Originally published on Flickering Myth on 31/10/16.
Well, if you’re somehow still breathing after last week’s emotional purge, The Walking Dead very much gets back to business as usual with episode 2, devoting the whole thing to Carol, Morgan and a whole bunch of much-needed (new) world-building. Yep, comic fans can breathe a sigh of relief, we finally have a big ol’ look at The Kingdom.
‘The Well’ was definitely a lot slower than what we’re used to from the show as of late, particularly with that Negan-shaped time-bomb now very much ticking away in the foreground. To throw the pretty destroyed Rick and co. out of the episode altogether was a bit of a bold move, but there was still plenty of memorable moments despite the stakes being somewhat dramatically lower than last week.
1. Knights In (Not So) Shining Armour
If for whatever reason you can’t remember what happened to fan-favourite Carol at the back-end of season 6 (and we honestly wouldn’t blame you, what with her absence from the whole Negan-bashing extravaganza) she was in a bit of a bad way, narrowly avoiding a deadly encounter with some Saviours, and with a pretty nasty injury to prove it. And it seems that Morgan wasn’t the only kind soul to come to her aid.
Within seconds of ‘The Well’ kicking off, we get a much better look at some soldiers from newbie settlement ‘The Kingdom’, flying in on horseback to rescue Carol from a few pesky walkers. Sporting some dodgy, padded armour and a few blunt axes, they’re not exactly dressed to the nines, but watching them slicing apart the undead medieval-style was certainly something new for the show. They’ve got a long way to go yet, but as a first glimpse of an exciting new form of zombie combat, we’ve got no complaints.
2. Welcome to The Kingdom
Obviously what followed was the usual tour of the latest settlement, and we’ve certainly seen quite a few over the show’s seven seasons. So to make The Kingdom a tad different from the usual ‘abandoned-building-turned-into-a-farm’ vibe, Nicotero and his team pulled out all the stops. After a couple days of sleep, Carol gets a quick glance at the compound before meeting with the eccentric King Ezekiel, a dreadlocked, self-righteous leader who sounds like he’s swallowed a Bible, bringing a whole lot of majesty to every conversation he has. And oh yeah, he has a pet tiger. Expect some serious mangling somewhere down the line.
3. The Saviours Return
Although we had to suffer through a somewhat Negan-less week, his noble bandit brothers The Saviours were still around for a quick exchange, showing off their trade plans and what Rick and the Alexandria crew will no doubt be following soon enough. It might’ve just been a case of Ezekiel and his guards giving a few skinned pigs to some surly-looking inbreds, but the reveal that The Kingdom are already under Negan’s thumb is a pretty neat one, and it certainly opens up the idea of not only Negan’s wide-reaching grasp on the local communities, but also the possibility of an allegiance in the future. I smell a war brewing.
4. Ezekiel Gets Real
Ezekiel’s throne-sitting and theatrical gusto might’ve felt like a bit much at first. Especially considering the stark comparison to what we’re used to on The Walking Dead, which is essentially angry shouting, the occasional sarcastic quip and of course, unending misery. But by the episode’s end Carol manages to break him down to the man he really is underneath, a former amateur actor with a soft-side. His crowning as King and the legends surrounding his abilities are all revealed to be just that: legends made up by a group of broken people who needed a leader to look up to. Ezekiel is just a dude playing a role, much like an actor; which says an awful lot about the show’s leaders in general. Really begs the question if an am-dram with a tiger can lead a kingdom, who the hell was Negan before the world ended?
5. KILL OF THE WEEK: A walker goes faceless
Considering ‘The Well’ was more about world-building than character killing, it was understandably not a particularly great week for violence. But with The Kingdom coming to Carol’s rescue at the very beginning, we did get some pretty decent zombie kills to keep things interesting; the best coming when a solider on horseback swings down an axe and manages to pretty cleanly lop off a walker’s face. Considering a lot of the show’s zombie deaths of late have been more casual, like a simple bullet to the head or a knife in the face, for Nicotero to crack out the practical effects again was a nice touch.
It might not even nearly have come close to besting last week’s brutal premiere, but ‘The Well’ definitely proved that The Walking Dead has plenty of life in it yet, and a whole bunch of big plans on the horizon. And with both Negan and Daryl returning in next week’s ‘The Cell’, there’s plenty more wise-cracks to look forward to.