This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 4
Tonight will hopefully be the last time we have to hear King Ezekiel give one of his annoying “and yet I smile” speeches. Not only have most of his soldiers turned into walkers, but Ezekiel comes out of this episode incredibly defeated. “Some Guy” spends a lot of time trying to break down this larger-than-life leader and it succeeds, giving us the real person behind the Shakespearean facade.
It’s worth pointing out that this episode begins in front of a mirror. Ezekiel is preparing himself for battle, adjusting his armor and fixing his hair. But there’s something more to Ezekiel’s morning routine. It’s clear that he’s getting into character. When he walks out to gather his troops, he is the mighty King. In front of this mirror, though, he is simply “some guy” who used to work at a zoo and do theater on the weekends. There’s a sort of transformation happening in front of that mirror that I really liked, a juxtaposition of the man and the myth.
Khary Payton delivered his first great Walking Dead performance tonight. While he’s done a formidable job up to this point, it’s with the full attention of the camera that he’s able to really flesh out his character and make him human. A lot of that comes down to the way he’s able to switch between both sides of Ezekiel. The mighty king is almost nowhere to be found in the aftermath of the Savior ambush, and that’s great. It would have been nice to see the king completely abandon his regal presentation, but the moments when he does break character are strong. The scenes with Ezekiel and Jerry particularly come to mind.
“Dude, yes I do,” Jerry replies to Ezekiel when the King tells him he doesn’t have to refer to him as such anymore. This is a nice callback to Ezekiel’s words to Carol in season seven, when he explained to her that he became the King because his people needed it as much as he needed them. There’s a give and take between Jerry and Ezekiel’s relationship that really works.
The episode is almost too cruel to Ezekiel, though. His men die saving him from Savior machine gun fire, he wakes up underneath a pile of bodies, he’s been shot in the leg, and the reanimated corpses of his former comrades try to eat him. I mean, the episode really shits on poor Ezekiel. To top it all off, the war claims its biggest victim yet: Shiva, Ezekiel’s loyal pet tiger, who dies saving the King from the walker horde. It’s pretty sad to see Shiva go, especially since we only got to see her eat a few Saviors, but the CGI never quite delivered, did it? At the very least, there’s one less poorly animated distraction on screen.
It’s hard to say how Ezekiel will come out of this massive loss. He’ll most likely retreat for a bit, as Rick did last season, before finding his strength again. Or perhaps he’ll go out looking for revenge, a more bloodthirsty king on a vendetta against the Saviors. I’m at the very least intrigued, which is not something I could have said about the character a few weeks ago.
Meanwhile, Melissa McBride continues to be the lifeforce that keeps this show alive for me. She is absolutely brilliant and I’m happy every time she actually gets to do something on screen. There’s the sense that Carol has finally found a happy medium between violence and preserving life since her crisis of faith in season six. She’s down to murder all the bad guys again, but when it comes to choosing between the truck full of Savior weapons or saving Ezekiel and Jerry, she makes the noble choice. I’m not sure Carol would have saved Ezekiel during her Alexandria days. Even though she murders a ton of dudes throughout the episode, it seems like she’s found peace with the balance she’s struck.
All of the action sequences brought different flavors to the episode, too. Ezekiel and Jerry face off against the horde while Carol stealthily cuts through the Savior ranks like an efficient surgical knife. I absolutely loved watching Jerry hacking through the walkers with an axe; and Carol shooting down Saviors while hiding in the ceiling brought so much joy to my gnarled, blackened heart.
Then there’s the car chase sequence that sort of acts like an interlude to the rest of the episode. I fully expected a title card to read, “Meanwhile…” as the episode cut to Rick and Daryl doing their best CHiPS impression. It’s an entertaining scene, but by far the least believable of the night. I refuse to believe that the M2 Browning machine gun fire wouldn’t have absolutely shred through both Daryl and Rick, especially from such a close distance. We’re not talking stormtroopers here. Just the episode before, these same Saviors had mowed down an entire platoon from one hundred yards out. Give me a break.
There’s something to be said about how the most boring action sequences of the season have been ones featuring Rick and Daryl. Because we know they’re never going to die, there’s no tension in their action scenes. Plot armor continues to be Rick and Daryl’s major weakness. Carol’s position on the show, on the other hand, has never quite felt as secure. Neither does Ezekiel’s, for that matter.
The Walking Dead season eight improves in its fourth outing. Is “Some Guy” the big explosive episode that put the season back on track? Not quite. But it does at least do the work of saying something new about a character we barely know anything about while also delivering a few entertaining set pieces. That’s what successful episodes of The Walking Dead are made of.