Last week’s long-awaited seventh season premiere of The Walking Dead may have gone too far in some viewers’ estimations. While I thought the violence of the episode was more or less consistent with what we have seen from the series over the last six seasons (as well as the graphic novels), others had the perfectly valid response to the brutality of the episode was to quit the series. No one should continue watching any show that they no longer enjoy, be it for any reason.
With that said, people who bailed over the violence of last week’s episode missed out on the introduction of one of the most colorful, fun, and humane characters in all of The Walking Dead history in tonight’s episode, “The Well.” King Ezekiel represents everything about this series that Negan is not: He’s personable, he’s kind, he’s funny, eccentric and real. Khary Payton’s Ezekiel is exactly what this series needed after last week’s brutal season premiere: A heavy dose of levity. He brings lightness to a series shrouded in darkness.
I wasn’t sure what to make of King Ezekiel in his opening scene. Rocking dreadlocks, a scepter, and a tiger, Ezekiel introduces himself to Carol as leader of his realm, ruler of The Kingdom. “You have been addressed by the King, yet you remain silent,” Ezekiel says to Carol. “Do I detect skepticism, do you think me mad?” The attire, the manner of speech, and the tiger might have suggested to anyone that Ezekiel was indeed mad. Carol is rightfully skeptical of Ezekiel, though Morgan remains pleasantly bemused by this man.