[Spoiler alert: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8, episode 4, titled "Some Guy." Turn back if you haven't watched the episode yet.]
At last. In a move we begged for at the beginning of The Walking Dead Season 8, Sunday night’s episode, “Some Guy,” focused on Khary Payton’s King Ezekiel, likely giving us our last look at the King and his noble fairy tales. Not at Ezekiel himself. At the larger-than-life, flowery-language-lovin', tiger-taming (Ack! Shiva!) myth he assumed to give his followers hope and motivation in a pretty hopeless world.
We began with just a guy. We end with just a guy. And the episode was a fine one. We mostly stayed in a single location. We focused on just two compelling characters—Ezekiel and Carol—and we genuinely cared what happened to both and why. After all the jumping around and relentless gunfire of Season 8’s first three episodes, viewers finally got a good, long look at who these people are and what their evolution (devolution?) might mean to the days ahead. And though it was heartrending, that sure felt good.
We start out at the Kingdom the morning that the All Out War plan will be put into place. Alone, a somber Ezekiel shaves, oils his dreads, looks down as his fighters bid husbands, wives, parents, kids goodbye.
Outside, Shiva is brought forward as her master offers up a yet another rousing “and yet I smile” talk (and yet Carol doesn’t smile), after which his followers form a tight circle to lay hands upon him.
In a bang-up bit of editing, the shot is instantly replaced by another that somehow mirrors it, of Kingdomers protecting their king. Only this time, they are dead, victims of the gruesome carnage that ended last episode.
Disembodied arms and legs and chunks of flesh litter the field, along with horribly wounded corpses. From that pile of literal dead soldiers emerges a hand. Ezekiel’s. His men and women indeed saved him, though his leg is pretty shot up.
What have we been saying about wasting ammo? As the King’s own undead ranks come after him, he tries to find a weapon workable for a cane or, well, you know, weapon, and find most of them useless [How heartbreaking was the shot of the young, ruined mom’s arm raising, the flowers her son gave her still morning fresh in her armband?]. Ezekiel’s face is a mask of horror and terror—without an ounce of bravery. He has no idea how he’s going to get out of this one and it shows.
But we have another survivor—Alvaro, the facial-haired fellow who hugged his dad farewell. He begins walking the king to safety, despite Ezekiel’s protests that Alvaro shouldn’t endanger himself for the sake of a badly wounded King. "Your majesty, I have to," Alvaro protests. Structure, purpose, reason, loyalty—things that can get a soul through when times are lean and mean.
We have one more survivor. Carol, who somehow made it inside the building from which the disastrous hail of gunfire came. Amid nice little horror-movie touches—dripping water, sickly lighting, flickering lights—she creeps up on the men who mowed down the Kingdom fighters and are now packing up the arsenal, egged on by a bellowing fat guy. She wants their guns, but she also wants their intel.
Then she mows them down in a nice, efficient line.
Back outside, the king asks after Shiva, but Alvaro hasn’t seen the cat since the gunfire began. Then he face-plants, shot through the head. A young fellow approaches Ezekiel, guns drawn. For all intents and purposes, he’s Savior Ace Ventura—a young Jim Carrey lookalike with Ace’s fashion sense and penchant for bold proclamations. He wants the king, his sword and for them to get a move on right this minute. [If Shiva doesn’t emerge to save dad right now, I’m going to be so disappointed. ... .... I’m disappointed.]
The king tries to explain that the Sanctuary is overrun by the undead and it’s pointless to go there, but Ace says well then, they will just have to secure more guns to remedy that sitchy-ation.
The guy is pretty lippy given his, I dunno, him-ness. He keeps up an endless monologue about the King’s con and how even thought he got his followers killed, they’re still following him. It sort of works.
“Take away that tiger and what’s left? Just some meaningless con man in a costume,” Ace chides. Ezekiel promptly hits the deck and says he’d rather let the herd take him than be a part of whatever the guy intends (and, perhaps, also having to deal with the possibility that the guy is right on all accounts). Ace stamps E’s owie and makes him get up so he can take his prize to Negan.
[If Shiva doesn’t spring from the bushes and save her dad now, I’m going to be so disappointed. ... ... I’m disappointed.]
Back outside, and armed with the information about where the guns really are, Carol has homed in on more live Saviors and has a pretty clean shot at all—but she listens as they talk about having more than enough ammo to take back the Sanctuary and holds her fire. Not for long, though.
In one of those gun battles that would make me flat out mental, were it not for the fact that if Carol dies I riot, she fires on the Saviors, then cowers behind the wheel well of a little pickup as they empty their guns into the vehicle, but somehow don’t deal her a single ding or shrapnel wound.
Ezekiel, meanwhile, takes a literal stab at hobbling his captor, but that doesn’t go well, either. The guy just uses blood to give E some war paint and chides him for delusions of grandeur. Then he has a little fence trouble. Realizing that the lock and chain aren’t going to give, Ace reveals that the reason Negan wants the King, Maggie and Rick brought back alive is because he also wants them as the all-star team among Eugene’s fence walkers. But, Ace figures, the King’s head on a pike should also do nicely. He takes aim with the King’s own sword, the King looks heavenward … and a bellowing Jerry splits Ace in two. Gross! Awesome! Awesomely gross!
Jerry goes back to trying to solve the fence conundrum and Ezekiel tells his faithful servant that he doesn’t need to call him “your majesty.” “Dude,” says Jerry. “Yes, I do.”
As with Alvaro, it’s more serious than irreverently reverent this time. The King crafted his own mythology and brought Jerry and the other aboard in the midst of it. If they accept that their infallible savior is anything but, they’ve lost far more than their comrades. Given what Jerry just witnessed, there is no avoiding that truth, now. But they can still be dude-bros.
On the other side of the fence, Carol goes girlie, “surrenders” and says she can tell the Saviors where the others are, but they have to pinky swear not to tell who spilled the beans. Promise? Never mind. She grabs an advancing Savior and holds a knife to his throat. His compadres—is one of them named Iago?—decide he’s expendable and begin firing away again. He’s Swiss-cheesed, but Carol somehow makes an escape again. The men fire and fire, but the walkers arrive to help her out.
On that subject, the Kingdom dead are now smack upon Jerry and Ezekiel. For a moment, Jerry’s loyalty turns Ezekiel back into the King and he raises his blade like a warrior.
Gah! Never mind what the Kingdom platoon just went through, Carol is negotiating with Baldy and Iago right out there in the open. The reason she’s so confident—the men surely wasted most of their ammo firing away at her and the walkers. (On that subject, there has now been about 400 million rounds of gunfire in this general direction. Someone else didn’t come to see what gives? No one?)
'They hold each other up in a very brutal world,' says series star Andrew Lincoln.
Carol’s still negotiating with the gents when she spots Ezekiel and Jerry in peril. What to do, what to do? How about find out a bit more about how we got here in the first place?
In a quiet and telling sequence, we cut to Ezekiel and Carol pre-battle. Still the King smiles—but Carol has more on her mind.
Knowing the truth of what is likely to go down, she’s trying to assess Ezekiel's battle readiness—and perhaps nudge him into doing the same via some badly needed, long overdue self-reflection. She asks some pointed, if gently so, questions and in return he regales her with noble tales—ones that precisely reveal how he’s more thinker, motivator, than fighter. A soldier who would likely be little without tiger and ranks.
Before he was the king, E pontificates, he didn’t know if he could save Shiva. Didn’t know if he could save anything, including himself. Then Ben told him that if you’re asked to be the hero and be the hero. Ezekiel decided. He’s finally ready to will himself to walk that highfalutin talk.
Carol knows just how much more than will and deciding it takes to endure what they are about to undertake. Yes, she tells him, she decided who she needed, if not wanted, to be. But, she adds softly, life decided some things too. And her face reveals just exactly why she is worried for Ezekiel. Worried for what is about to go down.
Back in the now, Carol opts to turn her gun on the walkers advancing on Jerry and Ezekiel, abetted by the remaining Saviors opting to make a run for it. She gets the pair to the other side of the fence and E, free to just be a thinker again, says they have to let Rick know the men are taking the guns to the Saviors. Carol pauses, listens, grins. She knows the men aren’t going to accomplish that.
Oh hey, Rick and Daryl. The pair, Rick in a Jeep and Daryl on a motorcycle, are in hot pursuit of the gun truck when the Saviors drop the back of the LTMV and Baldy starts firing away. Again, he improbably hits nothing, but he does get Daryl to drop the bike and go tumbling along with it to the side of the road. Rick swerves to avoid the shots (not one hole in the windshield!) and some errant walkers, until Daryl reemerges from behind him and pegs the shooter with a hand gun. Rick uses the distraction to pull alongside Iago and hop aboard his vehicle, knifing the guy in the gut. Either pushed or making a last-ditch effort to get away, Iago goes rolling into the road as the LTMV plunges into the ditch.
Perhaps tweaking those of us who've been a bit prickly about certain invincibilities and Rick's sweat issue, Rick deadpans that they got the guns. Daryl notes that he is not looking his freshest. So then...did Iago make it or what?
Next come the best and worst moments of the episode.
Carol and Jerry try to get Ezekiel through a group of undead emerging from a drainage pipe in the woods. The whole thing requires more willing suspension of disbelief, because they don’t shoot a one of them, even though they’re right freaking there—but the walkers do them a solid by sort of marching in place while the action unfolds. Apparently mud puts walkers in low gear. Also, this batch has the same affliction as the guy they encountered in the woods last episode, the one with the half-melted face.
Knowing that the jig is kinda up on his King thing and not doing a very good job of willing himself to be what he needs to be at all, Ezekiel tries to get the others to move along without him. He’ll just stay right here and "handle" this situation by himself. Jerry refuses to leave him. “You’re my king,” he says softly, though his eyes betray pity. Then comes Khary Payton’s finest moment of his TWD tenure thus far.
“No, I’m NOT!” Ezekiel bellows. “I’m not your king!” Eyes wild, he turns and looks to the mud-bound walkers. “Look at them! That’s what’s real! I ain’t no king. I’m just some guy. Some guy who …” and much to my consternation, I can’t make out what he mumbles next. The moment is a bone rattler.
And then, further plummeting Ezekiel into an abyss of reality, Shiva finally saves her dad. The way we feared, not the way we hoped. No wonder they let us know early and often that this was a CGI cat, because though we saw little (and you comic book faithful knew what was coming), that was not fun to watch. Not fun at all. If you were, at least momentarily irked that Jerry and Carol didn’t fire on the walkers and save the tiger, chalk it up to the necessary, rending overall message: In this instance, in pretending to be a king, Ezekiel failed every being hell bent on protecting him.
And he can't escape it, which is painfully clear when only he, Jerry and Carol walk slowly and somberly back through the gate, as puzzled Kingdomers gather. Again, little Henry approaches Ezekiel, like the kid in the Mean Joe Green Coca-Cola ad without a bottle to offer. The king has no words of bravery to offer, either. He just slowly limps away.
So what do you make of it, Dead-heads? Will the King rise again? If not, will Ezekiel be useful to the cause? What do the Kingdom's losses mean for All Out War? Will you miss Shiva, or was she a bit too comic book for the series? When are we going spend some quality time with Maggie?
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC