Last Sunday’s episode hella made up for the sub-par, unbearably gruesome season premiere. What made it so unbearable, apart from fan-fave deaths, was likely the lack of control we all felt vicariously through Rick and the gang (mental note: that could be a great band name). The most recent episode gave us back a sense of control with a subtle theme to tie it all up in a nice and neat package. That theme? Contradiction. More on that later in this article.
Warning: SPOILERS, obviously.
Enter King Ezekiel. From all the leaders we’ve seen so far, he is definitely going to be in the hall of fan-faves, along side another newbie, Jerry. From the salt and pepper dreads, to Shiva, to his Shakespearean accent, and the “knights” he has riding on horses decapitating zombies–ermergerd! Unless you absolutely loathe medieval cosplay with a passion, what’s not to like? And hey, he’s also an additional boss ass POC character on the show’s roster.
Now, most fans that have been following this show from the beginning (*raises hand*) were likely attracted to it not just for the great story or the zombies, but the varied philosophies that different people hold on to in a post-apocalyptic world and how those philosophies pan out. More on that in a future article. King Ezekiel’s philosophy is simple: “Drink from the well, replenish the well.” Interestingly enough, while watching this episode on my laptop, I happened upon an ad for this season of TWD where you can hear Negan talking about rules, saying something to the effect of “You work, and then you take,”juxtaposed with images of a military/factory line kind of setup on what looks to be one of Negan’s camps (I can’t seem to find the clip of the ad anywhere on Youtube or the official TWD website for proof of this, and even after watching this episode three times, that same ad never came up again).
The philosophies are incredibly similar, but they are definitely saying two different things–the are equal, but opposite–and they foreshadow what else we might be seeing on this show. I mean, just think about the titles of this episode and the next: ‘The Well’ and ‘The Cell’, respectively. On the one hand you have a thriving society ruled by a beneficent leader. His #1 rule is not even strictly enforced (as evident of how he treated Carol thieving in his garden with no intention of coming back, or replenishing what she took), showing us how merciful he is as a leader. The well is a great metaphor for a society that will perpetually provide in a self-sustaining way. Ezekiel’s motto also implies that fulfilling one’s needs come first, and then the repayment. There is a sense of humanity in this philosophy. On the other hand, Negan’s motto is pretty explicit that you must work for your needs to be fulfilled, nothing is free, nothing is given. The cell is a metaphor for a society of captives under authoritarian rule where everyone must stay in line, and rules are strictly enforced, punishments are swiftly dealt. It will be interesting to see Negans backstory and how it plays into his leadership philosophy, how this makes his society so vastly different from Ezekiel’s.
In addition to the contending philosophies of some major character on this show, my personal favorite thing about TWD is how there is always a theme to tie in all parts of each show. Almost nothing is superfluous, every word and action has a purpose in the grand scheme of things. King Ezekiel asks Carol to have some fruit, then specifically points out the pomegranate. Carol turns down the king’s offer saying it is too much trouble to get to the fruit itself, and the King remarks that indeed the fruit is sweet, but it is surrounded by a bitter peel, a contradiction. Any other fruit could have been used to symbolize the same idea of a contradiction, but here the pomegranate is specifically used. If you think about what a pomegranate looks like on the inside, with the intricate web of bitterness surrounding each colony of seeds, it becomes obvious that this fruit, and the idea of contradiction, is being used a tool to describe the very society the King has founded. His colony is a fantasy world compared to the dangers that lay outside his kingdom. It is a contradiction in the post-zombie-apocalypse.
What is also a contradiction, is that even thought Carol is in the safety of this glorious society, she is itching to go back out into danger because for her, that is the real world. She’s been in danger for so long, that there is no other life for her apart from one where she must always be fleeing, always ready to fight–by the way, she has come a long way from the docile creature who let herself get beaten up by her husband (S1). Morgan is dealing with his own spiritual contradictions. As someone who professes and practices strict pacifism, he just killed a man to save his friend’s life and it is eating him inside. When the King asks him to take a student under his wing, to teach him skills with a less fatal weapon, Morgan is clearly so hesitant to teach the art that saved him from his insanity/trigger happy days. He feels like a hypocrite. But he also knows he did what he had to or else he risked a friend being killed instead. During his talk with his protege, he realizes that he can’t just strictly go by the book, that he needs to make his own path.
Another contradiction in this episode is Ezekiel’s political secret. Like a noble politician, he is not proud of the secret. Although the kingdom is a place of all things good, the King must do malicious things to keep it that way. From what we see in the episode so far, and what we saw last season with Jesus’ colony, it seems that Negan’s men are coercing the King into providing livestock in return for not killing his people/taking over his village perhaps? The catch, Ezekiel and his men are cheating by fattening up the pigs on walker guts. It is so disgusting, and unlike the King and everything good he represents. Even if the pigs are going to a foul group of people, it is a contradiction of his character, and there is no way this isn’t going to come back to him.
Lastly, during the end of the show, Ezekiel asks Carol that if she’s going to leave, she should “go, but don’t go”. I know this probably confused the crap out of everyone, because that is not only a contradiction, but it is physically impossible unless he’s expecting her to be be a quantum particle in Schrödinger’s theory. At the very end, his statement becomes a little clearer. Even tho Carol leaves the boundary of the kingdom, she is still in his inner most circle, because she’s the only person (as far as we know) who he has revealed his true identity to and that is a very personal thing. Even Morgan, who is in King’s inner circle with regards to his political secret, does not know the King’s true identity. So we definitely see how, even though she gets to leave the fantasy world of the kingdom, she doesn’t have to leave his heart. She gets to go, but not go. For all intents and purposes, I think this is a platonic relationship.
Speaking of inner circles. I think keeping Morgan and Carol close to him will be important to the plot of the show, and the character development we know has to happen between these two. Morgan is not going anywhere any time soon. In the beginning of the episode we see him make a notch in a mailbox post and life up the handle as if he is going to need to find his way back as soon as Carol is healed and be off to find their group. But at the end of the episode when he drops off Carol to the same house just outside the perimeter of the kingdom, he sets the handle of the mailbox now, as if to say ‘I guess I’m staying’. Last season, after Morgan’s encounter with his savior in “Here’s not Here,” he vowed to pacifism and he and Carol (who wants to kill anything in her way) go head to head with their ideals driving them to hurt each other on an emotional level. Maybe Ezekiel will tie together the need for both Carol and Morgan and show them both that neither can live without either ideal.
Clearly this episode spelled a lot for what is to come and I loved every second of it. About the only thing I disliked about the episode was probably how quickly the facade of the great King was torn from us. Yes, we were all dying to know his origin story, but the whole real life Black king in a post-Apocalyptic fantasy society could have dragged on a little longer in my opinion. There was a clear allusion of forbidden fruit/fall from grace in this scene taken from the Abrahamic faiths. Carol is ready to escape but it is grabbing the fruit from the tree that triggers the King to reveal himself to be just a humble zookeeper.
Anyway, those are my thoughts. Thanks for reading. I would love to hear from any other fans out there. If you like my articles, please hit the like button and subscribe to my page for more content!