Airing in the UK on FOX, Mondays at 9pm
Writer: David Leslie Johnson
Director: Dan Liu
Essential Plot Points:
- We see Ezekiel come home. he’s exhausted but he washes up, gets dressed and leaves as King Ezekiel.We see his soldiers gearing up for the assault, saying goodbye to their children, their spouses. Ezekiel looks them over from his rooms, nods approvingly.
- Ezekiel does that thing he does. Lays it all out for his people. How much trouble they’re in. How much blood they’ll spill. And yet he’s smiling. Because his people are united. They all embrace him as Carol looks on, looking mystified.
- Smash cut to the battlefield. Ezekiel’s entire unit, near enough, has been ripped apart by the heavy artillery. Ezekiel has been shielded by half a dozen of his people. All dead. He drags himself out from under them, checks the bodies littering the ground.
- They’re all dead. And then, of course, they all start to get up.
- Ezekiel is wounded, alone and surrounded by the corpses of his subjects. All of whom want to kill him.
- Roll the credits.
- Ezekiel flees across the bodies of his soldiers. We see the mom who said goodbye to her kids, now dead, reach for him. At the last minute, he’s saved by one of the few soldiers left alive.
- The Saviors pack up the .50 caliber machine guns that ended Ezekiel’s men. Unseen, Carol, enters the building they’re in. Carol waits until they’re heading out with the weapons and, hiding in the ceiling, slaughters them. The second wave arrive and she runs for it, the Saviors abandoning pursuit in favor of the guns.
- Outside, the man who saved Ezekiel is killed by a Savior named Gunther. The King is captured.
- The surviving Saviors take the machine guns to their trucks, pursued by Carol the implacable death bringer.
- Outside, Ezekiel is happy choosing the dead over torture. His captor drags him upright, mocking him over how all Ezekiel is is a story.
- With the machine guns well equipped enough to take back the Sanctuary, Carol has no choice. She attacks the Saviors and is instantly outnumbered and pinned down.
- Ezekiel tries to escape but is taken down. When they find the gates are closed, his captor panics. He explains that the plan was to chain Ezekiel, Maggie and Rick up on the Sanctuary gates. But Ezekiel’s head will do just as well. The King prepares himself for death.
- AND JERRY CUTS HIS WOULD BE MURDERER ENTIRELY IN TWO WITH HIS AX.
- Carol hangs her M16 up, throws her pistol away and tries to bargain with the Saviors.
- Jerry gets his King upright, asks to borrow his sword and double strikes two Walkers.
- Never, EVER mess with the big, nice, quiet dudes, everyone.
- Carol waits for someone to be stupid enough to get close to her. She holds him, tries to bargain and the Saviors shoot through him.But that wasn’t the plan. The plan was distracting them long enough to open the gate behind them.
- The one the Walkers are behind.
- Jerry breaks his ax trying to get the gate open. Armed with nothing but a staff and a sword, the two men face off against the husks of their friends.
- Carol and the Saviors are deadlocked. She sees Jerry and Ezekiel seconds from death and is faced with an impossible choice; save her friends, or save the guns.
- In the past, Carol asks Ezekiel if he’s ready for what’s coming. Ezekiel, because no one on this show deserves him, is completely honest. It’s tough, he’s had to decide to be who he is.
- In the present, Carol makes her choice. Ezekiel and Jerry. Ezekiel is distraught, desperate to make contact with Rick. Then Carol hears something and smiles…’They’re not getting them to the Sanctuary.’
- DARYL DIXON HAS ARRIVED, LADIES AND GENTLEMEN
- Daryl and Rick lock onto the van. The Saviors mount a gun on the back and Daryl bails. Rick takes the hits in his jeep, pulls aside?
- Daryl finishes the gunner.
- Rick draws level and straight up Indiana Jones leaps into the truck. He takes out the driver, loses control and the truck jumps the road. Daryl rolls up…and finds Rick unharmed and the truck on it’s side.
- They’ve got the guns.
- Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry’s situation has substantially worsened. Sandwiched between two groups of Walkers, they make a run for it down the railway tracks. And immediately run into a culvert full of toxic sludge and Walkers. It’s nightmarish ground and Ezekiel wants them to leave him. They refuse and begin slogging through .
- Ezekiel grabs his cane and is intent on saving them. Jerry refuses and Ezekiel screams ‘I AIN’T YOUR KING!’. No accent, no front.
- And then Shiva appears, ripping the Walkers apart and sacrificing herself for the man who once saved her life.; Ezekiel is hysterical, screaming at Jerry to let him help her.
- Shiva roars. Shiva dies.
- And feeding on her distracts the Walkers long enough for them to escape.
- Three people make it back to the Kingdom. Carol and Jerry, followed by Ezekiel. He’s filthy, limping, grief stricken.
- And the first thing he sees are the families of everyone he took to war, everyone who was killed. Everyone he had to kill to return.
- The child he comforted that morning comes to him. Ezekiel touches the boy’s shoulder and limps away.
When Frozen first came out, there was a review that mentioned how Idina Menzel’s rendition of ‘Let It Go’ is like letting an F1 race car loose on the track with no restrictions. No race, no rivals, just…go.
This episode, Khary Payton is given that opportunity. And it’s extraordinary.
Ezekiel, and Jerry, are probably the two most fundamentally good characters on The Walking Dead. Ezekiel’s embrace, even clutching of the heroic myth he’s had built around himself is as charming as it is fervent. He IS the hero. He IS the King. They WILL prevail because that’s what kings and heroes do.
There are about six moments in this episode that are heartbreaking, but Ezekiel screaming ‘I AIN’T YOUR KING! I’M JUST SOME GUY’ is the worst. Through almost no fault of his own, this fundamentally good, kind man loses almost everything. Every single retainer bar one is killed. Most of them he then has to kill again to survive. He loses his friends. He loses his faith. He loses his story. Kings don’t survive routs. Kings aren’t denied a heroic death.
Kings don’t watch their oldest friend sacrifice herself to save them.
Payton shows us all of this and it’s difficult to watch. Not because it’s bad, it’s not this is the best performance this show has got out of anyone since Alanna Masterson’s gloriously salty leading turn in ‘Swear‘ last season. No, it’s a tough watch because of the incredible emotional honesty Payton gives every scene. This is a good man on the worst day of his life. Until the day after, when it all sinks in. This is the heart of the show breaking. This is, if not the end of the Kingdom, then certainly the end of the golden age of King Ezekiel.
And even then, the episode shows us that some good will come of it. Despite the Saviors’ decimation of Ezekiel’s forces, they lose their heavy artillery. They’re still on the ropes, still in big trouble. While we know that won’t last, we also know, as does Ezekiel this episode, that on the ropes is exactly where they deserve to be.
Unflinching, moving, brutal TV. The best hour of this season so far by a mile and one of the best the show has produced in years.
- The montage at the start is great all by itself. The fact we see moms going to war, and gay couples? So much the better.
- Ezekiel tearing up as he delivers the opening monologue had us in absolute bits.
- That smash cut from Ezekiel at the core of his beloved people to being under a pile of corpses is horrible and perfect.
- Nice to see the show acknowledge the weird fact of ‘walking briskly from the dead will save you’.
- The entire bike chase/fight sequence is great. But that opening shot? With Daryl’s bike getting louder and louder? That’s a HELL YEAH moment right there.
- Three brilliant performances this episode. Khary Payton, Cooper Andrews as Jerry and Whitmer Thomas as the VILE Savior Gunther. What’s especially impressive about Thomas is how unlike any other Savior so far he is. Small, bespectacled, looking more than a little like Jeffrey Dahmer, Gunther is horrid and very memorable.
- ”Thank you, your Majesty.’
- ‘For what?’
- ‘For being such a cool dude.’-JERRY STOP IT OUR FEELINGS. ALL OF OUR FEELINGS, JERRY.
- ‘I decided I wanted to be the one who leapt.’
- ‘I decided. Just like you. But life decided some things too.’
- Nothing. This episode is that good.
And The Random:
- Whitmer Thomas has previously appeared in Tooken, Pound House, Sing It! and many others.
- Cooper Andrews, who plays Jerry, has previously appeared as Yo-Yo Engberk in Halt and Catch Fire, Limitles as Kenny Sumida and many others.
- Amazingly, given how good it is, this is Dan Liu’s first full length directing work. He’s previously worked as an editor on The Walking Dead and Salem, as well Masterclass and beloved around these parts superhero dance show, The LXD.
- David Leslie Johnson has previously written fun horror movie Orphan, Wrath of the Titans and The Conjuring 2 as well as the upcoming sequel.
Review by Alasdair Stuart