After the emotionally exhausting season premiere, TWD takes a deep breath and introduces us to a new location, the “kingdom”.
After saving Carol and a knight slicing a walker’s face in half, we see an uber-idyllic, apparently safe place, displayed by a school lesson, children running around and playing and an impressively talented amateur choir. The TWD viewer has been trained to suspect some secret behind this Edenic façade (I mean, they have freakin’ pomegranates in the apocalypse!?) but by the end of the episode these initial doubts have not been proven appropriate.
The exposition culminates in Carol meeting King Ezekiel and his tiger Shiva. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a tiger in the zombie apocalypse. This has been one of the jaw-dropping moments of the SDCC trailer for this season and I was wondering how this moment would feel. Inevitably, it felt a bit weird and out-of-place but in combination with Ezekiel’s obscure medieval-sounding talk, the introduction of a tiger rounds up the peculiar impression of the kingdom and creates a memorable moment (the CGI looked quite good for a TV show budget). It was nice (and necessary) that Ezekiel later acknowledged the impracticality of it but I am certainly looking forward to the moment when the beast is unleashed.
Morgan having Carol be surprised was a good decision as it mirrors the viewer’s reaction at that point. Her hilarious, uber-friendly façade (“Amazing! I would be speechless if I wasn’t already speaking. I don’t know what the hell’s going on in the most wonderful way.”) she presents to Ezekiel reeks of hypocrisy but Ezekiel buys it for the moment. She later confronts Morgan why the heck he hasn’t escaped this “circus” yet. Obviously, she will and Morgan won’t be able to stop her. She doesn’t yet know what waits for her back in Alexandria. In a quite humorous sequence, she secretly collects some useful stuff before she is about to leave the kingdom. If it weren’t for Ezekiel…
The king surprises Carol while she’s sneaking out and has a long and surprisingly honest conversation with her. He bids her to stop the BS and does the very same himself. He drops his act and explains how he ended up with a tiger and as partly reluctant king: Burden isn’t the first thing that comes to mind when we think about a king but Ezekiel correctly explains that he has to guard his people, who so desperately want a leader, from all these secrets in order not to cause a riot against Negan.
In the meantime, Morgan has found out more about these secrets. The kingdom feeds the swine they pay as tribute to Negan with walkers. At first, I was confused because I thought eating “tainted meat” leads to becoming a walker. However, this was never resolved as the Terminus people who ate Bob’s infected leg were killed by Rick and the group. Is this an act of slow biological warfare against the saviors (which someone would notice and easily accuse the kingdom), a strategy of simply saving resources (which would be narratively superfluous) or an act of defiance to ruin the taste of the meat for their oppressors? I hope this will be resolved or otherwise this whole confrontation part of the episode would have been gratuitous. The very rapid escalation in this sequence suggests that there is a great deal of tension between the groups and I have a feeling we will find out in the next kingdom episode. Thankfully, Morgan has trained his young padawan in the art of aikido. During the conversation in the cafeteria, we learn that Morgan has overcome his strict “no-killing”-policy. Although he still values all life as precious, he now knows that what he believed to be the right way cannot always work.
At the end of conversation between Carol and Ezekiel, he pleads with her not to leave the kingdom. He offers her a compromise to live in a house in the vicinity of the kingdom’s walls. Not only has Morgan changed his perspective on killing, Carol also has deviated from her reluctance of human contact in order not to have anyone hurt because of her. Carol hesitantly accepts Ezekiel’s offer and has a very heartwarming farewell with Morgan (“I think you’re my favorite person I ever knocked out“). The two characters who couldn’t have had more adverse stances now respect each other. I don’t see a reunion with Rick’s group in the near future, which makes sense to flesh out the characters. As Carol is mostly on her own now, I hope we will see some badass Carol again. In the last shot of the episode, Carol answer the doorbell and sees Ezekiel’s smoothly leaning at the door, offering her a pomegranate. And the shipping has begun: Ezecarol? Poor Toben Well as I think about it, this could be interesting. The final moment makes Ezekiel’s motivations very obvious. The question will be if Carol is ready to overcome her anxieties.
Image taken from imdb.com, © by AMC
Title Image: © AMC (Photo: Gene Page)