by Billie Doux
They managed to follow up the most upsetting episode in the series with the funniest. What a surprise.
Loved King Ezekiel. Absolutely loved him and of course, his cat Shiva, because any series that introduces a cat as a continuing character makes me happy. (I don't care that Shiva is CGI, because she is utterly gorgeous.) I loved Ezekiel's lion-like dreads (is that one of those things where a couple starts to look like each other?), his majestic and theatrical affectations, and mostly, the thoughtfulness and care he shows for his people. I also loved his manservant Jerry. "It's fruit time."
Carol's initial reaction to Ezekiel in that scene in the auditorium was absolutely priceless; I have never laughed so much during an episode of this show. After all she's been through (and all that we, the audience, went through last week) seeing Carol genuinely laugh with pleasure was delightful. Of course, Carol being Carol, she had to reject what Ezekiel was offering her, and go live on the edge of the Kingdom. She is still wrestling with intense guilt because she has had to kill so many times, and she is trying to find a way to live with herself. A pleasant place like the Kingdom doesn't fit in with her current need for a hair shirt. I don't mean that sarcastically, by the way. Carol has had a rough row to hoe.
I was also pleased that they have already given us an explanation for Ezekiel and his kingdom, and a touching backstory for Shiva the tiger. I kept wondering if he was deluded and possibly evil, and it's so lovely that he is not. Ezekiel the zookeeper and amateur theater player is doing what he can to give his people what he believes they need, and who is to say he's wrong? He's certainly a benevolent and caring ruler. He's even protecting his rank and file from the knowledge that Negan and his violent protection racket are depriving the Kingdom of some of its resources. Ezekiel thinks things through, and he is no fool. I liked that he immediately saw Carol for who she was. Much like Morgan did.
This was a nice episode for Morgan, too. Even though he had to break his no-kill code in order to save Carol's life, Morgan is still clinging to Eastman's philosophy, still trying to exist on his own terms in this post-apocalyptic world. Much like Ezekiel, who saw a need in his young soldier Benjamin for Morgan's philosophy and method of self-defense, so he put them together, and it was exactly the right decision. Morgan should give classes. I'd take them.
In fact, I'd rather be one of Ezekiel's subjects than live at the Hilltop. Or quite honestly, Alexandria, because trouble follows Alexandria. All those beautiful horses made the Kingdom seem unreal. I particularly loved the crops everywhere, planted in old tires and even file cabinets. Schools. Electricity. Cobbler with every meal. Movie night! And the choir giving their own unique rendition of "Don't Think Twice" was laugh out loud funny. (Was that a little tribute to the fact that Bob Dylan just won a Nobel Prize?)
Of course, the most important fact about the Kingdom is that they're under Negan's thumb, just like the Hilltop and Alexandria. There may not be enough Kingdom soldiers in sports gear to fight Negan alone, but it is obvious already that several communities allied together might eventually be able to take down the Saviors. That is something I'd enjoy watching. Let's do it.
-- Steven Yeun and Michael Cudlitz are gone from the opening credits. Alanna Masterson (Tara), Josh McDermitt (Eugene) and Christian Serratos (Rosita) have moved up.
-- The episode started with an image of a wheel, a little hint that civilization was going to be the theme. The scenes at the beginning as Carol was hallucinating the walkers as the people they used to be were in line with that theme.
-- That thing about the pigs eating walkers was disgusting, but it also made me wonder if it was just a secret insult on Ezekiel's part, or if the pigs would poison the Saviors. It also made me think of Bob and tainted meat. An unanswered question.
-- Pomegranates were clearly our Most Obvious Symbolism, sweet and bitter. In the beginning, Ezekiel offered the pomegranate to Carol, and in the end, she took it. I also liked the red flag on the mailbox, and how Morgan was marking their path on the way into the Kingdom so that he could find his way out again.
-- Things I could do without: the walker with its face coming completely off. Just when I think this show has been as gross as it could possibly be, they find a new way to surprise me.
Notes from Talking Dead
The guests were Khary Payton (Ezekiel), Chloe Bennet (Agents of SHIELD) and Dana Gould. The interesting tidbits were that Payton has done a lot of voice work, not a surprise; Chloe Bennet's boyfriend is Austin Nichols, the guy who plays Spencer; and that the location for the Kingdom was a nineteenth century military base. We also learned that the walkers and their human ghosts were played by five sets of identical twins. Chris Hardwick, who was wearing a silver tie with brain decorations that looked like testicles, had the fan who came up to ask a question put on a tiger costume and sit next to him holding a bowl of fruit, which looked ridiculous.
Carol: "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."
Ezekiel: "Drink from the well, replenish the well. Once you're healed, of course."
Carol: "Of course, of course. All about the well."
Jerry: "Well said."
Carol: "You park some chocolate in front of me and watch it go bye bye, but pomegranates? Just not for me, thanks."
Carol: "There's lunch cobbler?"
Guy: "There's cobbler at every meal."
I'm so there.
Benjamin: "I've just read every book in this place. Twice. Including an air conditioning repair textbook. Just so you know, the number one problem with an HVAC system isn't refrigerant leaks. Yeah. Won't spoil that one for you."
May I suggest perhaps a trip to a library or bookstore to stock up might be in order?
Ezekiel: "Where there's life, there's hope, heroism, grace and love."
Carol: "Ten more minutes and I might start to regret all the times I tried to shoot and stab you."
Morgan: "I think you're my favorite person I ever knocked out. Definitely the top two or three."
I loved that. Some of the fans on Talking Dead were seeing a possible relationship for Carol and Ezekiel already, but I'm seeing one between Carol and Morgan. They just seem to fit in an "opposites attract but are really very much alike" kind of way.
I loved this episode, and not just because Carol and Morgan are two of my favorite characters. Four out of four pomegranates,
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.