The Walking Dead S07E02 Recap: 'The Well'

I don't know if there was something that The Walking Dead needed more than an episode like "The Well". Last week's bloody, bleak, gruesome and depressing season premiere was necessary, but probably poorly timed. And it certainly made a lot of people feel uneasy, with many claiming they're finished with the show because of what they referred to as senseless, inexplicable violence that, now more than any episode prior, suddenly went to far. That's an arguable position, and the show's divisive way of paying off the big Negan twist by brutally killing off two beloved characters will certainly be discussed and argued for days, weeks, and months to come, but the subject at hand right now is how big of a contrast the second episode of the season wound up being.

Last week was about breaking Rick and having him come to terms as Negan's bitch, for lack of a better term. He needed to be shown how he had failed his people. This week was about introducing us to someone who had figured his shit out. Ezekiel is the charismatic leader of The Kingdom. He's a self-proclaimed monarch with a pet tiger, gray dreadlocks and a fake British accent, but beyond that esoteric stuff, the only difference between him and Rick is that he didn't mess up his role as the leader. He runs a tight ship, and he keeps his people safe by making hard decisions, keeping secrets and making sacrifices.

The biggest sacrifice is to the Saviors. Like Rick, Morgan and everyone else we already know, he's met Negan's group, but his initial reaction isn't to try and conquer them. Instead he fulfills their demands, gives them what they want, but he does it in secret, shielding his people from the desire to fight back. How he came to the decision that the Saviors were not a group that could be fought is still unknown, but partially justified in how he enlists Morgan to train one of his men with the art of the stick after he proves to be useless with a knife or a gun. Ezekiel is a king, a fighter, a tamer of tigers, but he doesn't have the manpower to take on Negan's army, and he probably doesn't need Negan to make an example out of someone with a bat to prove that.

In fact judgment and wisdom are probably the best qualities that he portrays in the hour that we get to meet him. Not only with the Saviors, but with his entire king schtick. In another move that I appreciate, and ironically a complete 180 from the way they handled the season 6 cliffhanger, Ezekiel has a lengthy conversation with a skeptical Carol towards the end of the episode where he drops the accent and the Shakespearean double speak, and tells her frankly why he acts the way he does and who he really is. Ezekiel isn't a king, or a man who can tame dangerous wild aninals. He's a zookeeper who happened to earn the infatuation of a tiger after he saved Shiva's life. He took her with him after the fall of mankind, but he's perilously aware of how, if Shiva wanted, she could break free of his chains and kill him. He's also regional theater actor who's played a king or two in his day, and he's aware enough of human behavior that he knows that people want to to feel safe and comfortable, and who better to do that than a man who acts larger-than-life and can propagate myths about how he got a tiger to be his pet. He may be pretending, but in that one scene he proves that he may be the realest dude on this show.

And all of that is another way we can compare him to Rick. Rick spent several seasons on this show wearing a sheriff's outfit, all while trying to be a leader. When he shed the outfit, he became something else and never went back. He was still the leader, arguably even a monarch of sorts, but seeing Ezekiel shows us how he may have been missing a piece to the puzzle this entire time.

But who knows if Ezekiel is the leader he seems cracked up to be, or if it truly is all theatrics. After all, we don't have much exposure to his people and how they feel just yet, and much of the episode is from Carol's perspective, who even after that whole speech decides she wants to go live on her own in some random house. And maybe don't get me started on how old Carol's depressed act is starting to get. Morgan seems more open to it, probably because the Kingdom is a positive and enlightening place that appeals to the ideals instilled to him by the Cheesemaker.

At the end of the line, the point of all of this is to show us how, in the middle of a zombie apocalypse where people take pleasure out of eviscerating people with a bat, a dude with a fake king accent and a tiger isn't really all that weird, and possibly even needed. and in any case, it'll be interesting to see how the show handles all of this going forward. At some point, Morgan's going to have to go back to Alexandria and find out what happened to Rick and the gang, and Carol's going to have to find out too. And at some point everyone is going to have to band together and figure out how to defeat the Saviors. Question is how long that might take, and how well the writers will be able to fit all of this together. For now, "The Well" was a refreshing, upbeat episode of The Walking Dead and a much-needed change of pace, and it gets 8 lunch cobblers out of 10.

Notes & Quotes:

  • Khary Payton is not a recognizable actor to me, although he's done a lot of voice work in things I've seen and played, but he immediately fits in to this show despite how different he is, and you can tell he's having a lot of fun playing Ezekiel. I'm really looking forward to seeing him going forward.
  • Let's talk about how amazing Jerry is though. He really brought the episode together.
  • "I forgot to say that Ezekiel has a tiger."