Thus far on The Walking Dead season eight we’ve been shifting around to multiple points of view throughout the war with the Saviors. This week we were treated to a much more focused, slow-paced, and emotional episode as we follow the one team that ended up drawing the short straw and suffering immense loss: King Ezekiel and the Kingdom.
The Kingdom folks, also known as ‘kingdommers,’ have been in my Losers column up to this point. They’ve been given almost nothing to do but march through the woods while King Ezekiel gives fanciful speeches about conquest and unity.
That all ended at the end of last week’s episode, as a mounted machine gun in an upstairs window took out nearly all of them in a single round.
Ezekiel is one of the only survivors, by virtue of falling beneath a pile of bodies. The aftermath of a battlefield is not the place you want to be when zombies exist, and Ezekiel quickly gets into trouble. Talk about from the frying pan into the fryer.
It gets even worse for the poor man. After seeing his people brutally slaughtered and quickly reanimated (boy, that is happening faster and faster these days) he’s rescued by one of his last remaining troopers, only for the man to be murdered by a random nearby Savior. Said Savior then takes Ezekiel hostage.
This was a weird sequence. While I like the deeper look into Ezekiel’s personality and somewhat psychological torture, nothing much really comes of it. The bespectacled man, who looks like he could either be a mincing pedophile or the kind of guy who strides into his former office with a semi-automatic, drags Ezekiel back toward the building, berating him the whole way.
The two tussle occasionally, and there’s a sense of constant danger and urgency with a horde of undead right behind them (though they still have time to frequently stop and chat/fight).
Right when things are getting dire and the man decides he just needs Ezekiels’ head rather than his body, Jerry saves the day by cleaving, literally cleaving the man in twain, saving his king. Hell of a kill-shot, though I don’t think we got more than a very zoomed-in glance.
Jerry is Ezekiel’s right-hand man and friend, and together the two are forced to stand their ground, backs against a locked fence as the walkers close in.
There’s one more survivor, however – Carol. She’s infiltrated the building by herself, taking out several Saviors with an impressive ceiling ambush. Then she just sort of runs around outside and begins trading bullets with the last few Saviors. They’ve got the shipment of guns – the McGuffin that our teams have been hunting to prevent the main Savior force from getting aid.
Carol manages to trick them by surrendering, then taking one of them hostage. Saviors are a bit more expendable, and they simply kill the man. Carol gets the chance to let in a few walkers to cause a distraction.
As she starts to come up on the last few Saviors she spots Jerry and Ezekiel in trouble. She’s faced with a choice right out of one of the Telltale Walking Dead video games: Kill the saviors and stop the guns from leaving, or save her friends. Clock’s ticking!
There’s a jarring but nice flashback sequence that starts after the commercial break, in which Ezekiel explains more of his backstory to Carol before this war party was formed. He notes that he made a clear choice to jump into the enclosure and save Shiva the tiger. “If you’re asked to be the hero, be the hero.”
A call to action is something Carol understands all too well. She makes her choice, letting the two Saviors flee by car but saving Jerry and Ezekiel. She hears the sound of a motorcycle and relaxes – Rick and Daryl are on it!
By it I mean a spiffy little car chase, which is not something we’ve seen too often (ever?) on The Walking Dead. Rick and Daryl learned the location from the surrendering Savior during the previous episode, and apparently the timing worked out perfectly. Rick chases with a jeep while Daryl’s on his bike.
Unfortunately the Saviors have that mounted machine gun in the back of their jeep, and Daryl is forced off the road. Rick stays with them, Daryl returns to shoot the gunner, and Rick pulls up to punch out the driver Grand Theft Auto-style, before careening the car off the road.
It wasn’t the flashiest or most impressive car chase, but I dug it. I’m all for the action-packed adventures of The Rick & Daryl Show.
Back at the outpost Ezekiel, Carol, and Jerry are far from safe. They have to make the long journey home through zombie-infested woods, and Ezkiel is badly hobbled from a wound in his leg.
I like that the zombies were a big threat throughout this episode, and that feeling is amplified at the end as Carol runs low on bullets and they need to practically carry Ezekiel.
As a comic-reader I knew what was coming but I thought this sequence was still a bit awkward. When zombies are surrounding our heroes and things are their bleakest, Shiva finally shows up to tear into some zombies and die in a blaze of glory.
I had a few problems with this scene. First it was awkward that we never saw Shiva this entire episode before now. Practically I understand that the less the show tries to depict a tiger (CG or otherwise) the better. But it robs her final appearance and death of the emotional and dramatic heights had she been there with them the whole time.
In the comics, if I recall correctly, Ezkiel is the only survivor of the attack and only makes it out due to Shiva sacrificing herself for him.
But here he has both Carol and Jerry, and looks like they could’ve made it out without much trouble. Instead Shiva’s death feels almost ancillary. It’s used as a devastating character moment for Ezekiel, rather than making us upset at her passing (though I always hate to see animals die on screen, regardless).
But I’m glad the kingdommers finally got to do something, even if that something was wholesale slaughter with only our named characters surviving. War is hell, and though the battle was won, the terrible cost to an entire community will be deep.
King Ezkiel – It bears repeating: Khary Payton is amazing. He’s been underutilized but finally got the spotlight this week, even if it was to torture the poor man. But he’ll come out the other side even stronger.
Carol – If I’m taking any one person on this show to be my kickass foot soldier in a zombie apocalypse war, it’s Carol. She single-handily eliminates the Saviors at the outpost, and would have stopped the gun shipment herself had the others not needed to be rescued.
The Rick & Daryl Show – A car chase on The Walking Dead? Hell why not! After a season of bleak, depressing episodes I’m all for Rick and Daryl continuing to kick ass and take names this season.
Shiva’s Death – I really don’t like seeing animals die, but I’m putting Shiva here primarily because of how poorly this sequence was handled. We’ve barely seen the tiger at all; if there’s one episode that should’ve featured her, it should have been this one.