him training a young guy in the art of Aikido. Morgan has a real sense of calm and control when he is speaking that I don’t think any other characters have. It’ll be interesting to see where he goes from here, after doing what he always refused to do; kill. But he seems to realise he had to do it, and that philosophy he had didn’t hold up in a lot of circumstances. He’s left wondering whether he should go back down the path of violence.
Speaking of vastly improved characters from the comics, Carol! Some people were a little bit unsure about the ‘new’ Carol we saw towards the latter end on season, the Carol who was reluctant to kill. It seems that story is getting somewhere now. We saw another of Carol acts in this episode. When she first got to Alexandria she was the naïve housewife, here she’s the crazy middle-aged lady. But once again it’s a front and Ezekiel sees right through it, after all he is acting as well. Melissa McBride has received loads of praise for her portrayal of Carol and she is on top-form again here. What it means for her by the end of the episode, with her house on the outskirts of The Kingdom and possible budding romance with the King himself, well we’ll have to wait and see.
After doing a complete 180 from last week’s episode, The Walking Dead is uncharted territory. Happy and hopeful territory. The show does gut-wrenching very well but a change of pace, even just for a week, is always a good idea. A lot of people might be put off by King Ezekiel and Shiva but if they are they’re missing out.
Next week the show is back in sad and depressing mode. This time at the expense of poor Daryl.
Reviewed by Jack