Major spoilers from Sunday night's (October 30) episode of "The Walking Dead," "The Well," lie ahead.
I have to be honest with you: I don't know if I enjoyed "The Well" as much as I did because it was actually a great episode of "The Walking Dead," or because my PTSD from last week's god-awful, sadistic season premiere in still affecting the way I see things.
Either way, it felt pretty fantastic spending this week exploring The Kingdom with Carol and Morgan instead of living in the abject misery that is the Negan storyline. A few minutes into the episode, when Carol laughed, smiled, and said "I don't know what the hell is going on in the most wonderful way," I laughed with her — and realized I hadn't experienced such a moment of joy while watching this show since Rick and Michonne had sex.
That was on February 21, 2016.
Overall, "The Well" was so enjoyable largely because of the fantastic King Ezekiel, who is already the most unique figure we've met on this series in a long time.
Imagine, someone on "The Walking Dead" is actually having a lot of fun — without bashing anybody's brains in!!!
Yes, I know you all love Negan. Yes, I'm hoping that, with time, I can get over how much I genuinely hate gratuitous sadism as a plot device, so I can fully enjoy Jeffrey Dean Morgan — who I realize is a fantastic actor, and one who is having way more fun than anyone else currently on this show — hamming it up in the role.
But for now, I still hate him. So I'm just glad we have Ezekiel, a theater geek with a tiger who doesn't seem to fit neatly into one of the three categories of leader we've met on "Walking Dead" thus far:
1. Psychopath who was probably emasculated pre-apocalypse (Governor, Negan)
2. Unprepared optimist with no real survival skills; only dumb luck (Deanna, Hershel)
3. Cannibal (Terminus)
Ezekiel alone (and his wingman played by Cooper Andrews, who also plays Yo-yo on AMC's little-seen but very excellent "Halt and Catch Fire") will hopefully be enough to keep The Kingdom interesting until it inevitably joins forces with Hilltop and Alexandra to fight the Saviors.
I almost don't want The Kingdom to become soiled by Rick and the Grimes Gang's Negan drama, though. They seem to have a firm handle on their deal with him for the time being, and from The Kingdom's biblical metaphor pomegranates to its top-notch glee club, it seems like a pretty cool place to be — which means it will only be a matter of time before Rick will find a way to ruin it. (RIP, Benjamin. Let's be real; you were put on the series to die horribly.)
And look, a lot has been said about "The Walking Dead" getting stuck in a cycle of "show up in a new place, doubt we can ever be safe there, finally feel safe there, meet bad guys, fight bad guys, die, move on." But this is why sticking with the Alexandria setting (and the other settlements around out) feels like such a big deal — and why I assume the battle with The Saviors is endgame for the show, because where do they even go after that — and also why The Kingdom in and of itself could become a bit of a retread story-wise. Its citizens aren't quite as ill-prepared as the Alexandrians thanks to Ezekiel's intelligent leadership, but they do spend a whole lot of their time singing and making cobblers, and arguably not nearly enough of it preparing to fight Negan. (They also don't know about their leader's deal with Negan which, you know, will inevitably become a major problem.)
However, I didn't mind a little of the same old this time around, because bottom line "The Well" gave two of "The Walking Dead"'s finest actors a chance to shine in an optimistic storyline. It also gave Melissa McBride and Lennie James a fine scene partner in Khary Payton's intelligent, theatrical, and overall strangely calming Ezekiel — who had definitely taken a special interest in Carol by the end of the night, god bless him — and course-corrected a lot of the disaster-fest that was Carol's storyline in Season 6. (Remember when she couldn't kill people for some reason? Remember when the show reversed the very character traits that had come to define her since Season 2?)
When the show writes good material for Carol and for McBride, it's at its best. Period.
For me, Carol has long since been the number one character on the show who feels like a real, flesh-and-blood person (I love you, Daryl, but I don't think I'll ever run into you at the 7-11). That made the writers' choices for her even more painful and befuddling last spring, so I'm thrilled to see her seemingly back in action with her head screwed on straight.
The episode also did good things for James' Morgan — who didn't suffer as badly as Carol in the writers's room last year, but I'd be lying if I said his Season 6 introduction to the Grimes Gang lived up to its colossal expectations. (Making him the dude who wouldn't kill even when it was 100 percent justified and even necessary for him to do so was a bizarre choice for him, and not only because it had already been explored with other characters.) I definitely like him a lot more now that he's integrating himself fully in Kingdom life, and finally realizing that in this new world, you occasionally have to make shit choices (like feeding rot-infested pigs to the Saviors), but you can't let these choices define you.