Something like several dozen characters get killed off on ‘The Walking Dead’ this week. How many of them are named characters you’ll recognize? Just one, and it’s not even a person.
Is that too much of a spoiler to put in the intro paragraph before the page break? Sorry. I just think it’s representative of the way this season pretends to escalate the drama and stakes of the so-called “All Out War” storyline by killing lots of anonymous redshirt characters that nobody actually cares about. Meanwhile, all the core heroes and villains are practically guaranteed to go unscathed until predictable mid-season finale and premiere ratings stunts.
This week’s episode also has a really hilarious moment where one of the extras playing a Walker chasing after Ezekiel clearly did not pay enough attention in his zombie walking class, and just sort of absentmindedly strolls around in the background of the shot, not even wearing much zombie makeup. While the show has had its share of production flubs over the years (as any TV series does), this one is very prominent and speaks to a certain level of complacency among the people making it. (Funny how the ‘Talking Dead’ aftershow never points out stuff like this.)
My Kingdom for a Horse
How many times do we need to listen to King Ezekiel’s “And yet I smile” speeches? He gives another one in the flashback that starts this episode, as a way of showing how overconfident the members of Rick’s army are. Cut to the present, and Ezekiel is covered in a pile of corpses, from the men that jumped on top of him to protect him when the Savior machine gun embankment opened fire. Now pretty much everybody except Ezekiel is dead. He claws his way out and, seeing the bodies of his people all around, lets out an anguished scream. This doesn’t seem like a great idea when the Saviors could very well still be watching.
The only injury Ezekiel sustained is a broken ankle, but that proves to be quite an impediment when the dead around him start rising. (Have you noticed how much more quickly the dead reanimate in recent seasons, compared to that first season episode where Laurie waited all night for her sister to turn?) He also runs out of bullets quickly. Fortunately, one of his men survived – a guy identified in the aftershow as Alvaro, but you’ll be forgiven for not knowing his name.
Alvaro helps Ezekiel limp away from the Walkers, until he’s gunned down by a random Savior wearing 1980s nerd glasses who looks like he wandered onto this set straight from ‘Halt and Catch Fire’. ’80s Nerd takes Ezekiel hostage and heckles him for being a fraud. He plans to bring Ezekiel in as present for Negan. Luckily, Jerry saves the day by coming out of nowhere (seriously, where was he this whole time?) and cleaving the guy clean in two with his battle axe. Jerry fights hard to save his king from the advancing Walkers, but they get trapped by a gated fence and Jerry busts his axe trying to break the lock.
Have Guns Will Travel
During all this, Carol (who had separated from the main group earlier) stalks through the Savior compound, killing lots of guys and searching for the machine guns. During a shootout in the parking lot, she gets pinned down behind a pickup truck that is magically totally bulletproof to the hail of gunfire shot at her. She pretends to surrender as a trick to kill some more guys until eventually the scene is down to just her and two Saviors who’ve loaded the machine guns onto a truck and are trying to get them back to the Sanctuary and Negan. When Carol sees Ezekiel and Jerry fighting by the fence, she has to choose between capturing the guns or saving her friends. She opts to save her friends, allowing the two Saviors to get away with the guns.
Just then, however, she hears a motorcycle. Daryl races after the Savior truck, with Rick right behind him in a jeep. The Saviors open fire on them with one of the machine guns, causing Daryl to crash the bike, but he’s back up again in like three seconds. Rick’s jeep is also 100% bulletproof, especially the windshield. Daryl shoots the guy manning the gun, and Rick pulls up next to the speeding truck and hops in like he’s watched too many episodes of ‘The Fall Guy’. Next thing you know, the truck crashes off the road and rolls down a hill.
Rick leaped out at the last second, of course, and is unharmed. He and Daryl then climb down the hill to see if the Savior is still alive and what they can learn from him.
It’s the Eye of the Tiger, It’s the Thrill of the Fight
Carol, Jerry and Ezekiel still have a bunch of Walkers to avoid, and make the very perplexing decision to walk home through the woods rather than take one of the Savior cars. As they encounter a bunch of melty-face zombies who’ve been stewing in a stream filled with toxic sewage, Ezekiel frets that he’s slowing them down. In a painfully contrived scene, he attempts to make a last stand and hold off the Walkers so the other two can escape, but they won’t leave without him. Suddenly Shiva the tiger leaps out of nowhere and fights off the Walkers to save her master, but is overwhelmed by their numbers. Ezekiel howls as his kitty is turned into zombie chow.
By the time they get back to the Kingdom, Ezekiel is a broken man. He limps right past all the members of the community wondering where their friends and loved ones are without saying a word.
We’ve lost a CGI tiger. I guess this is sad. Creator Robert Kirkman claims that this follows a comic book storyline pretty closely and wasn’t just a budget-saving measure for the TV show. Personally, I always found the tiger to be a silly embellishment and I have trouble caring much about it. I have trouble caring about much at all on the show these days, frankly. While this episode may be a modest improvement over the last couple, that’s not saying much. It still feels like the show is just biding its time between premieres and finales.
King Ezekiel was a colorful addition to the cast roster when he was first introduced last season, especially since he was mainly used in small doses. With extended exposure, his shtick has grown old. I don’t think I could take another repetitive speech from him. To that end, it’s probably a good thing that he’s had the wind knocked out of his sails. Unfortunately, I doubt that making him sad and mopey is really the right direction for the show either.