In what will be the status quo until the two storylines eventually meet, we switch from Rick’s camp to that of the Kingdom, where Morgan and Carol have found themselves the guests of King Ezekiel.
Yep, it’s finally happened – and it’s worth the wait.
Self-consciously ridiculous, and utterly at peace with it, the regal zen of the new guy (played brilliantly by Khary Payton) is the perfect counterpart to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s anarchic Negan, and he’ll likely be many people’s favourite character.
Much as Negan’s explosive introduction hewed as close to the source material as physically possible, here Ezekiel’s introduction is similarly – and even more self-consciously – fantastical.
As the world becomes increasingly removed from the way it once was, there has increasingly become room for characters like Ezekiel. He simply wouldn’t have worked on Season 1 alongside characters like Shane (as brilliant as that would have been to see), and his presence represents how much the show has evolved.
But while Ezekiel gives the pretence of being a larger-than-life individual, he quickly lowers his guard to Carol, relating to her that the King of the Kingdom is in fact a former zookeeper with a penchant for amateur dramatics – “played a lot of kings, as I recall”.
“Why do you care?” she incredulously asks him. “Because it feels good”, he answers.
Still, we can’t totally admonish Carol for her scepticism. A happy-go-lucky complete with its a choir, and perennially shaky truce with the Saviors, the Kingdom feels like one big bubble that’s just waiting to burst – but will it be Carol who does the bursting?
Nope; we have the feeling that Rick and co will catch up, and bring conflict with them. There’s no hint of that this episode though. Hell, no one even dies, let alone gets their head smashed in with a baseball bat.
While there’s a nice introduction and a bit of scene-setting, there’s little evolution beyond that. Hopefully there’ll be a bit more progress on the storyline front next time we visit the Kingdom, otherwise we can see this becoming the narrative strand that we look forward to the least.