Well, that was complete change of pace! After what was inarguably one of the most brutal and soul crushing episodes in the history of The Walking Dead, last Sunday’s installment caught us up with Carol and Morgan as they were welcomed into The Kingdom. There were even a few laughs in the hour, a total rarity on this show. That should all come crashing to a halt when Carol and Morgan learn about the devastation that Negan brought down on their friends, but in the meantime, let’s examine what they learned about their new pal King Ezekiel, his pet tiger Shiva and his right hand man, Jerry. (“Deuces!”)
We quickly learned that Carol had been saved from her Savior attackers by members of The Kingdom, who took she and Morgan back to the home base. It’s a quaint looking place that grows much of its own food and even has a choir! People don’t look like they’re miserable and even seem kind of normal. Morgan has spent two days waiting for Carol to wake up and when she does, he wheels her in to meet a man named King Ezekiel, who sits on a throne with a gorgeous tiger, Shiva, by his side. Carol immediately goes into what we know to be her Suzy Homemaker act, not buying that any of this could be as good as it seems. (“I don’t know what the hell’s going on,” Carol exclaimed, “in the most wonderful way.” ) Her polite refusal to eat any of the fresh, homegrown fruit presented to her (“it’s fruit time!”) is one of the most hilariously weird moments ever.
While she goes around trying to collect weapons, clothes and even a chocolate bar for her escape, Morgan is out with King Ezekiel and his top guys on a run to collect pigs. What is beyond gross is seeing the pigs eat the Walkers lining the streets outside the city. When Morgan asks his new friends why they even allow the pigs to feast on the undead, a man named Richard–the one who’d saved Carol–explained they wanted “their bellies full of rot”. It seems Ezekiel’s big secret, which he let Morgan in on without much fanfare, is that he’s paying for The Kingdom’s protection by presenting the food to a familiar group. That’s right, Negan’s Saviors. Morgan gets it, of course, and doesn’t have a issue. Giving Negan pigs full of Walker guts is their shot at a big F-U. Richard nearly gets his face beat in by a Savior, but things settle down. We do learn that Ezekiel wants Morgan to train Ben, a young man he wants to be a key part of his team but who is still learning how to fight and protect others. Ben and Morgan bond over akido, philosophy and a shared love of veggies. I like Ben.
I also like–check that, LOVE–King Ezekiel, who intrigued me on first sight, but absolutely won my heart with his long speech to Carol as he caught her leaving and tried to convince her to stay. For once, we got the scoop on a character’s backstory in one big download as Ezekial (yep, that’s his real name) explained that the truth was a lot less sexy that the legend that had built up around him. The story that circulated was that Shiva had become his pet when he wrestled with her and won, while the truth was that’d he been a zookeeper that had saved her when she fell in her enclosure. Ever since, she’d been a gentle giant with him, and when the apocalypse came, he saved her from the zoo and they’d since been inseparable. He thinks people need the fairytale he provides, offering hope and light in the darkness. He also knows you can’t “bullshit a bullshitter” which is why he thinks Carol should stay. He even admits that his regal speech comes from his background in community theater, where he played a lot of kings (“Hamlet, Martin Luther”). Actor Khary Payton absolutely killed it here, making Ezekiel one of the most charming additions to this cast ever. His chemistry with Melissa McBride was also off the charts. He suggested maybe Carol could “Go and not go”, suggesting she set up house just outside The Kingdom. Once she staked her claim to a small house by killing the walker stuck inside, her first visit was from Ezekiel, walking Shiva. He came bearing a pomegranate, saying she still had to try it. Could Carol, so resistant to forming any lasting bonds in this world, be taking a liking to the King? And if so, what will Carol and Daryl shippers do?
Looking ahead to next week, we’ll learn more about Daryl, being held captive by his old buddy Dwight and the Saviors. Dude looks even grimier and more miserable than usual. I have a feeling the laughs might be over for a bit, folks.