Spoilers for The Walking Dead are below.
On The Walking Dead’s penultimate Season 6 episode “East,” Rick and Morgan ran into a mystery survivor while out on the road trying to track Carol down. Though the episode never explained who he was, comic fans were probably quick to notice that the guy’s self-made armor, along with the fact that he was trying to track down his horse, means that he is almost definitely a member of The Kingdom, another community of survivors first introduced in the comic source material.
There’s a good chance we’ll see that guy again and actually hear something about The Kingdom in Sunday night’s Season 6 finale, so let’s head into that situation as informed as we can be. And don’t worry, we’re just going over most of the basics here, so no major events from the comics’ future will be revealed, just in case the TV show uses this location for more direct narrative adaptations.
It’s The Second Biggest Community So FarRemember when Rick & Co. were all split up and heading to Terminus? That feels like forever ago, now that the show has brought in the communities of Alexandria and the Hilltop Colony. But this world is nowhere near finished expanding, and The Kingdom is the next important location viewers will get introduced to in live-action. There are a ton of survivors within this settlement, many of whom can be seen donning homemade armor and riding horses. The Kingdom is located on the grounds of a high school with its outer perimeter marked by a wall of school buses and sheets of metal. Most citizens sleep outside in tents in the warmer months, and inside the school building when winter hits. While relatively little of the Walking Dead’s story has taken place within The Kingdom, there’s something striking about seeing such a familiar location reinforced for the post-apocalypse, and I hope the TV show utilizes that area more.
King Ezekiel Is The Kingdom’s LeaderMuch like Alexandria is led by Rick and the Hilltop is run by Gregory, The Kingdom has a commander in “King” Ezekiel, a charismatic and bold older gentleman whose ghost-white beard and dreads are arguably the best hair in The Walking Dead. Ezekiel is a kind and respectful head of state, although his theatricality and boastfulness don’t make him the most approachable person. (Doesn’t mean he doesn’t have romance, though.) He actually did have a background in theater before the world went to shit, and he was also a zookeeper. (More on that soon.) In the comics, Ezekiel occasionally allows his guarded inner personality to come out, making him as well rounded as this series gets with characters that aren’t in every issue. We don’t expect him to show up until some point in Season 7, so we’re biding our time thinking about who we want to see in the role. My fingers are crossed for Wendell Pierce.
There’s A Tiger InvolvedRemember how Ezekiel used to be a zookeeper? Right, well that makes him just the right person to successfully keep a pet tiger. Named Shiva, the tiger was born in captivity, and Ezekiel has kept close ties with her ever since, despite her attacking him in those early days. When she’s not sleeping in her cage, Shiva is usually either sitting aside Ezekiel and his throne, or she’s being guided around by a chain. Or, of course, she might running wild and destroying walkers and shit, as a tiger is wont to do when almost everything is a threat. We may or may not see Shiva on TV one day, and it should be obvious why we wouldn’t – tigers be risky, yo – but I’m hoping for at least one appearance. One that lasts all season.
These People Hate Negan As Much As Everyone ElseThe Kingdom is part of the same trade route as the Hilltop Colony, which also unfortunately includes having to offer up half of their supplies to Negan and his Saviors. To be expected, there are rumblings within the community about finding a way to take Negan down, something Ezekiel doesn’t want to blindly put into motion. And so it makes sense that The Kingdom was first introduced in the comic books when Jesus takes Rick there to have a conversation with Ezekiel about such a mutinous plan. This first meeting also includes another surprise supporter of the cause, but it’s not worth mentioning here in case the TV show decides to make this shocking scene happen.
A war is eventually coming, people. But we’ve got a long time to wait until that happens, and a lot of people (and one tiger) to meet before then. In the meantime, The Walking Dead will air its Season 6 finale on AMC on Sunday, April 3.