So, all recovered from last week’s premiere? No? Me neither! But at least “The Well” provided a little bit of respite from the relentless horror, even if I spent most of the episode cowering behind my hands, waiting for something awful to happen! What has this abusive show done to me? I’m a shell of a person. A SHELL!!
Anyway, while we’re all keenly aware of the losses suffered by Rick and co. at the hands of Negan and The Saviors, Carol and Morgan remain blissfully unaware, and this episode followed them into The Kingdom, a seemingly idyllic settlement ruled by Ezekiel, a self-proclaimed king…with a pet tiger.
At first, I thought Carol was in the grip of a fever dream, surrounded by the dead and people on horseback, seeing the human faces behind each decayed one as her rescuers cut down the walkers. Her waking up in an infirmary with Morgan having been out cold for a few days, suggested her first encounter with King Ezekiel was a continuation of whatever hallucinations she was suffering in the opening scenes. The setting – an old theatre – and the spectacle of Shiva, the tiger, gave the meeting a dream-like quality. Carol herself, seemed to be enjoying whatever medication she was on, but her amusement soon turned to scepticism when she realised Morgan wished to stay in the camp.
For the most part, this episode introduced some new characters who may well be pivotal this season. We saw Morgan bond with a young man as hesitant about killing walkers and committing acts of violence as himself, but it was Carol and Ezekiel’s relationship that took centre stage. Ezekiel saw through Carol’s sweet and innocent act immediately, telling her you can’t “bullshit a bullshitter”, and perhaps gaining her respect in the process. Sensing her need to escape the confines of The Kingdom, Ezekiel leveled with her, explaining he’d been a zookeeper and amateur actor prior to the zombie apocalypse, and assumed the role of king to give the survivors someone to look up to. After the violent biblical parallels of last week’s carnage, the Kingdom was the garden, complete with a choir of angelic voices and abundant pomegranates (thought to be the ‘apple’ which Eve so famously sampled). Carol’s refusal to eat the fruit offered made me wonder if there’s more this seemingly wise and benevolent leader than meets the eye, or whether he simply saw her as another wild animal needing to be tamed.
Indeed, we know he’s keeping the threat posed by The Saviors from the majority of his loyal subjects. The scenes where a small band went to catch pigs, luring them with walker flesh, as payment to Negan’s gang was a creepy counterpoint to a largely peaceful hour. While Ezekiel knows better than to rise up against Negan’s men, he’s been indulging in his own brand of rebellion by feeding them pigs fattened with the rotting flesh of undead humans. Eeew.
Carol took her leave at the close of “The Well”, Morgan finally conceding that he couldn’t keep her around against her will. But proving that old adage ‘if you love something, let it go and for love it will return’, she didn’t stray too far, taking up residence in a cabin on the outskirts of Ezekiel’s domain, close enough for him to swing by and offer her another pomegranate from his bounty. In an episode loaded with symbolism, it seems Carol might be learning to accept the small portions of sweet, even though they’re hard-won and surrounded by bitterness.
A rather slow, ponderous installment, but a welcome oasis in what promises to be a harrowing season…
Final Grade: C
+ The wonderful SFX on Shiva the tiger and the general theatricality of The Kingdom really underscored the comic book roots of what is usually such a gritty series.
+ The introduction of characters such as Blake demonstrated once again how good this show is at making you care about these people very quickly.
+ The choral arrangement of Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was poignant and again reinforced how important music is in this show. Although the soundtrack is always on point, it’s rare that our characters get to hear music within the story (although, they found a Nine Inch Nails tape last season – result!) so moments such as Maggie and Beth singing together are beacons in a world filled with gunshots, ominous groans, and crashing silences.
– While it provided a welcome breather after the trauma of last week, this episode did seem much slower than our usual pace by comparison.
– As much as I love Melissa McBride, sometimes Carol’s obstinance makes me want to throw things as my TV, and the screen was in peril at several points last night. JUST TAKE THE F*CKING FRUIT, WOMAN!
– While the overriding message of this episode was one of hope, I can’t help but feel we’ve been here before. Hershel’s Farm. The Prison. Alexandria. I just hope we’re going to see something slightly different from The Kingdom.
Extra Thought: Is it possible the walker-infected pork is somehow altering the minds of The Saviors in a BSE/CJD style, and making them inhuman and murderous? And if so, will Daryl be able to avoid it during his enforced stay?
What did you think? Did “The Well” slake your thirst, or did it leave you longing for something stronger? Tell us in the comments, or over on Twitter.