Welcome to "The Walking Dead" mishpucha, King Ezekiel.
It's been a full week since Negan's “batting practice” scene during the season seven premiere, and the internet still seems pretty pissed at the show's creators.
It was a plot move that was almost universally panned by critics and fans alike that led to not one but two of the show's more likable characters getting axed from the story.
Top to bottom, the episode had something for everyone to hate -- from how callously two show staples were thrown away to the excessively gory nature in which Glenn and Abraham's deaths were handled.
So, how does AMC possibly follow up? By featuring an episode that acts as if last week's 45-minute bloodbath never happened.
This week's remarkably tame chapter exclusively deals with Carol and Morgan who make their way to The Kingdom, *sigh* another picturesque safe haven in the middle of the zombie apocalypse that seems like a great place on paper but, of course, has one or two deal-breaking flaws (aka, pretty much all the show seems to do at this point).
This town's primary flaw is named King Ezekiel, an eccentric fan favorite from the comic books who acts as mayor/life coach of The Kingdom. He has kick-ass dreads, a beautiful deep voice and a domesticated tiger named Sheva.
It's all pretty badass.
Carol, who wants nothing more than to be back on her lone soldier quest, is an immediate critic of the town's setup.
After receiving medical treatment for a gunshot wound she sustained in episode one, she reams out Morgan for bringing her to another one of these flawed villages, at one point calling the place a “damn circus.”
That is the main conflict of the episode. The Kingdom is a completely fine place to live. It has its own crops, friendly people, a mediocre a cappella group and at least some form of governmental structure.
Morgan wants nothing more than to work in another one of these zombie Kibbutzes, yet Carol can't seem to get out soon enough.
She spends the first half of the episode stealing goods to make her way out while Morgan becomes deeper ingrained in The Kingdom's social structure.
He is quickly recruited by King Ezekiel to go out on runs and eventually takes on the role of training a perspective future leader, Ben.
One of the runs Morgan is a part of involves a transaction between members of The Kingdom and The Saviors -- Negan's group. Earlier in the episode, we watch King Ezekiel round up several pigs and feed them zombies to get their stomachs full of “rot.”
These pigs are then given to The Saviors, who don't know the pigs they made the deal with have been munching on zombie bodies this entire time.
So, there we go. We have our second Kingdom red flag. They're a zen-like anti-violence refuge who are low-key trying to poison The Saviors with zombie pigs, admittedly out of fear they won't win in a fight against Negan's crew.
Eventually, Carol steals enough goods to make her escape but is caught by King Ezekiel. The two have a heart to heart where she outlines her odd zombie hipster POV on the situation.
She thinks the real authentic life experience starts outside of these gates and King Ezekiel is "selling these people a fairytale.”
He calmly responds,
The episode ends with Carol being dropped off at her lonely new home outside of town. She and Morgan have a cute little goodbye where they reminisce about all the times they've tried to kill each other.
Just as she's beginning to settle in, though, King Zeke appears with his tiger and a pomegranate, presumably to try and either figure her out a bit more or to recruit her back to The Kingdom.
All in all, this episode was clearly filler for the show's bigger story. It was a much needed slow-paced palette cleanser from last week's emotional tsunami.
Nobody died, and with the exception of an early scene where Carol imagines certain walkers as the humans they once were, there wasn't much emotional weight to report back about.
There is a lot of heavy lifting for the show's creators in the upcoming weeks. They need to figure out how to differentiate The Kingdom from the four billion other human reserves the crew has fallen into over seven seasons.
They also need a way to win back fan support when we dive back into Rick n' co's storyline after the giant turd they dropped on us last week.
The jury is still out on if they'll ever be able to achieve that at this point.
Final quick thoughts:
1. Tigers are an underrated badass animal sidekick. Obviously the top three are Lion, Bear and The Rock in “The Scorpion King,” but tigers have got to fall in the top 10 somewhere.
2. Seriously, what was up with that a cappella group? I assumed one of the best parts of the apocalypse is a cappella would be dead and gone. Supposedly that's not the case, though. Effing white people.
3. If Carol and King Ezekiel start going out, their celeb couple name would be CarolKing.
4. King Ezekiel's voice is beautiful. Seriously, he reminds me of that homeless guy with the announcer voice the internet was obsessed with a few years ago.
5. This tweet made me furious.
What'd you guys think of the episode?