This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 2
Well, that was one hell of an episode last week, wasn’t it? For many longtime fans of the show, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” may have marked the beginning of a new season, but it also marked the end of the road for two beloved characters. For some viewers, the episode marked the end of watching The Walking Dead.
So maybe you’re here just to see if perhaps TWD deserves a second chance. The short answer is yes, yes it does deserve a second chance. I say this knowing full well that any show entering its seventh season that introduces a tiger into the mix is possibly inviting scorn upon itself. Luckily, Shiva is an impressive blend of animatronic puppet and CGI.
I do think “The Well” does a great job of introducing another key character into the expanding TWD universe. Of course, I’m talking about Ezekiel. Just as Jeffrey Dean Morgan absolutely kills it as Negan, Khary Payton is equally well cast as the Kingdom’s charismatic and eccentric leader. It’s a welcome change of pace, this introduction to Ezekiel’s fairytale realm, an agrarian community by way of a renaissance faire. Not only is the Kingdom making do despite the horrors endured by Rick and company, it’s genuinely thriving, too, in a way we haven’t really experienced before on TWD. Yes, Alexandria has all the trappings of civilization thanks to running water and electricity. But the people within its walls were ignorant of the grim reality beyond their sheltered existence. That’s not the case with the Kingdom, with Ezekiel himself traveling outside the safety of the realm to ensure the continued safety of his subjects.
Which brings us to the Saviors. Like Carol, I’m sure many of us thought the Kingdom was simply too good to be true. It’s not disappointing to discover that this is indeed the case. Just the opposite, actually. By showing us early on that even a paradise like the Kingdom is under Negan’s thumb sends a powerful message that there’s very little the Saviors don’t know about. But it also tells us that Ezekiel is nobody’s fool. He’d rather dirty his hands by dealing with Negan’s people than putting his entire community at risk. And if that means keeping secrets, so be it.
Which brings us to Carol, who doesn’t suffer bullshit gladly. We’ve seen her impatience before in Alexandria, where she rejected the plastic, Stepfordesque qualities of the walled town. She quickly adapted a wide-eyed Suzie Homemaker persona that mocked those around her even as it camouflaged her disgust. But now this act seems less cunning and more disingenuous.
Daily survival doesn’t necessarily mean misery. Sure, life within the Kingdom is not representative of the apocalyptic realities beyond the safety of its walls—but is that necessarily a bad thing? While Alexandria’s residents were ill-prepared for the world’s harsh realities, Ezekiel’s people have a much firmer grasp not only on survival, but sustainability, too. He may be a touch mad, but Ezekiel’s not crazy the way the Governor was. Nor is he dangerous, like Negan. No, Ezekiel has a relatively level head on his shoulders (and a loyal tiger at his side).
One of my favorite scenes of the episode is when Ezekiel puts all his cards on the table and comes clean to Carol. He’s no king—he’s a zookeeper who played a few kings in his days in the local theater. For anyone who’s caught up on Fear the Walking Dead, there are echoes of a certain leader in Ezekiel’s words. Whereas FTWD’s leader uses his reputation to build a cult, Ezekiel isn’t interested in ruling by intimidation. Instead, he appeals to the good in people, spoiling his subjects with all the good the Kingdom has to offer.
While Carol seems to respect his honesty, she’s still incredibly skeptical of him and everything Ezekiel has built. “Why do you care,” Carol asks him. Ezekiel’s response to this is perfect: “Because it makes me feel good.” There’s a lot of beauty in this simple exchange, namely because there’s so little unfettered optimism in the Walking Dead universe. Ezekiel’s sentiment isn’t corny, it’s hopeful. For a show without any clear endgame, characters (and viewers) need to embrace hope where they can find it. And maybe eat a pomegranate once in a while, too.
If “The Well” succeeds at anything, it’s not only establishing the larger world that Rick and company inhabit, it’s also raising the bar on its own happiness. After the events of “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” a bit of hope is definitely not a bad thing.
Some closing thoughts:
– The Kingdom seems like a strong, sustainable community. Kids in school. Farming. A choir. Movie nights. Cobbler thrice daily. So how long until the whole place is burned to the ground or overrun by the dead? I don’t say this to be a killjoy. Rather, I hope that TWD avoids its own tropes of introducing a new community, only to see it destroyed within a season or two.
– Some interesting zombie kills this week, from the walker whose face is sheared off by a sword to the hapless corpse being devoured by farm-raised pigs gone wild. And speaking of zombie kills, in the beginning of “The Well,” Carol sees flashes of bygone humanity in the walkers. Whether these are flashes of insight or compassion into these zombies’ former lives is up for grabs, but to her they’re not monsters—they’re people. While some may disagree with Morgan’s more pacifist ways, he’ll still take a zombie out when he has to. But is Carol going to eventually do him one better by not killing anyone—whether or not they have a pulse?
– And speaking of Morgan, he had some great moments in this episode, whether it was mentoring young Ben in the peaceful ways of Aikido or trading friendly barbs with Carol. I don’t expect them to wind up the best of friends, but it’s nice to see Carol and Morgan acknowledge the bad blood between them without it preventing their ability to grow as characters.
Thanks to John Saavedra for allowing me to pinch-hit for him this week—I had a blast!
Don’t forget to listen to Den of Geek’s Walking Dead podcast, No Room in Hell!