I imagine it’s hard for many to progress with and process The Walking Dead after watching Negan bash Glenn and Abraham to death. But it’s time to put Rick and friends on hold so we can find out what happened with Carol and Morgan after “Last Day on Earth.” And it involves a man and his tiger.
It makes sense in context. This is “The Well.”
The episode begins with Carol and Morgan being led by their two new companions. As Morgan makes marks on the trees, Carol continues to rest on the carriage. Soon, Morgan and the two armored men fend off walkers. Carol, though, becomes frightened at the sight of walkers and heads for the woods.
As she passes a house, other folks arrive on horseback and eliminate the walkers with ease. Carol, though, sees not walkers being killed, but humans. Morgan continues to make markings on the way to guide a path for those who may follow behind.
Carol later awakens, now bandaged, and learns from Morgan that she’s been asleep for about two days. Morgan takes her around this new community and tells her that they’ll be sticking around until they’re ready to leave, which could be at least a week. As for this community? Folks call it The Kingdom. Carol worries if Morgan told the members about where they’re from, but Morgan wasn’t specific.
Anyway, Morgan is taking Carol to meet the group’s leader, who calls himself King Ezekiel. As Morgan wheels Carol into an auditorium, we meet him.
Sitting on a throne with his tiger, named Shiva, at his side, is King Ezekiel, played by Khary Payton. Ezekiel feels his tiger’s concern since neither of them have met Carol, but if she’s a friend of Morgan, then both are a friend of the realm. Ezekiel formally introduces Carol to The Kingdom.
Carol remains silent. Ezekiel senses her skepticism, so he asks what she thinks of the Kingdom. Carol finds it all amazing, as she has no idea what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way. Ezekiel encourages those who come to the community to enjoy it for as long as they like, as long as they contribute.
Drink from the well and replenish it in return. Ezekiel’s right hand man, Jerry, played by Cooper Andrews, offers Carol some fruit, but she refuses. Not even a pomegranate.
But all Carol would like is some rest and a hairbrush. With that, Morgan wheels Carol out. Naturally, Carol is skeptical. She calls the place make-believe and refuses to stay. She’ll wait, and when Morgan isn’t there, she’ll leave. And the decision isn’t up to him. Morgan knows what he’s started, but he won’t let Carol die. But to Carol, it doesn’t matter what Morgan does.
Ezekiel brings Morgan along to accompany him and some Kingdom followers out for work. The group herds some pigs into a room with a tied-up walker, which Morgan finds problematic. This is to fill the pigs up with rot. The group takes care of some approaching walkers, with Ezekiel delivering the final blow since Benjamin, played by Logan Miller, can’t bring himself to do it.
They tell Morgan that the folks back home don’t need to know any of this, whether it’s pigs eating the dead or anything else. As Morgan spots another caravan heading off, he’s only told that they’re going somewhere else.
Now there’s a reason that the pigs are feasting on a walker, but we’ll get to that later.
Ezekiel compliments Morgan’s skill with his staff and asks where he learned. The two talk, with Ezekiel talking of pessimists and optimists. The realist, though, looks look forward. He thinks that Benjamin’s path needs adjustment since he’s not good with munitions or blades, so hopefully Morgan can train him.
Morgan tells Ezekiel that the man he shot to save Carol wasn’t killed by the staff. True enough, but it has saved Morgan. Ezekiel is confident that Benjamin will become a vital member of his court, but he needs to be trained and survive. Morgan soon agrees. The Kingdom is favored by Morgan’s presence, apparently.
As life in The Kingdom continues, Carol remains skeptical. While Morgan trains Benjamin, Carol wheels herself around and grabs a blade. Later, she talks with one of the community members about different kinds of cobblers. Did you know that there’s lunch cobbler? Carol still finds it all hilarious. Lunch cobbler is hilarious.
Benjamin asks Morgan about his philosophy book and asks if he can borrow it since he’s read every book in the community. Ezekiel approaches and tells the two men to follow him for an important matter.
Ezekiel later tells Morgan that the secrets he keeps from the community are also burdens. And we learn just why the pigs feed on walkers, as the Kingdom folks are joined by a group of Saviors who are ready to pick up their eight, well fed hogs that totally didn’t just feast on a walker. Ezekiel, you sly son of a bitch.
One of the Saviors picks a fight with one of the Kingdom members, Richard, played by Karl Makinen. A fight breaks out, but Ezekiel orders his troops to lower their weapons. This is not how they act. So the Savior gets in a few free shots at Richard.
But the leader of this small Savior group orders his man to stop, saying that the Kingdom has been good to the Saviors. Ezekiel tells Richard that they will discuss this later. The Saviors will be back in seven days for produce week.
If they don’t deliver, Richard will come first. Morgan tells Ezekiel that the man he killed was also a Savior. He then asks if he’s been brought to the Kingdom because he can kill Saviors again, but Ezekiel says that isn’t why he’s here. In fact, it’s the opposite.
Later, Benjamin reminds a kid, Dutch, to clean his plate before he goes off for Movie Night. When Dutch leaves, Benjamin admits to Morgan that he doesn’t what he’s doing raising him.
Ezekiel was close with Benjamin’s father, who was one of the Kingdom’s best fighters. One year ago, Ezekiel sent some members to clear out a building, but there wasn’t enough backup. Eight men didn’t make it out, and Benjamin’s father was one of them.
But Ezekiel is much more careful now. He told Benjamin that he’s keeping his deal with the Saviors quiet because he thinks that people will want to fight. That’s a fight the Kingdom would lose and Ezekiel doesn’t want to lose any more people. Morgan wonders if the community shouldn’t fight. Benjamin asks about a hand-written inscription in the book- not written by him, though.
It’s not about what Morgan thinks, though. People can set you in the right direction, but they can’t show you the way. You have to figure that out for yourself. Morgan thought that he had it, but he didn’t. Sometimes, we change our minds, and right now, Morgan is fumbling. Anyway, Morgan heads off to talk with Carol.
But when Morgan goes to check on Carol, he finds the room empty.
That night, Carol picks some fruit when Ezekiel spots her. He had the area re-purposed into a garden and it’s his favorite place in the Kingdom. He’s glad that she’s seen the area before she chooses to leave. Carol apologizes, but she feels that she’s no good here. Ezekiel excuses Jerry, who overstays his welcome, and reminds Carol to not bullshit a bullshitter.
He sees right through Carol’s sweet and innocent act- it even worked on him for a bit. She blends in and get people to trust her, and then she leaves, as if she wasn’t there. It turns out that Carol’s guns in her pack belong to The Saviors. Though she won her fight with them, she remains skeptical of the Kingdom, as she calls it and Ezekiel one big joke. Outside is real.
Carol thought she could just be, but in her mind, Ezekiel is selling people a fairy tale. Ezekiel takes a seat next to her and tells her that people want someone to follow. It’s human nature that people want someone to make them feel safe. If they see a man with a tiger, people star to tell stories about how he wrestled it into submission and turned it into his pet.
So yeah, Ezekiel became something larger than life. Who was he to burst people’s bubble? Next thing he knew, people treated him like royalty. So Ezekiel gave the people someone to follow and faked it until he made it. He was just a damn zookeeper.
One day, Shiva fell into a concrete moat and her leg was ripped open. She would have bled out. Ezekiel knew the risk, but he had to try, so he wrapped his shirt around her leg and saved her life. After that, she never showed as much as a toot in his direction. Keeping a tiger isn’t practical, though, yes. Ezekiel has lost a lot, just like everyone else.
When the world went to shit, Shiva was one of the remaining animals at the zoo- trapped and alone, just like him. She was the last thing in this world that Ezekiel loved and she protected him. She ended up making him larger than life. Ezekiel also used to act in community theater. At the very least, Ezekiel is his real name. But he does want Carol to keep all this to herself for the sake of the community…and a little bit for himself.
And yet, Carol doesn’t care. Ezekiel can do what he wants, but she wants to leave. As Carol leaves, Ezekiel apologizes for whatever shit she’s been through. There’s far too much of it out there. It can feel even worse when you’re alone. The thing is, though, it’s not all bad. It isn’t. Life isn’t, and where there’s life, there’s hope, heroism, grace, and love.
Carol may be walking around lost, but Ezekiel found a way to deal with all the bad shit. He embraced the contradiction and, yes, went overboard. Carol could do the same- she could leave and not leave. Crazy as Ezekiel sounds, he’s willing to help if Carol lets him. Why does Ezekiel even care? It makes him feel good. He then offers Carol to help her if she is indeed leaving.
The next day, Morgan escorts Carol to a house just outside the walls of the Kingdom- the same house we saw earlier in the episode. Morgan admits that the decision should have always been up to him and calls Carol his favorite person that he’s ever knocked out. Well, that’s high praise. The two bid each other a sort-of farewell. As Morgan leaves, Carol enters the home and kills the walker. She later buries it in the yard.
Later, she tends to a fire when there’s a knock at the door. It’s Ezekiel and Shiva, with Ezekiel insisting that Carol try one of the pomegranate.
Remember how, right after the very serious “No Way Out,” we got the fun and comedic adventures of “The Next World” where Rick and Daryl engaged in a comedy of errors while chasing down Jesus? And how that episode ended with Jesus confronting Rick and Michonne, who were ready to fight him completely naked?
“The Well” is that kind of light-hearted fun in the aftermath of Negan showing Rick and the others that he means business. It opens up the world of The Walking Dead and introduces viewers to another community, but reminded us of the seriousness of dealing with the Saviors. It was fun when it needed to be, but also serious when the situations called for it.
We aren’t given a clear indication of when this episode takes place compared to the previous one, but given the timeline of “Last Day on Earth,” I’m thinking that Carol and Morgan must arrive and spend their first day at the Kingdom around the same time that Rick and company are captured by Negan. That’s my best guess, anyway.
In addition, the presence of Saviors could either be other members that came from the Sanctuary, or these could be part of the group that captured the survivors. They could have just gone to the Kingdom after leaving Rick’s group. Even if not spelled out, it’s an interesting juxtaposition to have Morgan and Carol living in this supposedly carefree community while their friends have been brought to a low point by Negan.
And even though he himself is not here, Negan’s presence is still felt by Saviors arriving to collect their tribute. On the Saviors for a second, they seem to have established some kind of rapport with the Kingdom to the point that the leader of the group tries to avoid a fight. Little do they know that they’re being fed poisoned pigs, which, I’ll admit, is a pretty damn clever plan, even if it doesn’t work in the short or long term.
I’ll get to the inhabitants of the Kingdom in a second, but as for Carol, I’m mixed on her at the moment. I like that she keeps up the innocent act so she can, as Ezekiel pointed out, blend in, and it shows how wary she remains of something that looks too good to be true. Given what the group has seen and endured from other communities so far, I can’t say that I blame her.
But while Alexandria felt like a safe haven, the Kingdom is too good to be real. A thriving, seemingly carefree community ruled by a man with a tiger? Lunch cobbler? A choir? Yeah, it does smell like bullshit. Unlike Rick, though, Carol doesn’t just come off as antagonistic or go up and punch a stranger in the face. She is, in fact, the alert Mama Bear, and despite her condition, she doesn’t drop her defenses.
By episode’s end, she seems to have warmed to Ezekiel after he gets straight with her, but this is where I don’t know what to expect from Carol. At the start, she still appears out of it. I can’t tell whether she’s snapped out of her desire to die or if she’s still against killing. At least, killing the living, since she took care of the walker in the home. But is she back to normal or still hiding something? Time will tell.
Morgan has come a long way since Eastman’s teachings due to spending time with Carol. He doesn’t want to kill, but realizes more than ever that when put in a dangerous situation, he may not have a choice. As the world continues to change, so does he, and hopefully this means he’s becoming someone more willing to kill instead of neutralize when he’s threatened. His outlook on life is changing for the better when it comes to survival.
While Eastman showed Morgan a better direction, he’s been finding the way himself, and I believe that he’s learned from his mistakes. Him letting the Wolves escape is what led to them almost killing Rick. And allowing the Wolf leader led to him taking Denise hostage. But when put in a situation where Carol almost died, Morgan made the ultimate choice. His staff has saved his life many times, but it was the gun that saved Carol’s.
I think Morgan connects more with the people of the Kingdom than the folks in Alexandria. Under Rick’s rule, the people of Alexandria must be ready to fight. But the people of the Kingdom, while they may have a desire to fight, don’t necessarily want to, more so if the odds are high that they would lose. I look forward to seeing how Morgan will mentor Benjamin.
The Kingdom itself is what the Alexandria Safe Zone wishes it could be. Even if unprepared, the inhabitants are ready to fight. More than that, they’re well aware of the dangers from both walkers and other people like the Saviors. And while Deanna was interested in community building, Ezekiel, though putting on an act, gives off the vibe of a capable leader willing to lead his people into battle.
And chalk this up to The Walking Dead once again nailing a casting. Khary Payton makes a great first impression as Ezekiel. He walks and speaks with an air of confidence, but not arrogance. He participates in hunts and dealings with other communities, can handle himself when dealing with walkers, and has given the people of the Kingdom someone they can trust.
He’s active in training his followers and is very welcoming to Carol and Morgan, but despite how kind he appears, Ezekiel is no fool. And I like how he sees right through Carol’s bullshit. This isn’t a role that Ezekiel wanted. But when an urban legend gets out of hand, in a world where hope seems lost, what choice is there but to embrace the fantasy and restore optimism to survivors?
Hearing Ezekiel’s backstory helps humanize and makes him very relatable because, just like Carol, he’s wearing a mask. Behind that bravado and tiger is a man who was just a zookeeper and community theater actor. He didn’t tame Shiva- just loved her. And while this humanizes Ezekiel, it also allows him to gain some of Carol’s trust, as she was ready to walk away from the Kingdom.
I don’t know yet where the show will take these two. Is the show setting them up for a relationship of sorts? It’s too soon to tell, but since Michonne is currently with Rick, it doesn’t look like she’ll follow her comic counterpart and enter a relationship with Ezekiel. At least, not yet. Again, there’s not much to go off of yet, but there seems to be something there
“The Well” is solid, light-hearted episode that opens up the world of The Walking Dead even more through the introduction of Ezekiel and the Kingdom, progressed Morgan and Carol’s character development, and showed that despite the likes of the Saviors terrorizing and antagonizing other communities, the Kingdom is a sign that there’s still hope in the world. Ezekiel had a strong debut and I can’t wait to see more of him.