A few years ago, readers of The Walking Dead grumbled about sharks being jumped when a tiger and a dreadlocked “king” and his “knights” were introduced to the post-apocalyptic world in which Rick Grimes rules (almost) all. The Kingdom was a major shift in tone for the series, and in general forced the reader to really suspend some disbelief (despite the whole dead walking thing). A king and his tiger? C’mon.
It turns out, however, that King Ezekiel, who ruled the appropriately named Kingdom, which was mostly under the thrall of Negan, went from ridiculous concept to a major grounding force in the story, and Robert Kirkman, speaking to Entertainment Weekly, has revealed that Ezekiel and Shiva the tiger were developed specifically for the small screen.
Well, I’ll say I’m really excited about Ezekiel and Shiva getting into the show because that’s probably the wildest swing I took in the comics. You know, a guy who has a pet tiger [and] who speaks like some kind of weird medieval king is pretty strange, and I have to be honest, when I was writing the comic, I was like, “Hell yeah, let’s see how we handle this tiger in the show! This is going to be difficult!” So to actually get to this point where we are adapting it into the show and to see the show expand in this way that the comic did in the past is pretty cool.
I think anyone who’s been reading the comics sees that while the introduction of Ezekiel was this really strange occurrence in the comic at the time, as time progresses and you learn more and more about him, he becomes a very pivotal character in where the story is going. So it’s kind of an important benchmark, and an important turning point in the series as a whole to have his character introduced and all the things that come from that.
Whenever you introduce a tiger who needs to eat a large amount of food to survive when humans around her are starving, you’ll get Zombie Survival Guide-thumping realists wondering what the hell is going on. But to be fair, Kirkman delivered, now we’ll see how the on-screen adaptation of Ezekiel and Shiva are handled.