C’mon Baby, I Gots Me A Tiger
It’s safe to say we needed a bit of a breather after everything that transpired in The Walking Dead’s season 7 premiere last week. Bats to brains has the tendency to take a lot out of you. “The Well”, instead of dealing with the aftermath of the premiere switched over to Morgan and Carol, who last we saw were on the run after Carol was badly wounded in a firefight. The pace was slow, and even though there were a few head scratching moments, “The Well” nicely setup that Negan has his fair share of enemies outside of the ZomPoc All-Stars.
Okay, so lost in all of the Negan hullabaloo, was the build up toward King Ezekiel, who could have easily made for a top 10 Walking Dead character on visuals alone. A large black man, with white dreadlocks, and a frickin tiger for a pet. The episode around his introduction though made for a bit of disjointed viewing, mostly due to it supposedly taking place at the same time as everything else Rick & Co. are going through with The Saviors and Negan. I couldn’t even get comfortable enough to laugh at the obvious attempts of levity since I was waiting for the other shoe to drop. This show has burned us before, and having a bit of separation following a death heavy episode is par for the course except the writers have been leaning on shock and awe gimmicks to illicit a response. Luckily that didn’t happen here, and once “The Well” got moving, it showed itself to be a nice, if meandering episode.
What they’re going for with the pacifist version of Carol isn’t entire lost on me. The issue for me is, it’s a well worn story beat for The Walking Dead. Too many major characters have decided to stop killing for some stretch of time. Rick, Tyrese, Morgan, and now Carol have all flirted with the idea that killing, walkers or humans, cannot be their sole purpose for living. It’s become part of the problematic loop on the show. Falling back onto that trope to create conflict. Eventually, the character is snapped out of their sabbatical or die trying to uphold it. No matter how stupid it is. Carol looked like she was headed in the latter direction, until she had her little sit down with Zeke.
Before that meeting though, we got to see Carol react to a fairly ridiculous situation. Even for this show, a man calling himself king, with a pet tiger, using high speech is out there. Luckily, this was addressed by Carol and Morgan. Opting to go along with it, if only for a short while. Mainly because, for as outlandish as The Kingdom is, they have what appears to be a pocket of safety. Zeke and his team can handle themselves well enough in conflict, and have something of an arrangement with The Saviors. One that doesn’t leave them starving and weak. It’s clearly a better setup than Hilltop or even Alexandria for that matter. It just operates on a very fine line, for both the inhabitants, and the audience.
King Ezekiel is a character that has to be handled with care. Too far into camp and there’s a difficulty in taking him seriously, playing him too straight makes you wonder why bring in the character at all. His conversation with Carol at the end of the episode at least let us know that the writers are aware of this fact. Dropping his facade and telling Carol he does what he has to in order to keep his people’s spirits up. To give them hope in a life that constantly strips it away. He also called Carol out on her Susie Homemaker act, which he’d seen right through in their first meeting, but allowed it to go on as he know just how important it is for someone to project a version of themselves. Allowing others to see you as they need to, in order for you to get things done. In the end, a loose alliance was made, allowing Carol to live near, but not directly in The Kingdom. Oh, and just close enough for Ezekiel to drop by and shoot his shot. Tiger by his side.
“The Well” took us away from the doom and gloom of the premiere, but established that danger is always on the horizon for these characters, even while presenting an outlook that’s more optimistic than usual. The people of The Kingdom may not be fierce warriors, but they clearly don’t want to live under the oppressive boot of Negan. The team up of the ZomPoc All-Stars, Hilltop and The Kingdom is surely coming. It’s all just a matter of time