The Walking Dead Finds Redemption in the Funniest Episode to Date
The Walking Dead switched gears this week and swept us away to an immaculate Kingdom, free of the crushed skulls and rotting entrails of beloved characters. Going from last week's ridiculously over-the-top violence to the show's funniest episode yet could have seemed out-of-place, but it was just what the show needed right now. Carol said it best: "I don't know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way."
This episode starts with Carol and Morgan being rescued by a team of armored knights riding in on horseback, swords gleaming as they slice through a hoard of zombies. (No, really.) The offbeat overtones of hope and new horizons in this week's episode could easily have suffered the fate of poor execution, coming across as heavy-handed and sappy. Instead, the show may have found a new hope in King Ezekiel.
Although in the comics we were first introduced to King Ezekiel through the eyes of Rick and Jesus, seeing Carol react to Ezekiel was infinitely more satisfying – and downright hilarious. Carol's expression when meeting King Ezekiel was the best part of the entire episode.
So far, revered leaders of makeshift towns have been major red flags. But the difference between Ezekiel and people like the Governor is stark: King Ezekiel leads primarily so that people have someone who makes them feel safe, not because he likes power, control, and manipulation. (The admiration and respect of his "subjects" is still probably a satisfying perk of the job for our former theater geek/zookeeper, but to be fair, when you walk in the front gate with a tiger, people are automatically going to flock around you.)
Ezekiel was also able to see through Carol's false front, since he's also a world-class bullshitter. The dynamic between the two could easily be one of the most intriguing developments this season. Carol was prepared to set out on her own, but Ezekiel was able to counteract her sense of hopelessness and convince her to stay. He obviously sees the value in having her as an ally and it should be interesting to see how their relationship develops.
Ezekiel's basic philosophy seems to be that even though good things don't last in an apocalypse, it doesn't mean you can't enjoy them while they do. Ezekiel's special brand of kindness and perspective somehow brought that element to the show without seeming overly cheesy, at least not in a bad way. Still, despite being a self-proclaimed realist, King Ezekiel is not without his flaws, and whether he's doing the right thing by avoiding a fight with Negan remains to be seen. So far though, he's proving himself to be a pretty great leader. Even his right-hand man Jerry is infinitely more likable than most of the supporting characters on the show so far. The Kingdom itself has it all: a choir, cobbler for every meal, chocolate bars, movie nights, even school for the kids. Rick couldn't have pulled that off, even if Alexandria hadn't been destroyed.
A show normally filled with blood, gore, and darkness gave us an episode filled with humor and hope, and it was oddly refreshing. What the show needed more than anything right now was a change of pace. As this episode goes out of its way to remind us, there may be a modicum of hope left for The Walking Dead after all. Next week is another hour of the Rick and Negan show. After the atrocities of last week's episode (and we don't just mean the head bashing), that isn't quite enough to keep us emotionally invested in the show. For now though, the dynamic between Ezekiel and Carol alone is enough to keep us coming back for at least a little while longer.
Best Lines & Stray Comments:
Carol: "I should call you your majesty, right?" Ezekiel: "You can." Carol: "Thank you, your majesty."
"Ten more minutes and I might start to regret all the times I tried to shoot and stab you."
"I think you're my favorite person I ever knocked out. Definitely in the top two or three."
* Carol stealing a knife and then the bar of chocolate as an afterthought.
*Sweet, bookish, Ben. Raising his younger brother all on his own. He probably isn't long for this world. But his interactions with Morgan were less flat and gimmicky than a lot of the character dynamics lately.