'The Walking Dead' Season 7 Episode 2 Review
There's a hell of a lot to like about the second episode of The Walking Dead's seventh season, and particularly because it follows last week's hugely polarizing premiere. I made my thoughts pretty adamant last week, but this week brings with it some levity the series was desperately in need of.
I maintain that Morgan, played by Lennie James, is one of the best, if not the very best, characters in the series. From his return in season 5 up until now, he's the single recent example that highlights the very fact that the series can course a memorable character arc when it wants to. James brings such warmth to the world of The Walking Dead that you can't help but recoil at the fact that we'll one day see him die, and quite possibly painfully.
Unfortunately, that's where the show is right now. In fact, if we're being honest, it's been there for a while. When we meet a young new character, whom Morgan takes under his wing (bringing full circle his tutelage under Eastman), and one who is instantly likable despite his struggles in the field of combat, it's the sole knowledge that he's probably going to die before the end of the season that prohibits me from forming a connection.
But despite the DNA of the show making it hard to fall for new characters, in comes Khary Payton as King Ezekiel, the leader of the new community known as The Kingdom. The people have taken refuge in an abandoned school and have turned it into something out of medieval times, and with that brings a sense of bewilderment, for which Carol is our vessel, but also a sense of fresh wonderment. Accompanied by a soundtrack that shouldn't work but does, The Walking Dead takes full advantage of the ridiculousness of the situation.
But as much as I adore Morgan's character, so too have I grown beyond tired of Carol's. Melissa McBride continues to knock it out of the park, no doubt, and her dumbfounded reaction to The Kingdom is quite hilarious. But the character took such a sharp turn late in season 6 that I'm still recovering from the whiplash, and here we see her again fully prepared to completely disregard this community for its "make-believe" antics despite the fact that it very clearly operates a whole lot better than Alexandria.
Ezekiel is introduced as a gimmick, along with his tiger, Shiva, but thankfully the show doesn't hold its cards to its chest beyond this episode, and the character embraces his ridiculous facade in a revealing conversation with Carol, commenting on the very human need to have someone to fall behind and look up to.
While the episode plays out very much as an introductory episode, it takes the time to establish that Ezekiel and his people are indeed under the thumb of the Saviors, though Ezekiel is far more civil and political than Rick and his mob (to the latter's detriment, as we learned last week.) In Ezekiel we actually meet our first true leader in the post apocalyptic world of The Walking Dead. Here is one that wears his peculiarity on his sleeve, rather than hide it underneath (see: every other leader), and he embodies control and genuine care for his people. Really, Rick needs to take notes.
"The Well" does not right any of the wrongs the show has produced in recent times. It does not change the course of the series for the better, but it is certainly a start. The premiere, ugly as it was, suggested that there was something new and different on the horizon, and fans got a first taste of that this week. While things are inevitably going to go sour again for the heroes of the story, here we can at least take a breather and enjoy some fresh new blood infused into the show, in a standalone episode that's told with the kind of composure that I hoped for, but wasn't quite convinced we'd get.