The Walking Dead: 7.02 The Well

After the violent deaths of two characters traumatised viewers in last week’s season premiere, this week’s The Walking Dead episode had a vastly different tone. Episode two of season seven caught up with Carol and Morgan and saw the introduction of new characters Ezekiel and Ben.

To recap, we last saw Carol and Morgan in season 6 after Carol had left the group in a bid to ease her conscience, after the weight of all she’d done was starting to be too much. Morgan had gone after her, and after being attacked by members of Negan’s Saviours, Carol was saved by Morgan but left wounded. This episode opened with the two being helped by strangers that turn out to be members of another group of survivors living in a community called The Kingdom. After Carol comes to after sleeping for two days, Morgan takes her to see their leader.

Temporarily wheelchair bound, Carol is bewildered by the new environment as Morgan wheels her through the community. There is a garden, people everywhere, and more children in one place than anyone has seen since the show began. The place is calm and tranquil, seemingly simpler and happier than even Alexandria was before we encountered it. The scene contradicts the harsh reality of everything Carol and Morgan have seen and done in a most disconcerting way, and after the gore and horror of last week’s episode, one could almost believe they were watching a different show altogether.

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This change of pace is not necessarily a bad thing, though. Upon meeting King Ezekiel, who, Morgan forgot to mention, has a tiger, Carol is asked what she thinks of the Kingdom. Falling back on her now standard tactic of acting like a sweet and harmless woman, she echoes the thoughts of the audience with the response “I don’t know what the hell’s going on in the most wonderful way!” Though we know the pleasantry and innocence is simply an act, it seems that the exclamation does understandably convey some genuine surprise and shock. The juxtaposition of King Ezekiel and his pet tiger, in their community of people who don’t seem at all scared, with the outside world full of walkers and Saviours and other unknown threats is, in a word, bizarre.

However, this haven is not as perfect as it seems. It is soon revealed that like the group at Hilltop, the Kingdom has also struck a deal with the Saviours that Ezekiel has neglected to tell his people about. It seems he is not as naive as viewers may have previously thought, as when some Saviours arrive to collect their food, he is wary and clearly aware of the precarious nature of their arrangement. Curiously, the pigs slaughtered for the Saviours to eat were shown to have been fed on walkers. The Saviours clearly don’t know this so conflict between the two groups is definitely a possibility in the future, should they find out. It will also be interesting to see whether feeding the pigs on the dead will have any adverse effects on the pigs or those who later consume them, as this is an area which hasn’t been explored much in the show so far.

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While Carol has been unconscious, Morgan has evidently been helping the community and become somewhat close with King Ezekiel. He accompanies Ezekiel and his men to their exchange with the Saviours and also begins training a young man, Ben, in wielding the staff as a weapon at Ezekiel’s behest. Ben is presumably in his mid to late teens and has been unsuccessful in his attempts to become proficient in other forms of weaponry. We learn that he has read every book in the community and looks after one of the younger boys. In a sincere exchange over dinner, Ben tells Morgan how his father was close with the King before he died, and how he doesn’t think he knows enough about the deal with the Saviours to know whether keeping it from the rest of the people is the right thing to do. First impressions of Ben as a character are that he is kind, sweet, and smart, but this may not bode well for him in the future if he doesn’t soon learn to fight.

Meanwhile, Carol attempts to sneak out of the Kingdom. Quite perturbed by the tranquility, she is desperate to go back to the rest of the world that while more violent, seems more real. Carol has been struggling with some very dark emotions, and not been coping well with living with the things she’s done in the past. Because of this, her desire to be alone in the dangerous outside world seems tantamount to a deathwish. Ezekiel finds her stealing food from the garden and instead of confronting her harshly, he simply has a conversation with Carol after stating that he now sees through her innocent act from before. The veil of mystery surrounding him is lifted as he explains that he has a tiger because he was formerly a zookeeper, and he became King of the community almost by accident as he found himself being put in the role of someone people would follow. He also indirectly calls Carol out on the self-destructive nature of her mission to leave.

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It’s lovely for audiences to finally see someone having an honest conversation with Carol, and getting through to her that maybe there’s a way for her to find peace with her past without surrendering to death. After being borderline suicidal and constantly rejecting help from Morgan, something about Ezekiel’s sincerity and his idea of “going but not going” at last convinces Carol to not give up on herself and leave the community completely. Instead, she settles in an abandoned house outside the Kingdom walls but still within travelling distance, and reconciles with Morgan who escorted her there. Both she and Morgan have now mellowed in terms of the way they see the world and how to deal with it. Carol’s previous stone cold killer persona has caught up to her and she doesn’t want to be that ruthless any more, and Morgan earlier stated that his feelings may have changed about his stance of nonviolence and all life being precious. This character growth is a welcome progression after the events of season six largely revolving around their prior contrast in attitudes.

Some fans have criticised this episode as being boring, but it introduced some interesting new people, dynamics and developments that could easily become more exciting further down the line. Are the Saviours going to find out what their pigs are being fed on? Is Carol going to regret settling in a place so open and undefended? Will Ezekiel, Negan, Morgan and Rick all appear in a scene together? Is the tiger, Shiva, going to be unleashed at some point? The answers to these questions will definitely be interesting, and the lack of action in this episode will undoubtedly be made up for with plenty of adrenaline in others. After all, this is The Walking Dead, and season seven is just getting started.