The Walking Dead 7×02 ‘The Well’: Get what you give

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There’s much that The Walking Dead can do to come back from the utterly insufferable “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”. It can focus on making its characters just a little more believable. It can focus on making the plotting sensible instead of incoherent. But really, more than just about anything else, it can renew a focus on community, on how people come together and create hierarchies of power, how people come to live in a world that is increasingly fraught with danger. It never committed to that idea of community with enough force to really make it work, but the sentiment is there. There are many different communities in play right now, the Hilltop, Alexandria, The Kingdom, Negan and his men, and there are certainly some interesting stories to be told about how communities with different belief systems coexist. The question is: Can The Walking Dead actually tell these stories?

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

After this episode, I suppose my answer is more optimistic than it was after the last episode. At the very least, “The Well” narrows the focus a bit, giving us an uninterrupted look at The Kingdom, using just Carol and Morgan in the process. The Kingdom is an interesting place, to be sure, as we see that it is structured with a singular leader that calls himself a king, and it has social structures in place such as a school system, musicians, and a belief system. It’s interesting to hear that Ezekiel structures The Kingdom as a place where one needs to contribute in order to exist there, and I’m curious to see how that operates when it is being challenged. For example, what happens when somebody breaks the laws in place? What happens when somebody doesn’t contribute? What constitutes social advancement? Does the magnitude of contribution correlate with what one gets in return? It’s interesting stuff, the kind of questions that really make the show shine. “The Well”, overall, is solid, the kind of episode that will keep the show alive in its seventh season.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

My first impression of Ezekiel isn’t entirely positive, but it’s the same impression I had of Abraham. His manner of speaking is very bizarre and overblown, very much in line with comic book material, and that can be kind of frustrating, considering how the show is very different than the comic books and how television as a medium operates in a very different context than comic books. If The Walking Dead wants to be a serious philosophical look at death, mortality, and community, characters like Ezekiel detract from that tone. But the more Ezekiel is humanized, the more palatable he will become as a character. Here, he gets enough humanizing to generally work throughout the episode, as he generally wants to see his community thrive, and approaches governance with an altruistic eye. It’s quite the juxtaposition to Negan, though none of this negates my criticism of Negan’s characterization, as there are ways to make them polar opposites without stooping to the lows that the premiere went to. But that juxtaposition is still fascinating, and makes for a strong way to frame “The Well”.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

As for Morgan and Carol, there are ways to position their characters so that they make sense moving forward, and they work for the most part. Morgan is being utilized by Ezekiel as a way to train some of the young ones that are learning to defend themselves against the zombies, and he enjoys being utilized in that manner. It gives him a sense of purpose that he was lacking before while still giving him the sense of peace he’s been searching for throughout the series. Carol, on the other hand, isn’t really given a storyline that is new or interesting. She wants to set out on her own, but it doesn’t entirely make sense why. She’s uneasy about The Kingdom, which makes sense, but we’ve seen this character beat from her before, and it’s frustrating to see a character as exciting as Carol continue to be boring and underutilized. Maybe she’ll change in later episodes, but right now she’s continuing down the same tedious path that she went down in the back half of the last season, and it’s a shame. But Morgan really is the shining star of the episode, and it’s exciting to see him interact with the various citizens of The Kingdom.

Source: AMC

Source: AMC

But what I’m really interested in seeing is how these communities interact with one another. The Saviors, in the scene that they show up, don’t necessarily antagonize Ezekiel and his men, though some are vicious and sadistic like Negan (well, not like Negan, but still violent). It’s interesting to see some diversity in how The Saviors act, even though last season characterized The Saviors so poorly. Hopefully, as this season goes on, The Saviors will be characterized with a little more nuance, and it will be easier to understand who they are as a community. Right now, the small bursts of nuance is what is keeping The Walking Dead from collapsing in on itself, and the more that communities like The Kingdom and The Saviors are focused on exclusively, the better the show will be. For instance, I’m dreading seeing Rick and company back at the Hilltop or Alexandria, because we’ll be continuing the same nonsense we saw in the premiere, because The Walking Dead has already failed so miserably at portraying the Hilltop and Alexandria as communities of substance.

But “The Well” is a strong starting point. I’m genuinely interested to see what comes after this episode, not because I think that the characterization is going to get so much better or because the plotting is going to be so much better. That ship, for the most part, has sailed. But watching The Walking Dead introduce The Kingdom reminds me the point of watching The Walking Dead in the first place. This show does have something to say about community, about the way we live in the world. And maybe, amidst the swings of the baseball bat, we’ll hear something of importance.

What did you think of “The Well”? Are you impressed by the introduction of The Kingdom? Let me know in the comments!

Michael St. Charles

is just a Michigan State University grad who loves a good story. If he’s not off teaching the young ones how to solve quadratic functions or to write an expository essay, he’s watching old-school HBO shows, indie horror movies, or he’s playing Resident Evil 4.

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  • Gui

    Well, before anything, I’d like to mention that the duo of Last Day On Earth/TDWCWYWB (gonna just shorten that, it’s a ridiculously long title), seems to really boil down to some really bad editorial decisions. Did you know, for instance, that they actually had filmed the Lucille scenes last year with Last Day On Earth? For whatever reason, however, they went with a cliffhanger. Either a huge miscalculation (maybe an exchange going along the lines of “Hey AMC can we get a 2 hour finale” “no”) or some very bad decision making. And all my talk of the issue 100 effect. But that’s other discussion, let’s move on to this episode which I’m actually really, really pleased with.

    Despite all that’s happened lately, the series still has this undercurrent of hope. Honestly, I think that what Ezekiel said to Carol near the end is a lot closer to what the series wants to aim for than the misery and despair of the premiere (except for the last 10 minutes of it). “Where there’s life, there’s hope, heroism, grace, and love”. And that’s gonna be instrumental during the rest of this season as we move towards the series’ interpretation of volumes 19, 20, and 21 (the second half of this season and season 8, I suspect).

    As for Ezekiel? It bothered me much less than when we got introduced to Abraham’s group. While they could’ve been toned down from the start, I feel with Ezekiel the ridiculousness is the point. What they did right, though, was not wait long before peeling his mask, and I find it pretty clever that they used Carol for that (who also keeps hiding behind a mask). In fact, I’d say tumblr user DynamicSymmetry puts it better than I can:

    “We’ve been needing something like the Kingdom. Why? The Kingdom is noble. Or it’s trying to maintain an ideal of nobility. Carol says it’s a ridiculous lie, and it kind of is, but I think it’s also the kind of ridiculous lie that can be enormously helpful in the ZA. So many of the best aims and goals we’ve ever imagined have essentially been ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth making a go at. Even if we fall short.

    Ezekiel understands that, understands the power of stories, and in that way he’s far more realistic and clear-eyed and self-aware – and therefore wiser – than anyone we’ve seen on the show in a long time. He sees the value in the legend, he sees why the legend is important, he sees how the legend makes people strong, but he also appears to not have lost sight of the fact that it’s a legend.”

    Carol is a great character to have here, and while her storyline is falling into a bit of a repetitive pattern, I can see a new one starting to show at the end of the episode. By staying in that house close to the Kingdom, she decided to go and not go. Ezekiel got through to her, and the fact someone saw through her mask and opened up to her about it means she can finally start dropping those masks she’s been putting on for the longest time. Not just since getting to Alexandria, but even before then, I’d say back to after Beth’s death where she put on a mask to stay with them rather than just leave before like she planned.

    Morgan, well, you pretty much said it all. One of my favorite moments was when he admits to Ben that he’s just fumbling it. He’s coming to terms with what he had to do and he’s more willing to do it now, but he’s reached a balance that he sorely lacked before finding Eastman. I’m excited to see where he goes from here, the fact his comics counterpart was so different and died long ago means that we’re getting something completely series original on his end, and that’s exciting.

    Honestly, I think this episode started the actual course correction. The fact the series has separated the group in a more purposeful way than season 6A did also has me hopeful, this feels closer to 4B and 5A in a sense to me, and I think we’ll get something closer to them for what remains of the season. If that ends up actually being the case, and the aftermath of the deaths in the premiere is dealt with properly when the time comes, then there’s definitely life in this series still. I’ll stay hopeful. Next week it seems we’re getting the Sanctuary, and while there’ll probably be a fair amount of Daryl, I suspect he’ll work more as the anchor for us to see the inner workings of Negan’s community. We’ll see how that goes!

    • Michael St. Charles

      The more I reflect on Ezekiel, the more excited I am to see more of him. I think his admission to Carol that he’s just trying to keep his community together and give them something to hope for is a great, great way to frame him and to frame the new community. I think that the more they focus on The Kingdom, the better this season is going to end up being.

      I am nervous, though, about how they’re going to course-correct with Rick and the original cast. That premiere was so bad and casts such a massive shadow over Rick’s group that they’re really going to have to do some maneuvering to add some complexity and push away the more frustrating elements of the show.

      I will say, though, that the decision to fragment the first half of the season by having the first episode with Rick, the second with The Kingdom, and the third presumably with The Saviors is a great way to create some breathing room. The show just has to figure out what to do with the main cast. That is, by far, the biggest challenge.

      • Michael St. Charles

        I also think that they’ll push Carol’s character in the right direction. It might just take a little while to get out of the shadow of the bad character development in Season 6B.