I swear, ‘The Walking Dead’ this week has the lamest pre-credits opening teaser scene in the show’s entire run. It’s just Ezekiel and some of his men wordlessly placing a melon into a box and putting it on the back of a truck. That’s it. That’s how the episode starts. Cut to credits.
Yes, this will be explained later, and of course it turns out to be meaningful to the plot. Nevertheless, as a way to open an episode, it’s a big shrug.
This week is all about the Kingdom. It starts with Carol crying in her bed… because being weak and crying is what the fans really love about Carol. She mutters “God damn it,” gets up, and hikes right to the Kingdom gate at the break of dawn, stopping only for a few moments to kill a bunch of zombies with a street sign. She finds Morgan and demands to know the real reason why Jesus brought Daryl and the others to see Ezekiel. Morgan prevaricates a little and says that the Kingdom and Alexandria are going to be working together, but doesn’t say on what. Carol asks what really happened at Alexandria and whether everyone there is all right, like Daryl told her. All Morgan will say is that she needs to talk to Daryl about that. He offers to walk with her to Alexandria right then if that what she wants. She decides that isn’t what she wants and storms away. On the way back to her house, she runs into Ben, the bookish kid that Ezekiel is so fond of. He inadvertently mentions something about making a “drop” that morning. She can guess what that means.
SYMBOLISM ALERT! Before leaving for his next delivery to the Saviors, Ezekiel learns that the crops in his Royal Garden are infested with weevils and will all need to be burned. The woman who informs him of this assures Ezekiel that, “It can all grow back.” Real subtle there, writers.
Richard pulls Morgan aside for another talk about how a war with the Saviors is inevitable and he’ll have to get his hands dirty whether he wants to or not.
FORESHADOWING! Morgan also talks to Benjamin, and quickly picks up on the fact that he has a new girlfriend. Oh geez, there is now a 100% certainty that this kid will be dead before the end of the episode.
Ezekiel and his men load a bunch of melons (plural) into the back of a truck and head out. On their way to the drop, they discover that the road has been blocked by a line of shopping carts, obviously placed there deliberately as an obstruction. With guns up, they scout the area. The only thing they find is an empty grave with a sign that says, “Bury Me Here.” For some reason, they decide that this means they’re not in any danger. (I sure as hell would find it suspicious.) They move the shopping carts and progress on their way.
By the time they get to the designated meeting place, the Saviors are already waiting and impatient. The leader, Gavin, chastises Ezekiel for being tardy. This is unacceptable. He orders Ezekiel to have his people turn over all their guns.
That’s obviously troubling. Expecting something bad to go down, Ezekiel and all his crew instead raise their guns. Gavin tells him that it’s time to make a decision: either hand over the guns or use them see what happens. After a couple of tense minutes, Ezekiel orders everyone to surrender their weapons.
Collecting the guns, Gavin says that, “Things are about to get emotional.” In addition to being late, the shipment of melons is one short. That’s not something that can be tolerated. Ezekiel is dumbfounded. He counted them himself before they left. He promises to deliver twice as many melons within the hour, but Gavin isn’t interested. He has to teach them a lesson for their disobedience.
The Savior henchman who’d quarreled with Richard previously points his gun right at him. Richard turns and stands his ground, resigned to his fate. He tells the man to get it over with. However, the thug instead swings the gun to the side and shoots someone else. (This is apparently standard Savior procedure. The same thing happened at Alexandria when Olivia was murdered.) Who gets shot this time? In a cheap and infuriating mini-cliffhanger, that’s not revealed until after the commercial break. We all know it’s Ben, though, right? Obviously it has to be Ben.
Yup, of course it’s Ben. He’s not killed instantly, though. The guy shot him in the leg. Ezekiel, Morgan and everyone else panic and rush to the boys’ aid. Before they can load him onto the truck, Gavin makes them stop a second so he can demand that they return in one day with the missing melon, no more and no less.
As everyone else piles onto the truck, Richard pauses as if dumbfounded by what happened. He expected to die, not poor Ben. Finally, they get underway and race to Carol’s house because she has medical supplies there. While the others work on stabilizing Ben, Richard feels guilty. Clearly, this is his fault.
No surprise, Ben bleeds out and dies. Morgan completely loses his shit about this. He storms out and walks back to the site of the shopping cart blockade, ranting to himself just like during his breakdown after his son died. He even contemplates suicide. However, when he kicks a bucket in the street, he finds the missing melon under it. Thinking back to the order of events earlier, he realizes that Richard must have removed it from the truck and hidden it there.
Morgan treks back to the Kingdom and confronts Richard, who admits what he did. He tells Morgan a story about how he lost his wife and daughter in the early days of the zombie outbreak. The moral of this is that you can’t wait to do something or expect someone else to save the day when you see bad stuff happening. You have to act. So that’s what he did this time. He deliberately provoked a confrontation with the Saviors intending to sacrifice himself, so that Ezekiel would finally be pushed to go to war. He didn’t expect anyone else to die. Regardless, now that this has happened, he urges Morgan not to let this opportunity go to waste. They will need to work hard to win back the Saviors’ trust, in order to kill them by surprise later. Joining forces with Alexandria now will also be a necessity. Morgan is furious and doesn’t say a word.
The next day, Ezekiel and the rest of the group return to the meet-up location with that single melon we saw in the pre-credits scene. Gavin is disappointed to learn that Ben died. The idiot who shot him was only supposed to wound the kid to make the point. Gavin chastises him and sends him away.
Richard hands the melon over to Gavin and begins delivering a rehearsed spiel about how they get it now and promise to be on their best behavior from now on. He barely gets a few words out before Morgan marches up and whacks him with a bo staff, then goes ballistic, beats the shit out of him, and strangles Richard to death right in front of Gavin, Ezekiel and everybody else. With the dead body at his feet, Morgan stands up and tells them all about what Richard did and how he was trying to start a war. He then delivers the exact speech that Richard was trying to give, vowing that the Kingdom will be more obedient to the Saviors after this.
Richard got to sacrifice himself after all, you see. Morgan is following through on his plan. Richard’s death is the first act in winning back the Saviors’ trust, so that they can betray it later.
After the Saviors leave, Morgan continues to talk to Ezekiel, but gets confused and mistakenly says his son Duane’s name when talking about Ben. He tells Ezekiel that he’s not going back to the Kingdom with them.
Instead, Morgan buries Richard’s body in the open grave he wanted (Richard left his daughter’s backpack next to it), and begins “clearing” zombies from the area like he did during his craziest period. He then walks all the way to Carol’s house and tells her about Glenn and Abraham, and Olivia and Spencer, and the horrible position Alexandria is in right now.
Carol convinces Morgan to stay at her house, but she returns to the Kingdom to speak to Ezekiel. She finds him very symbolically replanting that garden from earlier. Carol says that she’s going to stay at the Kingdom, and Ezekiel acknowledges that a war is inevitable now.
The episode ends with Morgan sitting on Carol’s front stoop, sharpening his bo staff into a spear.
I naturally have some quibbles with this episode, as I have for the entire season. I don’t really buy Morgan’s breakdown. I know that he did this once before, but he’s come a very long way since then. I’m also pretty sick of Carol feeling anguished about everything, and (as mentioned) some of this episode’s plot turns are really heavy-handed and predictable.
Despite all that, I’ll give the episode credit for being pretty suspenseful, which most of this season has not been. Regardless of how they got there, I’ll be glad to see Carol and Morgan ready to fight again.