We will lose not one of our ranks. Not one — Ezekiel, 8.03 “Monsters”
This is something King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) said multiple times in last week’s episode, and from the repetition alone, you just know their mission is going to end very badly. And, it does. In the final moments of the episode, the group is ambushed by snipers at the outpost they had just attacked, with everyone’s fates — including Ezekiel’s — left up in the air. Tonight’s episode is devoted almost entirely to the aftermath of this attack, and well, all I can say is the carnage is so horrific that the above quote becomes like the butt of a really bad joke.
THE “LUCILLE” MOMENT FOR EZEKIEL AND THE KINGDOM
As is depicted in one of the Sneak Peeks, the episode opens with a series of flashbacks at the Kingdom right before the group leaves for the mission. While he’s alone, Ezekiel is calm and collected, but he’s definitely not smiling and boasting of confidence like we saw last week when he was addressing his people. Much like we’ve seen with Rick, Ezekiel is ready to lead and go to war, but at the same time, there’s a tad bit of fear in his eyes. We are then taken to the other people of the Kingdom preparing to leave for battle. Mothers kissing their children good-bye. Fathers embracing their wives and families. Children saying their goodbye’s to their parents. Also, pay particular attention to the music. The score used in the opening is very somber and conjures feelings of sadness and loss, a stark contrast to the uplifting battle-cry speeches from last week. In general, the scenes feel very ominous, and it solidifies our fears that the attack from last week isn’t going to end very well for these people. Then, fast-forward back to present day, and we’re taken to the moments right after the ambush.
Well, however you thought it might play out, just imagine it 10X worse. 100X worse!! When we finally are able to see the full aftermath of the attack, the scene just makes your stomach turn. From what we can tell, the folks from the Kingdom — ALL dead. Bodies are scattered everywhere, some missing limbs and others with gigantic holes from the gunshot blasts. It seems pretty clear that this outpost is the one with the high-powered assault rifles that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was looking for. After getting past the initial shock from all the carnage and the fact that there doesn’t appear to be any survivors, you may be like me and have that big “Holy crap!” moment — what about King Ekekiel??!! Surely to God HE can’t be dead! Then, a single hand extends from the heap of bodies of the Kingdommers who had rushed to protect him. Yes!!! The King lives! But, for King Ezekiel, that may not necessarily be a good thing, as Your Majesty will be wishing himself dead soon enough.
First, while Ezekiel may be alive, he has been shot in the leg, and so, he can’t even stand. Then, the sheer horror and pain he endures as he navigates to one body, then another, then another, and realizing that nearly his entire army has perished. He assured these people they’d be victorious, that their lives would be better, and now, they’re all dead. Then, to top it off, his soldiers begin reanimating. And, that’s a pretty shitty situation given Ezekiel can’t walk, has a single bullet left in his only firearm, and can only try crawling away as best he can. You know, some may say this is a defining moment for Ezekiel, a moment of justice where he’s devoured by the followers he swore to protect. So, for a minute, I actually thought this may be the end of our King, but as it turns out, it’s not Ezekiel’s time. It seems that not everyone from Ezekiel’s party perished, and Alvaro (Carlos Navarro) finally emerges and saves the King from the onslaught of walkers.
However, Ezekiel’s luck doesn’t improve, and in just a matter of minutes, Alvaro is shot dead by some nerdy-ass Savior with big glasses, who probably was the President of the high school Math Club back in the day. If not that, then perhaps a Jeffrey Dahmer wannabe. However, while this guy may appear scrawny and benign, he’s a real prick and is nothing short of a sadistic asshole to the injured Ezekiel. Besides doing things like stepping on Ezekiel’s injured leg, he also taunts him about all of the people he got killed, all because they actually believed he was a real “King.” In many ways, this is much worse and is very hard to watch.
I will not let you use me to hurt my people — Ezekiel
Your people? You mean all those sheep you rooked into thinking you were a King? Yeah, I heard your story. We all did. Worked in the circus?
No — Ezekiel
I thought maybe the circus, but then, they don’t treat animals very nice in the circus. And, that cat just loves you. I got to hand it to you, you played your cards good. You played your people good. Hell, look at that. You got them all killed, and they’re still following you. Take away that tiger, what’s left? Just a meaningless con-man in a costume.
Damn. Slowly, bit by bit, little by little, this little Savior shit is chipping away at Ezekiel’s hope for the future, at Ezekiel’s very identity, which while may seem comical at times with all the theatrics, it did keep his people going. It gave them hope. It made them forget about the horrors of the apocalypse outside of those walls. Also, as we will find out later in the episode, the scene is quite foreboding with the mention of taking away Shiva.
The good news is this big mouth with the big glasses isn’t alive for much longer. He and Ezekiel finally come up on the fence surrounding the outpost buildings, and one soldier from the Kingdom whom we may have counted out and presumed dead emerges at the very moment when it matters the most. Jerry!! (Cooper Andrews) Besides just rejoicing that one of the most beloved new characters in the series is still alive, we also get one of the most gruesome (but cool!) death scenes. Ever wondered what a cross-section of a human looks like? Well, we find out tonight when Jerry slices that asshole Savior right in two! Yes, ewwwwww, but yes, so cool!
However, don’t celebrate just yet because it’s far from over. The horde of reanimated soldiers from the Kingdom are closing in on Jerry and Ezekiel, and they’re backed up and pretty much trapped against that fence. To make matters worse, Jerry breaks his battle axe by trying to pry open the lock and chain on the gate of the fence (and Jerry’s hilarious “Shitballs” response is EPIC!). Bottom line — they’re f*cked. Unless nothing short of a miracle happens. Well, that miracle does come, and her name happens to be Carol. Stay tuned for more on that.
CAROL EMERGES AS THE HERO OF THIS SHIT SHOW
As you probably guessed from another Sneak Peek released by AMC, Carol (Melissa McBride) figures prominently in the episode. She is the one character who had separated from the group to do recon before the big sniper attack, and yes, she does cross paths with the shooters. Remember Carol’s big attack on Terminus in the season 5 opener? If so, this should all be familiar. Should we be worried for Carol? Lord, is that even a real question? Of course, we shouldn’t be worried! The woman’s a beast, and takes care of herself quite well, thank you. Although she does have to resort to pulling the old “poor, poor, helpless Carol” routine like she did back in season 6, and the Saviors are actually stupid enough to fall for it again. No, really, by the end of the hour, Carol does emerge as one of the big heroes of the episode, and Ezekiel is very lucky to have her on his team.
Through her “poor, poor Carol” ruse, Carol is able to get to the button that opens the main gate of the outpost. And with the gate now open, the flood of walkers enters the courtyard and basically does the job of taking out the remaining Saviors for her. Carol’s also smart enough to grab the keys from one of the dead Saviors, and in a few moments, we’ll see just how important that decision turns out to be. Nearly all of the Saviors at the outpost have been shot or devoured by the horde, and there’s only 2 remaining. Carol could have easily taken the remaining two out — but then, she sees Jerry and Ezekiel struggling along the fence. She thinks. She hesitates. She looks at the Saviors. She looks back at Ezekiel and Jerry. In the end, her compassion prevails, and she runs to assist her comrades.
While Carol is saving Jerry and Ezekiel, the two Saviors make a run for it and take off in a jeep. So, does this mean they’ve lost the fight for those guns, and this was all for nothing? Not necessarily because as they’re driving away, Carol says, “They’ll never make it to the Sanctuary.” It seems that Rick and Daryl (Norman Reedus) had been waiting for them and begins pursuing. Both take fire from the Saviors, and Daryl is even forced to lay down his bike (I can still hear the screams from all the fangirls thinking Daryl is actually dead in this scene!). But, in the end, they’re able to run the jeep off the road and kill the last 2 remaining Saviors.
We got the guns — Rick
You look like shit — Daryl
Well, with the retrieval of the guns, at least one thing does go right in this massive shitshow. This little exchange between Rick and Daryl is also the only comic relief in what proves to be one of the darkest episodes of the entire series.
A TEARFUL GOOD-BYE AND A VERY BROKEN KING EZEKIEL
With the death of his entire party except for Jerry and Carol, you would think that Ezekiel’s day couldn’t possibly get worse. But, remember Shiva is still out there, and Alvaro had said she hadn’t been seen since the start of the ambush. For those who are fans of the comics, you probably know what’s coming. In the comic book series, Ezekiel is surrounded by walkers, and in a selfless move to save her master, Shiva sacrifices herself. Well, here we are with Ezekiel in a strikingly similar situation. Carol had rescued Jerry and Ezekiel, but because they’re moving slowly due to Ezekiel’s injured leg, the horde is slowing catching up with them. Ezekiel pleas with them both to leave him behind, but Carol dismisses such an idea and says, “Nope. You don’t get to do that.” By now, the writing is definitely on the wall on what is about to happen, and then, we’re taken to the final flashback of the episode where Ezekiel tells Carol the story of how he met Shiva for the very first time. This scene pretty much seals Shiva’s fate. If you haven’t already, better get those tissues ready.
I was a zookeeper. I was meek. Those weekend matinees, those nights. Then, at work a 500-lb tiger needed my help. And as she bled, I didn’t just leap into her enclosure. I wasn’t seized by any deep-seated instinct. There were only a few seconds that passed, but I deliberated. I thought about doing it. Weighing the risks of approaching such a beast. And, I thought about not doing it. I stood there considering who’d I be in either iteration. And, I decided I wanted to be the one who lept. So many years later, Benjamin was the one who told me what I already knew but couldn’t hear. If you’re asked to be the hero, be the hero — Ezekiel
What a fantastic story, albeit a very sad one considering how it fits into tonight’s episode. So many years ago, Ezekiel had saved Shiva’s life, and she’s been by his side since then. And, now, with Ezekiel’s life hanging in the balance, she returns the favor. “If you’re asked to be the hero, be the hero”, and so, Shiva is. Rest in peace, Shiva, my sweet girl! It’s OK — everyone can cry now because I certainly am! Shiva may have been only a tiger (and not a real one at that, but a CGI version), but my guess is her death will ultimately be one of the most memorable — and most painful — of the entire series.
The episode ends back where it all began — at the gates of the Kingdom with Ezekiel, Carol, and Jerry returning alone, bloodied and beaten. All of the women and children — including Benjamin’s little brother, Henry — rush to greet them, and in a sharp contrast to the confident Ezekiel in the opening flashbacks, Ezekiel is broken, is defeated and can’t even address his people. Of all the horrific scenes in this dark episode, this one, by far, is the hardest one to watch. As the old saying goes, the higher you put a person up on a pedestal, the further they have to fall. And, unfortunately, Ezekiel has hit rock bottom. The only question is can he rebound and come back from this.
All in all, I thought this was a fantastic episode, and in fact, I give it an “A+” rating, which I haven’t done for a Walking Dead episode since the season 7 premiere. As some of you may know, I wasn’t much of a fan of last week’s episode with the abrupt killing of Morales only 10 minutes after bringing him back, and I’m very glad to see the show come roaring back in terms of quality. While the massive ambush on Ezekiel’s group was so predictable it could have slapped us all in the face, that ultimately is a minor detail in my opinion, and the story of the aftermath and the remaining characters’ struggle for survival against all odds is what makes this episode shine. From what we’ve seen of the Kingdom thus far, they really haven’t experienced much loss, at least not recently. The only exception is the death of Benjamin last season, and the resulting murder of Richard by Morgan. So, compared to Rick and Alexandria who have lost so much at the hand of the Saviors, it’s easy for Ezekiel to give big speeches and make big promises — until it’s all taken away. Rick literally hit rock bottom when Negan killed Glenn and Abraham, and while it did take a great deal of time and the support of people like Michonne and Carl, he eventually rebounded and decided to continue to fight.
Well, now, the tables have turned, and Ezekiel has experienced his own “Lucille” moment with the result being very familiar. Just like Rick, Ezekiel is broken, is defeated, very similar to a Napoleon meeting his Waterloo. The one big difference is Ezekiel hasn’t raised that white flag just yet. While the situation at the Kingdom may seem grim with most of the able-bodied fighters now dead, it’s not over. Remember, Shiva died tonight so that Ezekiel could live, and rolling over and surrounding would make her death be in vain. I have no doubt after the pain subsides, after all of the anger subsides, Ezekiel will ultimately see that too.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A+
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com