walking-dead-ezekiel

It’s good to be the King. Even if your kingdom is just a small fiefdom in the zombie apocalypse of The Walking Dead.

This episode introduces King Ezekiel, the dreadlocked man with a pet tiger and a medieval speech pattern. He’s the wise and benevolent leader of the Kingdom, a little slice of heaven where Carol and Morgan are brought after being confronted by some wayward bandits on the road.

Like Alexandria, the Kingdom is a pleasant suburb, filled with song and pomegranates and kind people who take care of each other. Of course, Carol is fleeing just such a situation (Morgan is determined to bring her back), so she’s uncomfortable with the flourishes and nourishments.

How Carol deals with those issues is the thrust of the episode, but we also understand that this is  yet another town under siege by the Saviors, those Negan-led bandits who make their living by strong-arming surviving enclaves for food and other supplies. Something tells me that a Lord of the Rings style mass army could be in the works.

This week’s recap:

*** We open with Carol and Morgan being taken to the Kingdom. Carol was injured in the battle that ended last season’s walkabout, and Morgan is accompanying her and their new-found friends, who helped turn the tide against the Saviors that threatened them. But Morgan is wary – he’s marking the trail so that he can find his way back should things not work out.

*** Carol wakes two days later and finds Morgan in an adjacent chair. He takes her in a wheelchair to meet the leader of the town, and he’s not quite what she expected. The dreadlocked King Ezekiel has a huge tiger, Shiva, that zealously guards him in the theatre that serves as his royal chambers. Although he is very solicitous to Carol, she giggles and dismisses him as a bit of clown. She can’t wait to get well enough to leave the town, and is borderline rude as a result. Even in a place where cobbler is served with every meal, which seems like a natural fit for baker Carol, she feels out of place.

*** Morgan is adjusting better than Carol. He is solicited to teach his aikido skills with his pole to a young man named Ben in the town who has struggled with other weapons. He reluctantly agrees as a favor to King Ezekiel. Morgan also helps out by herding wild pigs into a facility where a dead walker hangs. The pigs feast on the walker, thereby gaining weight and eliminating the need to feed them nutritious food. We learn later the reason for this risky practice, but Morgan is already suspicious, as a car peels away from the pig hunting caravan as they exit. When asked where they’re heading, he’s told simple, “Somewhere else.”

*** Ben is picking up Morgan’s tricks quickly, and the two begin to bond when Ben asks if he can borrow Morgan’s beloved book on the ways of the peaceful warrior. Ben has read every book available in the Kingdom twice, including one on air conditioning maintenance. But for Morgan to part with his book indicates that he’s invested in his young squire, who will soon face his first real test in the wild.

*** We learn that the “somewhere else” that the Kingdom goes to is a rendezvous with the Saviors, who meet each week to exact tribute in the form of food. This week is pig week, next week will be produce. The testy relationship is underscored when a wise-guy Savior is pummeled by Richard, one of the Kingdom’s bigger guardians. But Ezekiel calls off Richard, allowing his opponent a few free sucker punches. Clearly, the peace between these camps is uneasy, and it’s only a matter of time before things get even more physical. Ben talks to Morgan about whether it would be better to fight the Saviors than submit, and others probably are thinking the same thing. But Ezekiel has kept the deal with the Saviors secret from most of the Kingdom, fearing that they will want to take up arms and will lose many lives.

*** Morgan leaves Ben and finds that Carol has stolen away from her room. She is determined to leave the Kingdom, and has been stealthily purloining clothing, utensils and other items she believes will help her on the road. But when she slips into Ezekiel’s garden that night to get some food for the trip, the King is already there, and confronts her. Rather than anger, he has a heart-to-heart talk with Carol, dropping his royal pretenses in hopes he can convince her of the folly of her ways.

*** As it turns out, Ezekiel is a former zookeeper whose kindness before the apocalypse made Shiva his forever-loyal companion. He was also an actor well familiar with Shakespeare and King Arthur, and has created his persona as a way to give his people a sense of protection and comfort. People need a leader, he tells her. That will allow them to focus on work and the other survival tasks that allow them moments of humanity in the crazed world of walkers. Carol is unmoved, though, but listens to a compromise offer: she can leave, but will reside in a home just outside the Kingdom walls. There she can be alone, but still close enough to the Kingdom to get help if needed.

*** The final scene is Carol in cozy domesticity. She cleared out a lone walker from the house and is building a fire, when a sudden door knock startles her. She opens to find Shiva and Ezekiel at the door. He extends a pomegranate to her, chiding her that she needs to try it, even though she has professed her distaste for the fruit. But his gesture brings a wan smile from her, so perhaps she’s warming to the King after all.

Next week: What is going on with Team Rick?  Now that they’ve encountered disaster at the hands of Negan and the Saviors, can they adjust their lives to serve their new masters?  Will Maggie’s troubled pregnancy and the lack of medical resources be an issue?  Was Rick truly broken by Negan?  And what will be the psychological fallout of losing Glenn and Abraham?

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