Minor spoilers ahead for Season 7 of The Walking Dead.
It's a good day to be a Walking Dead fan. It's currently day 2 of San Diego Comic-Con, and today we were given the first trailers for both The Walking Dead and its spinoff Fear The Walking Dead's back season. In addition to peeking behind the curtain to the action and walkers we'll be seeing in Season 7 of TWD, we were also introduced to a major comic book character that will be making his long-awaited appearance in the series. That character is none other than Ezekiel, the leader of The Kingdom community. And yes, the dude has a fucking tiger at his disposal.
Fans of the Walking Dead comics have surely been anticipating the arrival of Ezekiel for some time now. Last season saw the introduction of two large communities which are close to Alexandria: The Hilltop and The Saviors. And while the idea of multiple thriving communities was mind boggling, comic readers knew there was yet another one waiting in the wings. The anticipation for The Kingdom only continued to grow with Season 6's finale, especially in regards to Carol and Morgan's plot. After Morgan kills the Savior who was stalking Carol, he runs into two survivors who are wearing body armor and carrying spears. He apologizes for stealing their horse, and pleads for them to help Carol, who had been shot multiple times. And just like that, we knew the Kingdom (and presumably Ezekiel) were probably coming.
While we've been waiting for Ezekiel to make an appearance on The Walking Dead, his casting has been a complete mystery. Many theories have been floating around, including a convincing argument that Lost alum Harold Perrineau would be taking the mantle. Now it appears those were false, as voice actor Khary Payton can be seen in the trailer as Ezekiel. Payton is best known for his voice acting in Young Justice and Teen Titans, as well as his recurring role in General Hospital.
Ezekiel rules The Kingdom is with grace and respect, rather than fear. In the comics, the thriving community is based within a Washington D.C high school that was fortified by sheets of metal and school buses. Ezekiel essentially represents the antithesis of Negan. While the community is structured for their safety, he doesn't use fear tactics and cruelty to rule over people. In the Season 7 trailer we see how The Saviors kneel when Negan is in their presence, only adding to his psychosis and power trip.
The Kingdom may very well be the saving grace that Rick and the residents of Alexandria need. The Saviors seem indestructible, with a mass of resources and able bodies at their disposal. It is with this fear and manpower that they were able to rule over The Hilltop, and now presumably Alexandria. But if the three peaceful communities were to somehow rise up against Negan there may be a chance at survival and freedom after all.
Then again, I may be getting ahead of myself. For now let's just appreciate what a BAMF Ezekiel looks like, especially with his trusty tiger Shiva at his side. Seriously, who is gonna mess with a dude who has a tiger as a pet? Not me.