Sunday, October 30, 2016

Walking Dead recap: Season 7, Episode 2: "The Well"

Given The Walking Dead's fondness for settling every conflict with a bloody fight to the death (or undeath), I suspect the show's creators arranged for Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) to encounter the Kingdom mainly so its residents can team up later with Alexandria and the Hilltop against the Saviors in a war to end all wars. But even if that's the ultimate goal, watching the two most pacifist members of Rick's group explore this seemingly humanistic new world provided a much-needed respite from the nihilistic violence of the seventh season's premiere episode—and a welcome change of focus, from how to merely survive in a post-apocalyptic world to how to live.

The episode starts with the obligatory walker wipeout, but even there it hints at more. Wounded and determined not to kill anymore, Carol watches passively as Morgan and the mysterious ally who appeared, like a literal knight in shining armor, on horseback and in body armor, slice and dice their way through the ravening undead. She keeps trying to blink away the visions that assault her, as the walkers lumbering toward her momentarily morph into the human beings they once were. It's an acknowledgement—rare and fleeting but perhaps a promise of more to come—of the moral implications of killing walkers, who are, after all, just dead versions of the rest of us.

After cutting a swathe through the walker herd, Morgan and his new friend take Carol to the Kingdom, a rural utopia that seems, as she puts it, like “a fairy tale.” King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) talks like a character in a 1950s costume drama and has by his side a (sometimes too obviously CGI) pet tiger, and there's an anachronistic, Mayberry-wholesome vibe to this community and nearly everyone in it, including Benjamin (Logan Miller), the young man Ezekiel asks Morgan to mentor. Especially given what we learn about how Ezekiel is shielding the other residents from knowing that they're in thrall to the Saviors, the community choir's syrupy version of “Don't Think Twice” is a bit too on the nose, as is the contrast between the chopper-blade Apocalypse Now-like soundtrack to the opening walker slaughter and the tinkling wind chimes that Carol wakes to in the Kingdom. Both of these speak to the show's abiding weakness for presenting characters and situations in nuance-obliterating black-and-white terms. Read the rest in the House Next Door

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