The Walking Dead S07E02 “The Well” REVIEW
Essential Plot Points:
- Last season, Carol had a really, really bad time. Even by The Walking Dead standards, a REALLY bad time.
- This season, the first we see of Carol is on a cart being taken somewhere. She wakes to find Morgan and her rescuers fighting a horde of Walkers. For a second, she hallucinates them as living people. Then, she stumbles off into the woods desperate to escape.
- She sees a small house with a woman seemingly beckoning her to come inside. When she looks again, it’s a Walker. Another group of them back her against the fence surrounding the house and… men and women on horseback with honest to God SWORDS take the horde apart. Carol, still seeing them as real people, collapses.
- She wakes up in a quiet room, in a clean house with Morgan by her side. He talks to her, explains she’s been asleep for two days and helps her into a wheelchair.
- He wheels her through an extraordinarily well-organised and huge settlement. This is what Alexandria wants to be; huge vegetable gardens, livestock, secure defences. She can’t quite believe it and she has no idea what’s still to come. Especially when Morgan tells her the leader of the Kingdom is called King Ezekiel.
- Morgan wheels her into a theatre to meet the King.
- And his tiger, Sheva.
- Ezekiel introduces himself, and Sheva. Carol is speechless. Ezekiel pushes and Carol, grinning all over her face, freely admits she has no idea what’s going on. Ezekiel welcomes her and his wonderfully chirpy aide, Jerry, plies her with pomegranates. She assures Ezekiel she wants for nothing and they leave.
- Carol, the moment they’re out of earshot, tears a strip off Morgan for buying into the absurdity of the Kingdom. She tells him, to his face, she’s going to leave and he can’t do a thing about it.
- Later, Ezekiel takes Morgan on a pig-hunting run. The Kingdom has a farm set up, where they’re feeding Walker meat to pigs. As they leave, a new group of Walkers appears and Ben, the youngest member of Ezekiel’s group is chosen to kill it.
- He fails and Ezekiel, because somehow he isn’t badass enough quite yet, draws his sword cane and kills it. He then, even better, reassures Ben that he’ll be okay. As they leave, Richard, Ezekiel’s aide, tells Morgan no one at home needs to know.
- When the group arrives back at Alexandria, Ezekiel asks Morgan about his bo staff fighting skills. He asks Morgan to train Ben with the staff. Morgan, very reluctantly, agrees.
- As the choir practices, we see Carol glower at the wheelchair and the world around her. She’s especially glowery about Morgan, training Ben with the bo staff outside. She rolls out, smiling at the guards as she steals a knife and, brilliantly, some chocolate as well as some clothes.
- After training, Morgan and Ben are chatting about books when Ezekiel and Richard appear and ask them to accompany them. Ezekiel takes them out to neutral ground where a pair of trucks from the Saviours arrive. Ezekiel admits that the pigs are slaughtered in secret.
- The Saviours load the trucks up and all seems well. Until one of the Saviours picks a fight with Richard. Everyone draws weapons, including Morgan who is very not cool with it.
- Ezekiel tells Richard to let the Saviour go. They stand up, and the Saviour beats on Richard who doesn’t resist. Finally, Gavin, the Saviour leader, tells him to leave it. They leave and Morgan asks if the fact he’s killed them before is why Ezekiel wanted him here. The King reassures him that quite the opposite is true, then checks on his people.
- Later, Morgan is eating with Ben and his younger brother, Dutch. Ben is raising Dutch and Morgan talks to him about his relationship with Ezekiel. Ben explains that his dad was one of the best fighters in the Kingdom and died a year ago, failing to clear out a building. Ben confides that Ezekiel wants to protect his people and that’s why he won’t fight the Saviors. Ben unknowingly pushes him on whether or not he should kill and Morgan explains that sometimes you have to find your own path. He leaves to talk to Carol and finds that, of course, she’s gone.
- Outside, Carol is heading out and picking some fruit along the way. Ezekiel and Jerry are waiting for her. Carol tries her, “Oh don’t mind me,” schtick and Ezekiel is having none of it. He calls Carol on absolutely every element of her nonsense. He tells her that the guns in her pack belonged to the Saviors. He tells her that she fought and WON. Carol tells him he and the Kingdom are a joke. Carol in particular calls him out on being the “King”.
- He sits, drops the accent and tells her that people want someone to be larger than life. He was a zookeeper, he befriended Sheva when he saved her life after an accident. She bonded with him and she was instrumental in making Ezekiel King Ezekiel. The rest was community theatre. Although his name really is Ezekiel.
- And Carol doesn’t care. She just wants to leave. Ezekiel tells her she can go and not go.
- The next morning Morgan and Carol ride out to the house Carol saw at the top of the episode. Morgan admits the choice should always have been Carol’s to make and gives her a pack full of food and weapons.
- They say their goodbyes and Carol opens the gates. As Morgan leaves, he drops the flag on the mailbox. Someone’s home.
- Carol buries the woman she saw at the window outside and makes a fire. There’s a knock at the door.
- And a roar.
- Ezekiel hands her a pomegranate.
If you wanted an episode that was a photographic negative of last week, boy did you get it. Catching up with Carol and Morgan was always going to be fun. But this episode did more than that. It introduced a major new force, a major new character and put front and centre not only the major question of last episode:
Is there any hope?
But answered it with a definitive, flamboyant, joyous YES.
We love Ezekiel here at MCM Towers and we love what he represents too. The Kingdom is a ridiculous, heroic myth that’s going to get bloody very soon but for the first time we’ve met a new community that doesn’t feel doomed. They undoubtedly have bad times coming but they seem like they’re ready for the fight. Everything about the Kingdom, from the affirmatory quotes painted on walls to the choir practice to the knight-like riders is… nice. Clean. Hopeful. It’s a world we could actually live in not tolerate and that breath of fresh air is one the show hasn’t had for seven years.
The fact that Morgan and Carol are the two who find it only makes it more perfect. The embodiments of violence and pacifism have come a long way since their season six throwdown and the gently grumpy affection the two have for one another is really sweet. Even better, Carol’s reaction to the Kingdom is both genuinely hilarious and tragic. All she sees are people who don’t know they’re dead. All Morgan sees is a community that can do what none of the others they’ve seen yet can: survive.
The way the two reconnect with each other muddies their respective ideologies in a way that’s often surprisingly poignant. Morgan’s growing peace with the complexity of his world view and how it has to evolve is especially sweet. But it’s Ezekiel, and that final conversation with Carol, that’s the episode’s emotional heart. He’s a huge presence, flamboyant, compassionate and decency every time he’s on screen. There’s no blood soaked ranting, no banishments. Just a good guy whose legend built up around him and who has used that legend to raise others.
He is, in other words, exactly what Rick tries to be. And seeing it work, and seeing it work so well, is a ray of sunshine in a show that desperately needs it. The people of the Kingdom aren’t just surviving they’re changing their own story. They’re not a desperate ragtag group, they’re the subjects of a King and a hero.
And if they can be that, then Carol, Morgan and the others can find peace too. Even if that peace lies on the other side of inevitable, brutal war.
One last note; it looks like the biggest lesson the show has learnt from last year is the success of splitting its narrative. Next week looks like a Daryl heavy episode and then we’re back with Rick, then, presumably, the Kingdom. That’s a really smart move that not only gives everyone the spotlight but shows just how big the story is. And, for the first time, that story may have a happen ending.
Hail to the King. And his tiger.
- Carol’s hallucinations of the living are a really nice touch.
- Carol’s reaction to literally everything Ezekiel says is AMAZING.
- Carol’s “…the HELL is this?!” side eye to Morgan is the best joke in the show in YEARS.
- “I don’t know what the hell’s going on in the most wonderful way!”
- Ezekiel’s throne being in front of a stage flat painted with a castle is simultaneously the silliest, bravest and nicest thing this show has ever done. Although Jerry’s axe is a close second.
- “Young Benjamin will become an important member of my court. I need the boy to… I need him to live… Please.” This just blindsided us. Ezekiel is completely devoted to his people and clearly desperately guilty about Ben and Dutch. It’s a moment of real openness and really helps drive home how different Ezekiel is to Rick or Negan.
- Morgan putting the flag down on the mailbox as a sign of life is one of the reasons we love him. We are going to be a MESS if he ever dies.
- “The stick couldn’t have saved her.”
“Has it saved you?” This also damn near wrecked us. Morgan is slowly learning that his philosophy is allowed to be complex.
- The training spot just happened to be in Carol’s eye line, huh Morgan? Sure….
- “If you need me, holler. I keep in hollerin’ range. Deuces!” WE LOVE YOU JERRY PLEASE NEVER DIE
- “WHY DO YOU CARE?!”
“Because it makes me feel good.” That is perfect writing. Just perfect.
- “I’m sorry, for whatever bad you been through. There’s so much of it out there now y’know? Too much. Out there feels like its all bad. Especially when you’re alone. The thing is though… it’s not all bad. It can’t be. It isn’t. Life isn’t. Where there’s life there’s hope, heroism, grace and love. Where there’s life there’s life. I hope that’s not what you’re walking away from.” This too. Ezekiel’s here and nothing is ever going to be quite as bad as it’s been again.
- “I think you’re my favourite person I ever knocked out.”
- Ezekiel. Kahry Payton is amazing as the Shakesperean, tiger-loving monarch. He’s even better as the relaxed, slightly crumpled zookeeper beneath the character. There’s not been a character on the show with this depth of compassion, charm and fundamental decency since, well, ever. Ezekiel embodies not only hope but a real sense that the show, and the show’s world, are changing. We’re now officially in a story about what happens after the world ends and we start to rebuild and it’s so, so much more interesting than we’d dared hope.
- Sheva. Thanks Game of Thrones! CGI animals are a thing we can do now!
- Jerry. We LOVE Jerry. He is the least medieval aide we have ever seen. Ever.
- Ben and Dutch are so doomed aren’t they? Unless they’re meant to be a very deliberate callback to Sam. Only this time Sam isn’t a) Awful and b) Doesn’t die. Hopefully.
- We really hope Ezekiel and Negan haven’t met, and that it took eight people for Ezekiel to surrender. We really hope that Ben’s dad wasn’t Lucille’d. We really hope that a lot.
And The Random:
- Khary Payton has had a raft of voice roles in some great cartoons. He’s the voice of Cyborg and a few others on Teen Titans Go! as well as Aqualad and more on Young Justice. He’s also appeared in several DC animated movies and on shows like CSI: Miami and Criminal Minds.
Review by Alasdair Stuart