“What is this place?” asks Carol (Melissa McBride). “The people here…they call it The Kingdom,” answers Morgan (Lennie James) as he wheels a still weak and recovering Carol to see the man in charge of the town that took them in and helped save Carol in episode two of season seven of AMC’s horror/drama series, The Walking Dead.
As the episode begins, Carol is on a homemade stretcher attached to a horse led by the two men who came along and helped Morgan at the end of last season. Carol keeps drifting in and out of consciousness until she suddenly finds herself on the ground as hungry walkers come after her, Morgan, and their new allies. The zombies are getting closer and seem to be too much for Morgan and the other two men to handle so Carol panics and leaves the area, still uneasy and feeling weak. She sees a woman in a nearby house waving for her to come in but then she realizes that what she thought was a woman is a walker stuck in the house. As the zombies begin to close in on Carol who’s too weak to fight (not to mention she doesn’t have any weapons), other members of The Kingdom show up on horseback to save the day. Before leaving the area, Morgan puts a mark on the mail box of the house as he’s been doing to certain trees so he can find his way back to Alexandria.
The next day Carol wakes up to the sound of wind chimes and with Morgan sitting in a chair by her bed watching over her. Since she’s awake, it’s time for her to meet the man in charge of the town known as The Kingdom. As Morgan pushes Carol to an auditorium, she sees people gardening and children being taught in a school-like fashion outside on a gazebo. The man on the auditorium stage is King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and he has a very large tiger by his side who snarls at Morgan and Carol. Ezekiel is very pleased to see Carol doing better and suggests she rest and make herself comfortable. He offers her some fruit and Carol falls into her playing dumb act, pretending to be a simple and oh-so-sweet housewife. It’s obvious to viewing audience that King Ezekiel is not taken in by her act, but he let’s her keep up the pretense. Carol tells King Ezekiel that it’s all just too much and she really doesn’t know what’s going on. King Ezekiel tells her to rest up and that they are happy to help her as long as she gives back to the town when she’s able. He informs her he already had the same talk with Morgan who has no problem giving back to the well, so to speak.
Once outside and out of earshot, Carol tells Morgan she’s not up for any of this. “It’s not real. It’s fantasy land and you’re playing along with them,” says Carol. She also lets him know that as soon as she’s able and he’s not looking, she’s leaving. Morgan responds by telling Carol that he won’t let her die out there.
King Ezekiel and a few of his people approach Morgan and ask him to go on with them on an errand. He agrees, and the group travels a few miles outside The Kingdom. They herd swine and corral them in with a strung-up walker for them to feed on. Some walkers come along and Ezekiel tells a young man named Ben (Logan MIller) to take down one of the walkers with his machete the way he was shown. The kid does it wrong and gets it stuck in the zombie’s shoulder and another member of Ezekiel’s team has to save him. As more walkers begin to show up, King Ezekiel decides it’s time to leave. As they’re almost at the truck, another zombie almost gets Ben but this time it’s Morgan who comes to the rescue, dispatching the walker with his staff. King Ezekiel is impressed so much so that when they get back to town he asks Morgan to train Ben. At first Morgan is hesitant, not wanting to get too close to anyone in the town. But Ezekiel tells Morgan that he needs the boy to live, so Morgan agrees. (It’s clear that Ben is important to Ezekiel and that he has big plans for him.)
Back at The Kingdom, Carol is wheeling her way around town stealing this and that to prepare for her planned escape, all while still playing the sweet and simple housewife act. Morgan trains Ben who seems to catch on to working with the staff rather quickly. After one training session, Ben asks if he can borrow Morgan‘s philosophy book to read, telling him that he’s read every book in town twice – even the air conditioning manuals. Reluctantly, Morgan loans Ben the book. King Ezekiel once again calls upon Morgan and Ben to help them with a task and tells Morgan to bring his gun.
They return to where the swine are being kept and are met by some of The Saviors. Yes, it seems in this zombie apocalypse the Saviors have more than just Rick and Alexandria’s group doing their work for them. The slaughtered pigs are for them. Of course, they don’t know the pigs fed on a walker for their last meal. Although tense, everyone is doing their job loading the pigs onto the Saviors trucks until one of the Saviors mouths off to one of Ezekiel’s men and the two end up fighting. This leads to Ezekiel having to call off his man and the one in charge of the Saviors does the same with his man. They leave but the Savior lieutenant warns Ezekiel that next week is “produce week” so make sure to produce in full or Negan will have to make a kill.
When they get back to The Kingdom, Morgan sits with Ben at dinner and is impressed with how good he is raising and looking out for his kid brother. That’s when Ben tells Morgan that his father was close to Ezekiel and died trying to rescue people from a building infested with walkers. Morgan now knows why Ezekiel feels so close to Ben. Ben asks Morgan to join him for movie night, but Morgan tells Ben he needs to see Carol. When Morgan visits Carol’s room to bring her dinner, he finds her room’s empty and the window is open. Feeling it’s a lost cause to go after her, Morgan just sits on the bed and sighs.
Carol, under the cover of darkness, slips into Ezekiel’s garden and begins to steals some apples when Ezekiel lights a fire and tells his assistant Jerry to give them a moment. He calls Carol out on her fake ‘innocent’ act and says, “Don’t bullsh*t a bullsh*tter.” Carol laughs and says this whole town is a joke. He asks to sit next to Carol on the bench and begins to tell her his real story. Before the world went to the zombies he was a zookeeper and saved the life of Shiva the tiger. The tiger has never growled or snarled at him after that and would often stay close to him. When the outbreak happened, Ezekiel was able to save Shiva but all the other animals in the zoo were dead. “People see a man with a tiger, they make up all kinds of stories about him,” says Ezekiel to Carol. He goes on to say that it’s natural for people to look for someone to follow and that with his tiger, and the fact he used to do community theater playing a few kings from Shakespeare and even Martin Luther King Jr., he became the leader and the king they needed him to be. He asks her to keep this between the two of them for the good of his people and also a little for himself as well. Carol tells him she doesn’t care and prepares to leave. Ezekiel hasn’t given up on her as he tries to convince her to stay by saying, “Where there’s life, there’s hope, heroism, grace, and love.” Carol asks why he cares if she stays or goes, and he tells her it’s because it makes him feel good.
As the episode comes to a close, Carol and Morgan travel back to the house where she was saved by the members of The Kingdom. Morgan asks Carol if she’s sure about this and she says yes. The two exchange heartfelt goodbyes while adding that it’s probably a good thing they’re parting ways or else they might start to actually feel bad about all the times they fought and stabbed each other. (It’s clear there is now a friendship, although a bit of a distant one, between these two who used to not trust each other at all.) Morgan rides off but not before flipping the mailbox flag down which is a sign it seems that both of them have found new homes. Carol goes inside, puts down the walker she saw earlier in the window, and buries her in the back yard. She’s lighting a fire in the fireplace when there’s a knock on the door. Carol grabs a knife but relaxes when she hears the sounds of a tiger outside. She opens the door to see Ezekiel standing there, telling her she really must try one of his pomegranates – a fruit Carol told him when she first met him that she doesn’t care for. Carol slightly smiles at The King.
The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 2 Review:
Slowly paced and introducing a whole new colony of survivors, episode two titled “The Well” is a much needed break from all the gore and intensity delivered in the first episode of season seven. King Ezekiel, played wonderfully by Khary Payton, is a welcome albeit a bit over-the-top character in this zombie infested world. He brings both humor, wisdom, and heart to a show which is known for killing off its most noble and decent characters. Let’s hope The King has a nice long reign.
The chemistry between Morgan and Carol is still strong, with these two hardheads never seeing eye to eye and not fully trusting each other. In fact, the stand-out performance is a three way tie in this episode between Melissa McBride, Lennie James and The Walking Dead newcomer Khary Payton.
With a new set of allies in The Kingdom and Rick and his group still reeling from the deaths of Glenn and Abraham, it should be interesting to see how long it will be before Rick and The King meet.