UK TV review: The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 4
and Tigers, oh my!9
Neil Brazier | On 14, Nov 2017
This is a spoiler-free review. Read on below for additional, spoilery notes – plus how to watch online.
Before he became a King, Ezekiel (Khary Payton) was a zookeeper. He formed a bond with a tiger, when he helped her heal from injury, who then wouldn’t leave his side. The man with the tiger soon established himself as a leader after the zombie outbreak hit and together they formed a community: the Kingdom. Since then, Ezekiel has been following the mantra “fake it to make it”, having adopted the persona of a King. More recently, he faked the smile on his face, as he led his troops into battle and he faked the promises he made to his soldiers that each victory would bring about their next. But despite his fakery and lies, he was respected and admired by his Kingdom to the point that his subjects would throw themselves in front of bullets to protect him, even if it meant losing their own lives.
Some Guy focuses on the casualties of war: The Kingdom, slain at an outpost by the large military weapons Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) had been searching for. Left under a pile of his own dead soldiers, Ezekiel will feel as though his lies have caused their death. Having left the Kingdom promising hope and victory, how can the King return with anything but good news? How will he explain what has happened at the outpost to his follower, and will they continue to show him the respect they used to? It might be that the deaths of his men aren’t the only casualty, but Ezekiel’s status in the mind of those who survive.
Having slipped away from the open field, Carol (Melissa McBride) has infiltrated the outpost. She is back to her cunning best, as she plays the one-woman destroyer, hunting her prey like she’s the tiger on their team. Even when Carol faces unimaginable odds, she is able to plot her strategy three moves ahead, like a macabre chess player. In a flashback, Ezekiel tells her he became who he is because that’s who he needed to be. He asks Carol if she was always this way or if she decided to be this strong and brave woman he knows her to be. It’s impossible to imagine the Carol from Atlanta, bullied and beaten by her husband, now a terminator, fighting for the lives of good people. The woman that Carol has decided to be, has become compelling viewing. Watching her mind work, as she plots to defeat the obstacles in her way (as either an innocent, frail female or a wrecking ball), is gripping, because we know just how devastating she can be. Every survivor who has made it this far has had to change who they were: it’s how they’ve lived so long, adapt or perish.
While the episode continues to slow down the season’s opening pace, Some Guys benefits from being much more focused. Having answers to some of the questions raised from the earlier episodes – Just what is Alexandria’s plan? And where are all the groups in relation to each other? – helps paint the bigger picture from a tiny canvas. Concentrating on just one group and the impact of war, the episode feels much more coherent and engaging, which puts it forward as one of the strongest instalments we’ve seen in a while. Coupled with the story and its impact, the fallout will hopefully continue through until at least the mid-season break, as we explore the aftermath of what happened at the outpost and whether the survivors are truly strong and brave, or just some guys.
The Walking Dead Season 8 premieres at 9pm on Mondays on FOX UK, within 24 hours of its US broadcast. FOX UK is available on Sky, Virign Media and TalkTalk TV. Don’t have Sky? You can also stream it on NOW TV, for £7.99 a month, with no contract and a 14-day free trial.
Innards and entrails (spoilers
– Ezekiel is alive, of course, but heavily injured. His torture of watching his loyal subjects turn into the undead is painful for everyone, but his overconfidence had already painted trouble on the door. The Saviour who captures the King gets the great line that Ezekiel’s supporters are still following him even in death. The only negative is that there isn’t more emotion from either Ezekiel or Jerry (Cooper Andrews), as they have to kill their now-undead friends.
– Shiva is the crown on Ezekiel’s head. Without her, he is just “some guy” (these episode titles of late have been poignant, haven’t they?) who likes to talk like he’s in a Shakespeare play. We haven’t seen many animals in the zombie apocalypse – the odd horse or pig, but nothing that has been a beloved pet. The death of Shiva is so heart-breaking to watch, even for a CGI tiger, that if you don’t shed a tear you might be undead yourself. We haven’t felt this emotional since Glenn’s dumpster fake-out death, but somehow this is harder. As Ezekiel is forced to watch her sacrifice, it is though that part of who he is, the showman, the King, dies.
– Returning to the Kingdom, Ezekiel is walking behind both Carol and Jerry – is he no longer leading? Has he given up or lost the faith of his closest subjects, or perhaps they are just there to clear a path for their injured leader? This is what will make the rest of the season interesting: how Ezekiel recovers and remains the head of this group, if indeed he can. Will the death of Shiva and the loss of his followers lead Ezekiel to drop the King persona? Many of the people in his camp are oblivious to his true nature, exposing himself now may cause further issues within his ranks. It’ll be up to loyal lieutenants Carol and Jerry to step up and keep the group together.
– Rick and Daryl only make a fleeting appearance in the episode, but the roar of Daryl’s motorcycle is like his Bat-Signal that raises a small smile on Carol’s face, knowing her hero is near. They get a brief action scene that stops the Saviours from getting the jump on Alexandria, meaning Negan is still trapped at the Sanctuary. This helps break up the episode along with the flashback scenes, but doesn’t take away from the King and the drama he brings, even when he isn’t quoting Shakespeare.
– Zombie Kill of the Week goes to Jerry as he rescues his King by splitting the Saviour clean in two with his mighty axe. Followers of the comic book will appreciate the foreshadowing of Ezekiel’s comic book death the Saviour gives when he suggests Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) will be happy to settle for Ezekiel’s head on a pole.
Photo: Gene Page / AMC