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After last week’s disaster of a premiere, “The Well” did a lot right, focusing on character rather than blood, guts, and violence. Now, I will say that I wish the episode had a bit more action, but I’ll take an overly talky episode that introduced an intriguing new character and relied heavily on the brilliant talents of Melissa McBride and Lennie James over Negan bashing skulls in any day.
And that’s the main reason this episode worked so well: it put the heavy lifting on two of the show’s most capable actors. I was pretty disappointed with the strange turn Carol took last season, going from the show’s most complex character to a character with absolutely no focus (I still don’t really understand why the writers thought turning her into a pacifist who was guilty over the things she has done to protect those she cares about was a good plan), but I was pleasantly surprised to see she has maintained her ability to blend into any situation around her. I was even more happy to see that Ezekiel was able to see right through the facade and call her on her bullshit.
Carol needs someone in her life who understands who she has become, and no one at Alexandria was going to fulfill that role- not even her bff, Daryl. But Ezekiel isn’t trying to change her. He isn’t convinced she needs community and people around her. He seems to understand that she needs time to better understand herself, to recover her humanity, before she can be around people. I’m still not convinced that Carol won’t eventually go back to her old ways (and I certainly hope she gets her edge back, as that was one of the things that made her into the spectacular character she once was), but I’m willing to give Scott Gimple and company a chance to build this particular arc. If it means a chance to see McBride and Khary Payton interact more, I’m all for it.
In addition to giving Carol a bit more direction after last season’s ridiculousness, “The Well” also allowed Morgan to find a place he belongs. So much of last season was spent with Morgan at loggerheads with Rick, where it eventually reached the point of diminishing returns. After all, there are only so many times Morgan and tell Rick he doesn’t want to kill before it just gets plain boring. But placing Morgan in The Kingdom was a stroke of brilliance by the show. This is a place that ascribes to a similar belief system to Morgan. This is a place that needs him. I’m sure, down the line, The Kingdom will run into Alexandria or The Hilltop, but for now, I’m glad that it can be a haven for Morgan to be useful.
I suspect many fans of the more visceral aspects of The Walking Dead didn’t enjoy this episode as much as I did, but I wish the show could find a good, consistent balance between the violence and narrative arcs. I suppose that, in its seventh season, it’s probably too late for this particular tiger to change its stripes, but I still live on hope that perhaps it might be possible. Certainly throwing us a few episodes like “The Well” every now and then would go a long way toward rectifying things.
— There was some serious chemistry between Carol and Ezekiel.
— Glad to see Morgan passing on his badass staff skills to someone else.
— While the CGI on Shiva was far from perfect, kudos to the show for even attempting it.
— It was nice to have a break from Negan’s long-winded speeches and Rick’s inability to lead this week. Although, I wonder who’s head is on the chopping block for The Kingdom if they stop paying the Saviors.
— I loved when Ezekiel laid out the truth of his situation to Carol. It was one of the more honest and heartfelt speeches the show has done. And it made perfect sense: people need a leader, even when it means a bit of showmanship. There’s an interesting article to be written comparing the leadership styles of the various leaders on The Walking Dead, and deciding which works the best. While I would probably have a similar reaction to Carol upon meeting Ezekiel, I have to say, I prefer his leadership style so far to those we have seen throughout the series. I’m sure things will go pear-shaped for them at some point, but for now, The Kingdom is definitely the place to be.