REVIEW: The Walking Dead S7 E2 ‘The Well’ is a clever respite from the horrors of Negan
Last week The Walking Dead drained my soul of every last bit of optimism it contained, but this week’s ‘The Well’ could not have been further removed from that horror story. The episode themes, characters and setting were so different, in fact, it gave me whiplash.
S7 E2 ‘The Well’ is a much-needed respite from the foreboding paranoia of last week’s Negan spectacular, and yet its focus is oddly similar. While last week we examined the character of leader of the Saviours Negan contrasted with leader of Alexandria Rick, this week we met a new leader of a survivor colony. He could not be further from what we expected. In fact, he’s a buoyant, charming and (apparently) decent individual guy. Where ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’ seemed to brutally crush all semblance of hope, ‘The Well’ goes some way to restoring it. It does so magnificently.
‘The Well’ caught up with the show’s least-likely double act, Carol and Morgan, who last season found themselves being approached by strangers while wounded and stranded outside of Alexandria. The strangers, we learn later, are inhabitants of ‘The Kingdom’ – a group of survivors led by a ‘King’, the enigmatic Ezekiel. Ezekiel uses language like he is living in a fairytale, referring to Carol as a “fair maiden”, a helper as his “faithful steward” and the community as “the realm”. Oh, and he has an enormous and apparently tame tiger called Shiva. We have not seen anything like this guy on The Walking Dead before.
King Ezekiel actor Khary Payton is as magnetic in the role as Jeffrey Dean Morgan is as Negan, and could not be more of a polar opposite. He plays the role of ruler, or protector, he tells Carol later in a heart-to-heart, because the people need a leader to be happy – and to make other people happy is what makes him happy. It is the sort of conversation that has possibly never been exchanged on The Walking Dead. And if ever there was a time for it, it is now.
The scene where Carol, the ultimate survivor, comes to blows with Ezekiel, the pragmatic fantasist, is fantastic television, offering that small beacon of hope we thought was completely stomped out last week. It’s so enchanting, in fact, that even the damaged, resilient Carol seems at least a little entranced by the fairytale Ezekiel weaves.
Of course, the Kingdom is not half as perfect as its ruler would have inhabitants believe. Like the Alexandrians, they are under the thumb of Negan and the Saviours. It’s even hinted that Negan played a similar game with the Kingdom once upon a time. King Ezekiel has found a delightfully underhand means of fighting back, however, by tainting the supplies he sends to the Saviours. We know this will have to end badly for our new favourite king, but there is something wonderful about Ezekiel’s passive-aggressive compliance in a world that has so often been about open and violent rebellion.
‘The Well’ introduced us to a sanctuary that has not been seen since the introduction of Alexandria. It introduced us to a leader unlike any we would have expected in a show as cutthroat as The Walking Dead. It provided a calming cushion to fall back upon after the harrowing events of ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’. Yet it was no less interesting.
The Walking Dead is finally widening our scope of the post-apocalypse world. The decision to explore it now seems to be giving The Walking Dead a new lease of life, as the show continues to renew and rejuvenate itself like no other on television.