It’s all downhill from here, that really could have been the episode title. I mean, really, how do you keep up after a season premier like that! Last week we said a terribly grisly goodbye to Glenn and Abraham in the season premier in what was the most tense episode of this, and pretty much any, series. Meanwhile we learned just exactly what we were dealing with in terms of Negan, and to say we’ve seen nothing like it before is a serious understatement. We pick up this week with Morgan and Carol who had just been rescued by a pair of strangers in body armor the last we saw them. We learn quickly that they are being taken to The Kingdom, a community that should be quickly recognizable to fans of the comics as the home to King Ezekiel and his pet tiger Shiva. The introduction, which comes before the opening credits, brings a much needed laugh which serves not just to lighten the mood but also proves that the show can come back from such a dark place. Ezekiel is full on medieval in attitude and presentation, but somehow they make it work and Carol’s dynamic in the scene if perfect. After all, even in a post-apocalyptic zombie show, no one wants to watch a show that is 100% serious. Shiva is CGI as far as I can tell (logic would dictate as much…I’d hate to see the insurance rates on a show that employs a live tiger) but she looks astonishingly good for a TV show, even one as well funded as TWD. Ezekial’s eccentricities become even more apparent, and that much more hilarious, when you realize the whole King’s speech schtick is something only he does, the rest of his group acts totally normal…well except for Jerry, Jerry’s an idiot if not a damn funny one.
It isn’t long until Carol starts back into her “whoa is me, I can wander and die if I want” thing, immediately telling Morgan that she’ll leave as soon as he’s not watching. Carol did grow on me over time but I still CAN NOT stand when she puts on the June Cleaver act…it’s laid on WAY to think. She makes her way around the camp conning people and stealing little things to aid in her eventual escape…her repeated story loop is really making me long for the day that she finds the wrong end of a rotten walker tooth.
After a trip out with the Kingdom scout group Morgan is tasked by Ezekiel to train Ben, a young member of the group that isn’t quite taking to his tactical training. Morgan takes the young padawan to his Jedi knight and begins his training. The kid reeks of being setup for an emotional kill down the road…let’s just say if this was Star Trek the kid’s wardrobe would be full of red shirts. Still, it’s good to see someone not just agreeing with but showing an interest in what Morgan’s all about.
The episode ends with the truth behind Ezekiel as her tries to get Carol to stay with them (seriously, why does everyone want her to stay?). He explains that he was a zookeeper and saved Shiva after the dead began to walk, having a tiger with him brought stories to explain it and before you knew it he was treated like a King…so he went with it. We find a man that’s not really an eccentric but just a guy who wants to help and knows that this little mirage can help his people to forget a little and be just that much more happy. His dealings with Negan’s group show just how effective and insightful of a leader he is, choosing to hide that they pay off the Saviors as the knowledge of this will make his people want to fight, so he keeps it a secret. He’s the kind of optimistic leader that we haven’t seen yet, the first true good guy without the shades of grey.
While I’m still not a fan of TWD’s habit of doing shows the center solely on a few characters this one brought a much needed change of tone, not just for what's happened but for what's going to happen. It’s going to go back to bad very soon so getting to hang out with some of these characters, even if one of them is Carol, during the good times isn’t an unwelcome change. That being said the ‘Next week on The Walking Dead’ scenes really sent me over the edge with the spaced out story arcs as it looks like the whole hour will be spent on Negan and Daryl at the Saviors camp. Three weeks in between time spent with the main group is far too long, it’s just a bad plan for storytelling, how are we supposed to maintain an emotional attachment to what these characters have gone through if it’s that far removed from our memory? Another complaint for another time I suppose.