It's been a week since our violent introduction to the rule of Negan. Many are still reeling from the pain of losing both Glenn and Abraham to Negan's barbwire-covered weapon of choice. Rick and the rest of our survivors have been broken and beaten, having no choice but to cower down to Negan and his Saviors. So, how do you follow a season premiere like that?
By going medieval. Literally.
In the second episode of season seven, we continue on with the angle of Carol and Morgan. The two of them have been rescued by armored men and women on horseback. Carol, injured, is put on to a cart and wheeled away as Morgan stays close. As she awakens after briefly losing consciousness, she finds herself in the middle of an attack on a number of walkers. Carol begins to have hallucinations, seeing the appearance of living people as the people on horseback kill the actual walkers that exist. Eventually, Carol finds herself on a bed in a room with Morgan watching over her. After she awakens and while pushing her in a wheelchair, Morgan explains to Carol that the name of the current compound they are residing in is The Kingdom and, as Morgan guides her into a theatre, introduces her to King Ezekiel, the ruler of The Kingdom who has a pet tiger named Shiva.
That's right. A pet tiger named Shiva.
King Ezekiel speaks as if he were King Arthur. He has his loyal subjects and refers to Carol as "fair maiden." He offers fruit to Carol. He even has a comedic guard who goes by Jerry, a huge man who leaves a room by saying "deuces." While Morgan is willing to accept this far fetched Kingdom, Carol views it as a fairytale and has plans to leave as soon as she is healed.
We do learn of a few secrets that King Ezekiel and his men keep from the people. One of those secrets is that The Kingdom is sworn to produce for Negan's Saviors, providing them this week with half of their pig farm, but not without first giving the pigs the questionable meal of walker meat. Basically, the equivalent of a cook spitting in your food. Another secret is given to Carol as King Ezekiel confronts her during her quick exit attempt from The Kingdom at night. We learn that King Ezekiel is simply Ezekiel, a zookeeper/community theater actor who is really good at accents. The reason for his facade is simple: people need someone to follow. Why not put on this fairytale of joy to combat the darkness that exists in this world?
While King Ezekiel's demeanor and style may be a bit over the top, what he is doing is no different from the previous leaders we have come across in this series. A man who calls himself the Governor. Negan, who puts on this grandiose show of demoralizing rhetoric while carrying Lucile. Even our hero, Rick Grimes, spent a few seasons dressed in his sheriff wardrobe, right down to the hat. They took steps to standout as leaders. Ezekiel has simply upped the creativity and his impact is felt on Carol, even after she leaves The Kingdom.
Having a pet tiger that he rescued at the zoo does chalk up major bonus points for Ezekiel's leader score as well.
We, the devoted Walking Dead fans, needed this episode. It was a light-hearted relief from last week. It was funny and a bit uplifting. An episode that would take our minds temporarily off of what we witnessed while on our knees in the gravel. However, judging by next week's sneak peak, we may be looking at a little more pain in our future, as it seems we'll be experiencing what Daryl is going through as a prisoner of Negan and his Saviors.
Photo Credits: Gene Page/AMC