[Warning: This story contains spoilers through season seven, episode two of AMC’s The Walking Dead.]
“I don’t know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way!”
The only proper response to Carol’s (Melissa McBride) assessment of her new surroundings is to borrow a phrase from Battlestar Galactica: “So say we all.”
With the brain-bashing out of the way, Walking Dead veered away from the Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) lineup entirely for the second hour of its seventh season. The episode, called “The Well,” focuses instead on Morgan (Lennie James), last seen on the road running away from and eventually killing one of Negan’s Saviors. After rescuing Carol from the trigger-happy killer, Morgan ran into some help in the form of an armored-up soldier. Now, we know a whole lot more about that armored soldier’s home — and seeing is just about the only way to believe that a place called The Kingdom exists on The Walking Dead.
Here are the seven key moments from the episode:
1. Old Habits Die Hard
The episode begins on the road, with Morgan up to some old tricks as usual: carving an X into various trees and signposts to mark a trail back toward Alexandria, much as he marked his way toward the safe haven all through season five. For her part, Carol’s backsliding in her own way, her imagination running wild as she sees walkers turn into humans in the blink of an eye. It’s perhaps a reference to the comic book’s version of Carol, who starts to develop more of a bond with the walkers. Spoiler: it does not go well for Carol in the comics, but this writer doesn’t expect the show to follow that same path note-for-note.
2. Welcome to the Kingdom
You heard about it all summer long, and now, here it is: The Kingdom, home of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Shiva the tiger. Between their prim-and-proper ruler with the Shakespearean dialogue, to their plentiful food and fruit situation (Cobbler at every meal? Really?), the Kingdom really is something of a dream come to life. It’s no wonder that the skeptical Carol doesn’t buy into this place’s magic allure, even as the meditative Morgan begins falling for the place.
3. Return of the Cheesemonger
Morgan feels even more purpose during his stay in the Kingdom thanks to Young Benjamin, one of Ezekiel’s knights — or a knight-in-training, rather. Turns out, Benjamin doesn’t know much in the ways of weaponry and combat, so Ezekiel enlists Morgan in training the boy. Benjamin is a quick study in the Aikido department, allowing Morgan to channel his inner Eastman as he imparts fighting skills and philosophy on the youth. Benjamin later reveals that his father was close friends with Ezekiel, and died during a run that the king ordered a year ago. Ezekiel’s guilt over his friend’s death drives him to make sure that Benjamin stays safe, and Morgan’s now an instrumental part of that process.
4. In Need of Saviors
Despite appearances, things are not all peaceful here in the Kingdom. Midway through the episode, Ezekiel takes Morgan and others on a run to hand over a good number of pigs to the Saviors. That’s right, Negan’s influence is so great that he not only runs the Hilltop and Alexandria, but the Kingdom as well. A fight breaks out between Ezekiel’s ally Richard and one of the Saviors, and it’s just as swiftly broken up, with the Saviors’ spokesperson presenting as something of a reasonable man — but as he drives away, he warns that if Ezekiel’s people don’t produce next week for “produce week,” then Sir Richard will be the first one to die.
5. The Truth About Cats and Ezekiel
No longer able to tolerate the Kingdom, Carol decides to cut and run, as is her wont. But Ezekiel confronts her in the middle of the escape attempt, and decides on one last ditch effort to keep her from leaving: the truth. Ezekiel speaks openly about his past, ditching the royal speech for a more grounded dialogue where he reveals his history as a zookeeper who once saved Shiva’s life, earning the tiger’s adoration. When the apocalypse broke out, he liberated Shiva from the zoo, the two found several others, and a community was built — and so was a legend, built around Ezekiel. Carol responds well to this truer side of the show’s new mystery man, and even seems open-minded to his idea about how she can stay and leave at the same time.
6. A Touch of Gray
At the end of the episode, Morgan escorts Carol to a house on a neighborhood block not far from the Kingdom. She plans to stay here for the indefinite future. As the two part ways, the ice wall between them finally thaws. “I think you’re my favorite person I’ve ever knocked out,” Morgan tells Carol before he leaves. “Definitely top two or three.” Worth noting that Morgan has also knocked out Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Benedict Samuel’s Wolf. If Carol’s third place in that lineup, it doesn’t say much. Still, it’s an olive branch between two characters who never quite saw eye-to-eye, and are finally seeing value in one another.
After settling into her new home, Carol starts a fire, finally ready for some peace and quiet… until there’s a knock at the door. She’s ready for a fight, but calms as soon as she hears a tiger’s modest roar outside the door. (A tiger roar is rarely a soothing sound, but Shiva seems pretty relaxed so far.) Carol opens up, and King Ezekiel awaits, pretense still dropped, juicy pomegranate raised up: “You really gotta try one of these.” It’s Carol’s new existence in practice: far enough away from people to have her own peace of mind, but close enough to still entertain Ezekiel’s house calls — and if the show follows the comic book path, don’t be surprised if those house calls keep coming.
BONUS: The Man Behind the Man
Can’t discuss “The Well” without shouting out Jerry, King Ezekiel’s right-hand man who doesn’t speak in medieval overtones, but has some incredible dialogue all the same: “If you need me? Holler. I’ll keep in hollering range. Deuces!” Even as the show loses quote machine Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), it looks like it’s introducing a new contender for larger-than-life laughs. Really, it’s nice to see The Walking Dead attempt some levity after last week, and actually succeed. No small feat.
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‘Walking Dead’: 7 Key Moments From "The Well" – Hollywood Reporter