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Spoiler alert for viewers who aren't caught up with The Walking Dead Season 7. Light comic spoilers will also be mentioned.
Following last week's harrowing season premiere, The Walking Dead reverted back to something resembling peacetime for our first sit-down with the newest leader in the post-apocalypse: King Ezekiel. Thanks to a positively splendid performance from actor Khary Payton, Ezekiel has made an immediate impact on this narrative, offering up a completely different kind of showmanship than what the sadistic Negan brings. Let's go a little deeper into this character by looking back at what we know from the Walking Dead comic books.
Ezekiel Is The King Of The Kingdom
King Ezekiel didn't earn his title or his throne through any of the usual methods of a monarchy, but rather by being the driving force behind getting The Kingdom community up and running, using an old school as the central hub. Unlike other locations, The Kingdom is a place where good times aren't reserved for rare occasions, and its citizens have no trouble keeping hope alive, despite everything happening in the outside world. And that's all because of Ezekiel, who is able to understand Negan's tyrannical rule (and later, Rick's no-nonsense approach) without changing up how he does things. At least not in ways that are obvious to anyone else.
Ezekiel Is Not All That He Seems
In the comics, Ezekiel was first introduced when The Hilltop's Jesus brought Rick for a Kingdom meet and greet, but TV viewers first met the flamboyant Ezekiel through the eyes of a bewildered Carol. Much as it went on the page (just with a character switch), Ezekiel got a confessional monologue in which he told Carol his mannerisms are exaggerated for effect, with his past as a community theater actor influencing his current reign as a faux King. But it's less about ego and more about giving his followers something to believe in. As well, it's a distraction that allows him to use Richard and others (now including Morgan) to quietly deal with issues like the Saviors. But while he may seem full in control, the comics tell us that there are deep insecurities inside of Ezekiel that may trouble him in the future.
Ezekiel Has A Very Special Pet Named Shiva
In both the Walking Dead comics and the TV show, Ezekiel was a zookeeper before the world went to the walkers. While others spread rumors about how the leader came to tame his massive tiger sidekick Shiva, Ezekiel told Carol that he actually just nursed the tiger back to health after she suffered a leg injury, and she'd been with him since. Not that this makes Shiva any less dangerous to others, since comic readers know that the show didn't introduce a tiger for shits and giggles. Shiva is as much a part of Ezekiel's character as his hair and his jovial attitude, and when it's time for her to get busy, it will not be a good time for whoever is on the receiving end. I gotta say, Shiva is one element that the show definitely does better than the source material, as that CGI-and-animatronic combo looks pretty incredible.
Ezekiel Is Very Intelligent And Crafty
Just as his innocently duplicitous personality would imply, Ezekiel is very smart and has adapted to the post-apocalyptic world perhaps better than most. It appears the show is bringing the basics of Comic Ezekiel's approach to dealing with the Saviors, even taking it in an interesting new direction with the pig meat. Unlike Rick, Ezekiel looks before he leaps and is not affronting with the villainous group, but his pacifying tactics belie the behind-the-scenes plans to take Negan down. He already has Morgan training Ben to be a better-than-shitty fighter (a role that Michonne took on in the comics), and it shouldn't shock anyone that the future trifecta of Rick, Ezekiel and Jesus will lead to what could be the TV show's most exciting arc yet: The All-Out War. But we still hopefully have more of Ezekiel's wiles to witness before then.
Ezekiel Is A Bit Of A Casanova
Though it seems like The Walking Dead TV show will be sticking fairly close to Ezekiel's storyline, at least as far as the fundamentals go, there could be a big change coming to his love life. On the page, Ezekiel had a relationship with Michonne that played a sizable role in the futures of both characters, though not in a way that one might expect. (This is part of where his insecurities make themselves known.) But in live-action form, Ezekiel is already laying down the pomegranate groundwork to try and woo Carol, who not long ago had been doing her own wooing with Tobin. Given Carol's personality shifts, it will be interesting to see how this relationship pans out, especially if she ends up sticking around The Kingdom on a permanent basis, giving the core survivors their first real shot at branching out. Of course, Ezekiel may still try and flirt with Michonne when she arrives, given their hair connection, but Rick may object.
The Walking Dead will return to The Kingdom, as well as introduce new locations, on Sunday nights on AMC. You can currently watch the first two episodes of Season 7 on the network's website free of charge, even without a subscription. To see when everything else that's left to premiere will arrive, check out our fall TV schedule.