It's Bad To Be King In The Walking Dead S08.E04
In 'Some Guy,' Ezekiel loses his army, his identity, and his mind.
Hello, and welcome to another Old-School Recap of a very confusing and jumbled half season of The Walking Dead. How confusing is it? For the first time in the show's history, I had to sketch out my own map just to figure out where people are and what locations we're jumping between just to maintain my own sanity.
I am a person being paid to watch and report to you on this show, and I have no idea what the fuck is going on, you guys. So, I hope the map helps even though it 1. Is not to scale; 2. Doesn't contain locations in proper relation to each other; 3. Is poorly drawn; 4. Contains a tiger that looks nothing like a tiger even a child could draw.
Let's get rolling, shall we?
We open on a muscular man in a muscle shirt approaching a bathroom mirror in a house that has actual electric lighting. It's dim, but functional. It takes me a second to realize that the man, who is wearing a head wrap, is Ezekiel, who looks much younger without his graying dreads out. Ezekiel washes his face, trims his beard around the neck, and oils up his dreadlocks, rolling them between his hands. He puts on a necklace and dresses himself in silence. That includes some body armor and a red piece of material tied in his hair. He puts on his coat, regards himself in the mirror, and seems to get himself psyched up and into character.
We can tell, because they're saying goodbye to loved ones, that this is a flashback from when Ezekiel's soldiers from The Kingdom were getting ready to go into battle. That was long before they were ambushed at the end of the last episode. In one moment that piles on a bit too high, a woman going to fight is presumably saying goodbye to her son. He gives her a small flower and she tucks it into the inside of her elbow pad. Another guy is saying goodbye to a baby, and to the woman holding that baby. The strings of impending sadness play like there's no tomorrow, which there actually won't be for most of these characters we're seeing. Ezekiel is looking out onto the scene from his window and nods, not seeming scared or reluctant to get to the fighting.
Outside, Ezekiel approaches the gate of his domicile as it's opened, and walks through a sea of his people as they part, letting him and Shiva the tiger through. Everybody follows Ezekiel as he strides forward purposefully. He turns and notices Henry, who looks like he's about to cry. Ezekiel puts a hand on the boy's shoulder and tells him, "You will be brave. Because you are brave." Sure, but, could a little kid get a Kleenex up in here? Ezekiel surveys the group around him. Aw, shit, he's gonna give a speech, isn't he? And he does. He tells everybody that their way of life has been threatened and hangs in the balance. "A fragile glass standing on a wire high above the asphalt as we pray for not one drop of rain under an overcast sky!" The...fuck? How about pray nobody pops a cap in your ass, Shakespeare? "And yet I smile," Ezekiel says. And yet I frown. Again. Ezekiel says that they will fight and they will bleed. Henry passes out into a heap of vomit, probably. He says that they'll face some who are cornered by circumstance, but others who are murderous and bloodthirsty. He sounds pretty bloodthirsty himself when he says, "We shall end them all!" Then he says that it's their sorrow to do so, which doesn't really track because feeling sorry for killing someone isn't going to make him any less dead afterward, but hey, I'm not running a kingdom over here. And yet he smiles. Ezekiel keeps saying it as his lips tremble and he tries to sell the idea of trying to protect "this bastion of life in the land of the dead." All right, that's pretty good. Nice turn of phrase, Ezekiel. He promises that they will win, and everybody nods and smiles and that's how you know everything's about to go to shit in a few minutes. This speech goes on for another eternity as throbbing music swells and Ezekiel really gets into trying to inspire the troops, Coach Taylor-style. "On this day, we are one!" Ezekiel cries. There are a few half-hearted "Yes!" cries from the crowd. Everyone leans in to put hands on Ezekiel as he keeps yelling, "We are one!" Carol smiles. The camera shoots from overhead, and it looks almost like a zombie mob is attacking Ezekiel, which is completely intentional.
We jump cut to a pile of dead bodies and limbs on a battlefield, positioned in a similar configuration, and it's actually quite well done. And then we cut to a severed limb in close-up, and it feels much less artful. Silent close-ups of dead bodies, intestines hanging out, huge gaping bullet wounds on dead bodies. In the central pile of bodies, we see movement. A bloody hand emerges as a blunt musical note plays. Ezekiel, gasping, pulls his way out of the bodies. He squirms away, touching a bad wound on his leg and yelping. He breathes heavily and starts to realize what happened. Everyone on the smoking battlefield is dead except him. He turns over a body. Dead. Examines another. Dead. Yup, more dead. Ezekiel holds the face of one of his dead soldiers. Still dead. An extremely wide shot as Ezekiel, still straddling that body, screams. He begins to cry, but only for a moment, since one of the dead bodies is already starting to stir. Ezekiel watches as the woman, who had an arm blown off, starts walking. Another zombie is coming from the opposite direction, and soon the others are rising, as if they're all on the same death timer. The man Ezekiel was cradling revives and starts growling at him. Ezekiel tries to pull away, but struggles. He has to kick back and crab walk.
And pretty soon he's surrounded as he tries to scramble away, wounded. And that takes us to the opening credits after a very extended start.
We come right back to Ezekiel dragging himself back from the horde, and even though he looked surrounded just moments ago, now he's got a few yards of a head start due to poor editing. The camera remains still from an overhead 45-degree angle as the undead just walk past. Ezekiel stops backing away long enough to grab a rifle and use it to prop himself up. That doesn't last long before he falls over. The woman who put a flower in her elbow pad arises. Her eyes are bulging, her intestines are hanging out, but she's still got that flower, so that's gotta count for something, right?
Ezekiel fires at the woman's head with his pistol. He tries to fire at some others, but the gun is already out of ammo. He tries the rifle, but it clicks as well, ineffectively. Ezekiel now tries scrambling away, but he keeps falling, and most of the scrambling he's doing is over bodies that are awakening, so that's no good, either. Ezekiel is suddenly saved by one of his soldiers who is still alive and human. "There's too many! Just go!" Ezekiel tells him, but the guy stabs a walker in the head and helps Ezekiel get to his feet. He leads Ezekiel away even as His Majesty is telling him he shouldn't.
We cut to inside the window, where the big gun took out so many of Ezekiel's troops. A group of four are taking apart the gun and putting it away. But down a hallway with a blinking light, Carol has made it into the building. She creeps toward us, past a leaking faucet, toward those men. She hides behind some crates as the men hurry each other up and yell across the building. As the men carry the crates off, they unwisely stand in a line talking about what they just did right before this happens.
WINNER: Carol. Fatality! Somehow she got all of them through roof tiles from a weird angle as she was hiding in the ceiling. Nice work if you can get it! Carol comes down and fires a few rounds at some heads to make sure they're dead. More men enter the room as Carol ducks out. They say they should let her go and grab the guns instead. Hey, there's like four more of you, why not try both? Carol hides down the hallway as one guy does head in her direction.
Ezekiel is still being helped away by his Manu Ginobili-looking trooper when he asks if the trooper's seen Shiva. He hasn't. They approach dozens of walkers. Ezekiel's buddy says, "We can get through," but that promise is short-lived when he is suddenly shot in the chest from behind. A Savior emerges from behind a water tank and points his gun at Ezekiel. The guy, who has a Jeffrey Dahmer vibe, says, "Let's move, your highness." And he doesn't mean dancing! Walkers snarl loudly as we head to a commercial break.
We return to Ezekiel trying hard to walk as Jeffrey Dahmbass is leading him on at gunpoint. Jeffrey notices that Ezekiel's cane is also a sword and asks for it. "It's how I can walk," Ezekiel tries. Jeffrey says that Ezekiel can keep the cane part. Jeffrey, who can't stop grinning his moronic grin, says that they're going to The Sanctuary. Ezekiel tries to tell him that the place is crawling with walkers and that nobody can get in or out. Jeffrey thinks Ezekiel can help him get the big guns through to remedy the "sitch-y-ation." God, I hate this doofus.
Carol is outside tracking the guys loading the big guns onto a truck. She watches them and waits for her moment.
Jeffrey is getting frustrated with Ezekiel's pace. He shoots a nearby walker that's getting close as Ezekiel falls down. Jeffrey berates him for lying down now, after all he's gone through. Ezekiel says that he'd rather be chomped by the dead than some meaningless foot soldier. He asks if Negan even knows this guy's name. "I'm Negan," he answers, pointing the gun to his chin. Good answer -- should have seen that one coming, Ezekiel. Ezekiel says he won't play along if it means hurting his people. Jeffrey gestures to all the zombies who used to be Ezekiel's people. He says he heard Ezekiel's bullshit story. He steps on Ezekiel's wound, making him scream, and gets him back up and walking. Jeffrey thinks that, with that tiger, Ezekiel played his cards well. It gave him a story and an angle. "Hell, you got 'em all killed, they're still following you!" he says. Ooh, that's low. Mighty low.
Back in Carol's adventure, she quietly switches rifle magazines before going on the attack. But before she can even fire, bullets start flying her way, and she has to duck behind a parked car. She fires. They fire. Lots and lots of bullets. Nobody hits a damn thing. We go to commercials with Carol looking desperately around for a way out as these vehicles absorb like 100,000 rounds of bullets.
We return to lots more useless pew pew pew and bullet holes being made in a pick-up truck.
Then we go to Ezekiel and his captor, who wants to get some wheels and get out of there as they reach a fence separating the two of them from the building Ezekiel was trying to overtake. Ezekiel grabs at his sword and tries to cut the guy, but he's right there, hitting Ezekiel in the face with his gun and knocking him down. "It's over! Okay!? You took your shot and it's over!" He steps hard on Ezekiel's arm, subduing him. Then he starts to chuckle. He takes the blood from his fresh belly wound from the sword and rubs lines of blood on Ezekiel's face. "Delusions of grandeur," he says quietly, and starts to drag Ezekiel back up as the zombies have mysteriously disappeared from view.
The two of them reach the entrance in the fence, but it's locked with a heavy chain. "Dammit!" Jeffrey Dahmbass yells. Ezekiel asks him to give over his sword so that they can fight the approaching dead together. The guy has other plans: he takes Ezekiel's leather coat and puts it over the barbed-wire fence so that he can climb it. Ezekiel says that he can't climb that. Jeffrey knows. He kicks Ezekiel's feet out from under him. He puts the sword to Ezekiel's face. "It is what it is," he tells him. That's the thing you say when you really don't know how to describe your way out of what something actually is. Jeffrey says that Negan was hoping to have Ezekiel, The Widow, and Rick (worst independent '90s Miramax movie title) chained to the fence outside The Sanctuary. But he says that Ezekiel's head on a pike will work just as well. "Break up the obvious...symmetry," the dude says. You know, I'm just gonna park here for a second and say this is some bullshit screenwriting right here. It's like the writers can't decide if this guy's a cartoonish doofus or actually has something interesting to say, but they made him look and act so Napoleon Dynamite that any attempt at making him menacing just seems silly. No major character is gonna die at the hands of this dumb fuck, so it just feels like a waste of time to follow this little mini-drama for close to ten minutes of airtime. This show has plenty of interesting characters to pair up -- even on the villains' side -- and just to introduce some rando with big glasses and an unconvincing shtick in order to get Ezekiel from Point A to Point B is indicative of the lazy "What the fuck?" plotting of this half-season so far. It's just not interesting or well done. It feels half-assed, especially given what's about to happen.
Which is: as Ezekiel raises his chin waiting for the blade and release of sweet death, we hear a loud cry. Jeffrey turns and we see his torso cut in half and split. Blood pours into the gap from both sides.
It's Jerry! And he looks pissed! He raises his giant poleaxe and swings again. Take that, you useless piece of plot contrivance! Jerry's face is shaking. He's hysterical. I've never loved him more. Jerry is the fucking best! Not just for his passion, but for getting rid of that terrible actor/character.
Carol sits and waits while Saviors continue to shoot that poor, defenseless pick-up truck over and over. She notices a big red button nearby that should say "DEUS EX MACHINA" on it. She hangs her gun neatly by its strap on a rearview mirror and makes her move while one of the gunmen approaches. Carol slides her pistol under the truck and calls out that she can tell the men where the others are; she just wants to live. The gunmen, who could easily just come at her on both sides of the truck and take her out if they wanted to, instead cautiously tell her to come out, nice and slow. How about mean and fast? Is that also an option? Carol slowly rises, with her arms up. It makes no sense that they wouldn't just shoot her right then, if only to wound her in such a way that she can't run off. "I'm unarmed," she tells them.
Jerry helps Ezekiel get up against the fence. "I'm gonna borrow this for a sec," he says, as he takes Ezekiel's sword and uses it to take out two approaching zombies. He returns and hands the sword back. "Your Majesty," he says quietly. Ezekiel says Jerry doesn't have to call him that. "Dude, yes I do," Jerry replies, completely serious for once. He starts swinging his axe at the fence, trying to break the chain lock on it.
Carol, still with her hands up, is facing away from The Saviors, who have their guns trained on her. They ask her where her people are, and in response, she requests that they promise they won't tell her people she ratted them out. One young guy approaches her, and he's too slow to notice she still has a knife. She knocks his gun away and spins him around, taking him at knifepoint with her arm wrapped around his neck. Again, it makes no sense that they wouldn't just shoot her as this is happening. Everything in this scene is moving at like 30 percent speed, including the brains of these no-name characters. Joey, the guy Carol took hostage, gets shot up, human-shield style, as Carol dodges away. She pushes the button, which at first appears to do nothing, but as she gets on the floor and grabs her gun, we see that it has activated a fence opening. Two of the guys are too busy shooting to notice that some undead are streaming in through the now-open gate.
Jerry is still trying to break the lock, and when he tries to use the axe to twist the chain off, it breaks. He uses the broken piece of wood to stab a zombie in the eye.
Ezekiel draws his sword. Jerry readies his bloody stick and they face the horde of zombies approaching them.
Carol is still being shot at as two of the Saviors are taken down by walkers. The remaining Saviors turn their aim to the undead.
Jerry and Ezekiel start swinging at zombie heads. Jerry thanks Ezekiel. "For what?" Ezekiel asks. "For being such a cool dude," Jerry says. Aww. Every time I think I love Jerry at maximum levels, he just pushes it to 11. Ezekiel responds by stabbing another walker in the head.
With more zombies approaching, Carol has managed to eliminate the entire threat that was facing her, it seems. The gunmen are now on the run, but close enough for Carol to yell and try to negotiate getting those big guns back; she knows they're low on ammo. Off in the distance, Carol can see Jerry and Ezekiel making their last stand. She has to decide whether to save them or to get the guns. We go to commercial break on Carol's face.
We're now in flashback territory. Ezekiel and Carol are walking through their kingdom on their way to the battle as she's asking him if he's ever really fought before. He says he did once in the woods, but he had help from Shiva. Carol gives an "oh shit" face. Ezekiel says that he's trained and practiced for a long time and is ready to become what he must. "'Become'?" she asks. Ezekiel tells her that when he was just a meek zookeeper and found Shiva injured, he did hesitate before taking action. He weighed the risks. In that moment, he tells Carol, he decided he wanted to be the kind of person who leapt. Years later, he says, Benjamin taught him that when you're asked to be the hero, you should be the hero. He thinks he's ready, finally: "I've made the decision of who I will be." He asks Carol if it was easy for her, and if she always knew she was this brave. Oh, man, have we got a story for you. Carol's face twitches. "I decided. Just like you," she says, "but life decided some things too." Ezekiel walks off as Carol's left there to wonder if he's really ready.
Abrupt cut to Ezekiel and Jerry facing the undead attack. We get a series of close-ups of the zombie faces. Gross, as usual. As Ezekiel grimaces at what he must do, there's a sudden spray of machine gun fire. The zombies go down. It's Carol, of course. The truck carrying the big gun is driving away. She turns and ineffectively shoots after it, but it gets away. Carol uses the keys she found to unlock the fence. "Did they get the guns?" Ezekiel asks. Carol says there's nothing they can do. She unlocks the chain, letting Ezekiel and Jerry in. Ezekiel says they have to get word to Rick before the guns get to The Sanctuary. Carol hears the revving of another engine and smiles. "They're not getting to The Sanctuary," she tells him.
We cut to a really, really long shot of the truck heading down a curved road. And then we wait. And then Daryl is in pursuit on his motorcycle. And then a Jeep follows. Who needs cuts? Just turn that camera on and let the drivers do all the work, says I, amateur cinematographer! Lots of shots of drivers, including Rick in the Jeep, Daryl on the motorcycle, and Random Bearded Savior in the truck. The guy in the truck notices the pursuers. Daryl fires with his pistol, but the back end of the truck comes down, and somehow the other Savior survivor has set up and mounted the big gun on his own to fire at them. Yeah, that's not a thing that would happen. Daryl slides off his motorcycle trying to dodge the gunfire, but he's safe on the grassy side of the road. Rick stays in pursuit, trying to dodge heavy gunfire from wasted bullets. There are zombies in the road, so the big-gun truck has to dodge, sending the guy in the back careening. Rick accelerates, catching bullets in the Jeep. Daryl has already recovered and caught up somehow and is close behind. Rick does the thing where he pulls up next to the car and manages to switch vehicles while his own Jeep keeps driving perfectly straight with no foot on the gas.
It's so dumb. So bad. Rick manages to stab and eject the driver. The truck sails over the edge of the road down a ravine. Daryl pulls over to see if Rick is all right. Rick crawls up from the brush, having jumped out in time, apparently. Rick and Daryl silently acknowledge each other like the bros they are. "We got the guns," Rick says finally. "You look like shit," Daryl tells him. Goddammit, Daryl, you always look like shit. Buy a fucking comb already. Rick says they should go down there and see if that asshole, the one who was firing the gun, is still alive. On that not-very-dramatic note, there's a commercial break.
Carol, Jerry, and a still-injured Ezekiel are trying to make it alongside the road near some train tracks, but they keep coming up on walkers. Ezekiel falls in a heap and says this isn't going to work. He's just slowing them down. Carol fires her gun loudly, saying he doesn't need to do that. What happened to not trying to attract more walkers? She says they're almost out of ammo just as she wasted some. The three cross the tracks and head to an area full of gross toxic sludge. The zombies here are all deformed and gross. Ezekiel sees them and says he can't do it. He's super-freaked out. Oh, come on, they're just C.H.U.D.-like!
Embrace the C.H.U.D.! Jerry and Carol start taking out the toxic zombies, who spew green fluids instead of red blood. Ezekiel regains his composure enough to take out his sword and stab one in the eye. He tries again to get them to leave him, but Jerry won't go. "Come on man, just go!" he yells. Jerry yells back, "You're my king!" Ezekiel chooses the worst moment to say that he's not. He's not a king; he's not "Your Majesty." He breaks down, points to the zombies, and says that's what's real. Dude, even in the context of this show, they're not very plausible. And way to break character so late in the third act: you'll never get to Broadway at this rate. "I ain't no king," Ezekiel says, defeated. "I'm just some guy." All right, that's a little more understated and "Off Broadway"; you may save this role yet! Shiva suddenly appears, leaping onto some toxic zombies and munching on their gross, green flesh. She's quickly surrounded and overtaken, though, as Ezekiel cries. "Run!" he yells. Carol and Jerry have to hold him back from jumping in. And, of course, Shiva is eaten as Ezekiel falls apart. Even Carol looks stricken by this one. We get long, lingering shots of a tiger being eaten. And then blood merging with the green liquid. What a stupid fucking way to kill off a CGI tiger.
Sad opening of the gates at The Kingdom. Carol and Jerry walk in with Ezekiel trailing behind them, limping with his cane/sword. He's bloodied and miserable. People come out to get word of what happened to their loved ones -- kids and spouses and parents. Henry steps forward. We don't hear what he asks, but Ezekiel just looks stricken. Sad music plays as Ezekiel just walks past him without addressing the crowd. Carol watches him go. Jerry's about to cry. Ezekiel walks slowly to his home. And that's how we conclude a very sad, very frustrating episode about the folly of Ezekiel's pursuit of the dramatic arts.
Thanks for reading, everybody! This is where I hand off the rest of the half-season's recapping duties to the great Jeff Alexander! Enjoy him.