If you are still mourning the short lives and brutal deaths of Abraham and Glenn, I wish I could offer you a tissue, but: 1 – I’ve used all I had and have nothing left to give you, and 2 – think you might be ok, given the writers’ attempt at giving us a brief respite from our collective pain by focusing on Carol, Morgan, and newly introduced members of The Kingdom, Daniel and Colton. I still plan to use this time to imagine what plans Rick must have for making Negan pay for the lives he took. The second episode picks up with Morgan trying to force Carol to accept her fate. She is alive. Although she does not know about Abraham and Glenn, it feels awful knowing that they died wanting to live and she has convinced herself that life doesn’t matter. Her beliefs are challenged when their caravan is attacked, awaking her from a barely conscious state. Disoriented, she runs off, leaving the three men to fight the growing herd. She hallucinates the friendly face of an older woman in a nearby window, before realizing it is a walker. Just as she seems again ready to give up, again, more badasses on horseback rush in to help take the herd down. They are led by their chief fighter, Richard. Carol continues hallucinating, seeing each fallen walker in its human form – just after it is killed. Yeah, this is going to be a long season! As The group journeys on, Morgan continues marking his way on trees and posts as they head to their destination. The goal can either be to help make his way back, leave clues for Rick and the gang, or make it easier for Negan to find them all.
Two days later and Carol finally wakes again. The Kingdom is unlike anything we’ve seen. All of Deanna’s dreams for Alexandria are realized, here. There is a school. There are gardens and livestock, happy people and sunshine. None of it brings Carol peace. In hushed, angry, tones, she asks if Morgan has told the residents of the Kingdom about them. Morgan tells her that he is taking her to King Ezekiel, the leader. Ezekiel only knows that she was attacked and that Morgan helped her. She wants to know more but Morgan only tells her that Ezekiel is a character, who “does his own thing”. What he forgot to mention is the one thing that must have led Carol to wonder if she was hallucinating, again. Ezekiel has a pet tiger, Shiva. Methinks that before the fall of man, Ezekiel was a performer at Renaissance fairs and can’t let go. His sidekick, Jerry, wields a double-edged ax. Sure. That’s totally normal. Ezekiel welcomes the fair maiden to The Kingdom. He wonders if she thinks he is mad, if she believes the place is a mirage, or what she else she might be is thinking. She smiles the fake, happy, Alexandria Carol smile and tells him that all is amazing, AMAZING, and she has no idea what’s going on, “in the most wonderful way”. Damn you, writers, I love this! \Ezekiel talks about the need for respite and that anyone who contributes is welcomed to stay. She refuses to eat the fruit (grown at the Kingdom), telling him that she hates pomegranates, but promises that she would devour chocolate if offered. It is clear she thinks he is mad and wants no part of him.
Out of earshot, she tells Morgan he must be shitting her. She refers to the place as a circus. She vows to leave when no one is around to stop her. She asks if he’ll tie her up like he did the wolf. Morgan tells her that he refuses to let her die “out there” and she tells him that it doesn’t matter what he does. He is unable to keep a watchful eye as he joins the scouts as they herd wild pigs who have been feasting on walkers. They allow the pigs to continue to feast on a walker they’ve captured, with Richard commenting that they want the pigs’ bellies to be full of rot. A young scout with them, Ben, has difficulty putting the down a walker when tasked to do it. Ezekiel kills it and encourages Ben to not be hard on himself, he will eventually get it. Ezekiel leaves the walkers with the following words (as if they give a rat’s shiny backside) “May we one day cease you all from this curse. ‘til then, know that we live on in your place, festive, faithful and free.”
The pigs Morgan thought were being fed to the people of The Kingdom, are headed in a different direction. My guess is that they are being sent to Negan. I like Ezekiel. He is nothing like any other leader we’ve seen. Rick is jaded (with good reason). The Governor was a cowardly buffoon. Negan is evil. Deanna was a lovable dreamer. Ezekiel is kind, and motivating to his people, wanting nothing from them in return. He gets things done without blind loyalty and gripping fear. I like that Ezekiel likes Morgan, who impressed him by saving Ben from another walker at the end of their quest, earlier that day. He would like Morgan to train Ben. Ezekiel thinks that Ben will one day be an important member of his court, he needs (not just wants) Ben to live and pleads with Morgan, who agrees to help. While training him, Morgan is as gentle and kind to Ben as Ezekiel has been. Geez, I don’t know what to do with myself. It has been so long since we have seen people with pure joy and true kindness. There is an actual choir singing a beautifully melodic tune. People are gardening. There are pregnant women and happy families. It is confusing, but Carol isn’t too confused. We see her stealing weapons and using the “sweet overwhelmed Carol” routine to distract the laundry detail while she steals clothing.
We finally see the exchange we have been waiting for. Ezekiel, Morgan, and the scouts meet up with Negan’s men who show up to take the now-slaughtered hogs with them. Is this show dulling my humanity? I get a great chuckle when Richard says the hogs are much bigger because they have been well fed. When one of the obnoxious saviors taunts Richard, a fight breaks out. Guns are drawn on both sides and Morgan is stunned at how easy it is for him to pull the gun. Richard beats the poor fool senseless. As Ezekiel breaks things up, the savior wants to take what is apparently his right to have “three shots (hits)”. Gavin, the saviors’ lead, forces his man to stop after two, telling him The Kingdom has been good to them. They move on. Eat well, you pricks – just don’t feed Daryl any of the tainted meat. Next week Ezekiel has to bring produce, everything on the list, or Richard dies.
Back at The Kingdom, we learn that Ezekiel is like a second father to Ben since his father, who was one of Ezekiel’s friends and best fighters, died clearing out a building. Morgan learns more about Ezekiel, whom he originally suspected of wanting him around because he killed one of the saviors. (Ezekiel told him that it was just the opposite, knowing Morgan does not enjoy taking a life). Ezekiel comes across as an even more honest broker when Ben tells Morgan that King E keeps the deal with the Saviors quiet because he does not want his people to gear up to fight – they would lose and many would die. Morgan decides to go to talk with Carol, again, but she is gone – for good, perhaps. He seems resigned to letting go, especially after just telling Ben that everyone has to find the path that works for them. He doesn’t believe in forcing anyone to follow his. That night Ezekiel finds Carol in the garden and invites her to take what she wants before leaving them. She does the “Aw, shucks” routine again. He knows better, telling her to “never bullshit a bullshitter” and tells her that her sweet and innocent act worked on him at first. He noticed that the guns in her pack belonged to saviors and she did more than put up a fight, she won. She smirks at the idea that she’s won by ending up there. She thinks he and the entire place is a joke and that he is selling a fairytale. It is the Alexandria argument all over again. He tells her that it is possible that the people need a fairytale.
She thinks he likes having his ass kissed by everyone. He loses the medieval affectation to tell her that people need someone to follow. They feel safer and are less dangerous and more productive. They met him, and Shiva, and made up stories about him forcing the tiger into submission, making her his pet. He became larger than life. They needed him and he played the part, faking it until he made it. He was a zookeeper who rescued Shiva when she fell into a concrete moat and he risked his life to save hers. She was one of the last animals left at the zoo after the fall. She was trapped, hungry and alone – like him. He saved her again. She has never shown him her teeth, and has only protected him. He also tells her that acted in community theatre, playing a king several times, preparing him for his current role. ,Real Ezekiel sounds like a good ole’ Southern dude. I love it. Carol is impressed by him. He wants her to keep the secret of his story for his people, and, he admits, for himself too. She still plans to leave. He is sorry for whatever is driving her back out into the world. He reminds her how hard it can be when you’re alone. He reminds her that not everything is bad. “Where there is life there is hope, heroism, grace, and love. Where there is life, there is life.” She can’t understand why he cares. He tells her that it makes him feel good. He offers to let her be alone, but not alone.
The next day, Morgan leads Carol out, telling her the choice to leave should have been her own all along. They stop at the house where the episode began. The two have a brief exchange about how much they actually like each other (she almost regrets shooting and stabbing him, he thinks she is one of his favorites – of all the people he’s had to knock out). She enters the small home near The Kingdom where she hallucinated the friendly older woman waving her in. As she does so, Morgan let’s down the flag on the mailbox, she same flag he lifted, earlier. She puts down the older woman walker, inside, and buries her.As she cleans the home, starts are fire, and gets her bearings, there is a knock at the door. She hears Shiva outside, opening the door to Ezekiel, who offers her a pomegranate. He tells her that she really must try it. She smiles. HOPE!
I’m an exasperated soap fan who keeps hanging on – waiting for the daytime I once loved to return to its former glory! Hey, it doesn’t hurt to have a dream. I learned to love soaps thanks to my wonderful mother and grandmother. I’ll always have fond memories of daytime, most especially of ‘Another World’, my first stoap love. The ever great, but sadly defunct, daytime shows like Ryan’s Hope, Search for Tomorrow, The Doctors, Loving, and many others keep a special place in my heart, as well.