Thank goodness for this episode: I don't think I could have stood another one full of unrelenting nihilistic misery. All hail King Ezekiel!
A semi-conscious Carol is being carried on a horse-drawn cart, led by the football pad-wearing fellows who rescued her and Morgan from the end of last season. Morgan is with her, marking out their passage on trees and mailbox posts. It isn't all smooth sailing: they are attacked by a herd of walkers, tipping the cart over. A limping, weak Carol wanders away from the carnage. In her delirium, she sees real people in the faces of all the zombies coming at her. As she collapses, more people on horseback show up, helping to put down the rest of the walkers. They gather her and Morgan up and take them home.
Carol remains unconscious for a couple of days. When she wakes up, Morgan is by her side in a town called the Kingdom. It is ridiculously clean and well provided for, with windchimes and raised bed gardens and a choir and horseback riding lessons. It makes Alexandria look like a shantytown. Carol is immediately skeptical, assuming these people cannot fight and do not know of the dangers outside their walls. Now that she is better, Morgan takes her to meet the leader of the Kingdom. He hilariously dances around telling her anything about this guy.
And it's a good thing too because she certainly wouldn't have believed him: King Ezekiel, a courtly, dreadlocked, Shakespeare-in-the-Park-sounding dude. With a giant tiger. Carol stares, open-mouthed. Morgan, embarrassed: "Yeah, I forgot to say that Ezekiel has a tiger." Best character introduction ever.
Carol canNOT believe this guy, with his pseudo-British accent and his giant fucking tiger, Shiva. She pulls herself together, though, and puts on her very best smiling, grateful, overwhelmed act. "I don't know what the hell's going on in the most wonderful way!" she exclaims, grinning like a madwoman. Ezekiel tells her that she and Morgan are more than welcome to stay in the Kingdom in exchange for their contributions. He is very welcoming, offering free apples and pomegranates, all of which she turns down with a smile, saying she still needs rest. Outside, Carol, to Morgan: "You're shitting me, right? This place is a damn circus! I can't be here." She tells him that she'll leave, just as soon as she can and as soon as he's not looking. He insists that he can't let her go to her death and she says to him that it really isn't up to him.
Later, Ezekiel, Richard (seemingly Ezekiel's right hand man), Morgan and some other Kingdomites go into town and round up some feral pigs, shutting them in a garage bay with a chained up walker. Morgan asks what the walker is for and Richard replies that he wants their bellies "full of rot." This is clear later: after killing and butchering the pigs, Ezekiel, Richard, Morgan et als. hand the pigs over to some of Negan's Saviors as their weekly tribute. (Richard is being passive-aggressive by feeding the zombie-fed pigs to the Saviors.) There is a little tension between a Savior and Richard but luckily it doesn't amount to full-on violence between the two small groups. Morgan asks Ezekiel why the king wanted him along - was it because he fought the Saviors before? No, says Ezekiel, it's because he knew Morgan wouldn't fight them this time.
Life goes on in the Kingdom. Morgan contributes by teaching young Ben (the son of a now-deceased friend of Ezekiel) how to fight with the bowstaff. Carol continues her deception, cheerily chatting Kingdomites up while scavenging clothing and knives. There's a lot more talking going on, of course, but I just can't be bothered with it. King Ezekiel's charm only goes so far, even with me.
One evening, Morgan takes Carol some dinner and he finds her room empty. He is not surprised. She can't quite leave without taking some fruits from the Kingdom orchard, however, and it is here that Ezekiel finds her. He encourages her to talk to him before she leaves them so suddenly. She starts her sweet little thing act up and he calls her on it: never bullshit a bullshitter. He tells her that he fell for her innocent act at first. She drops it, saying that he's a joke, the Kingdom is a joke - it's outside that's real, he's selling these people a fairytale. His pseudo-British accent fades away as he says that people want someone to believe in and people with something to believe in are less dangerous. People saw a guy with a tiger and built him up into their leader: "I faked it 'til I made it." He was just a community theater-loving zookeeper who bonded with an injured Shiva before the zombies came. After the zombie apocalypse, after he had lost everything, he went back to the zoo and she was still there, and she's never left his side since then. To his credit, Carol listens to him and believes him, understanding his story. He asks her to keep his secret - his people need to believe in him - and says that if she does, maybe he can help her to leave without leaving.
So what they do is this: with Morgan along to see that she makes it, Carol goes outside the Kingdom walls and sets herself up in a tidy little gated house not far away. She doesn't want to be inside with people, doesn't want the responsibility for anyone but herself, doesn't want connections with anyone. But in this house, she can be alone without being too far from help should she really need it. Morgan asks if this is what she really wants. It is. He understands. She says that it's good they made it because a few more minutes and she might start to regret all the times she tried to shoot and stab him. He smiles and tells her that she's his favorite person that he's ever knocked out - definitely top two or three. It's nice that they've made peace with each other, especially since they're two of the best characters on this frigging show.
Some time later, after Carol has killed and buried the zombie that had been trapped in the house, and cleaned the place up, and lit a fire, there's a knock on the front door. She is wary and then she hears a deep feline snarl. It's Ezekiel and Shiva. He's got a pomegranate and says with a charming grin, "You've really got to try one of these!" Carol doesn't want to but she can't help smiling a little back at him.
Ezekiel (and Shiva) are totally my new favorites. I'm pretty sure that dooms them to terrible deaths by the end of this season but for now, they are a much-needed injection of hope, humor and humanity in this dirgeful show.
Previously on The Walking Dead / next time on The Walking Dead
23 minutes ago