We all knew there would be casualties when the heroes of The Walking Dead decided to mount an offensive against the Saviors, but in the Sunday, November 12, episode, the abstract knowledge became real in the worst way. After an overconfident Ezekiel (Khary Payton) walked his forces into a death trap, almost no one from the Kingdom was left alive — and that was only in the first five minutes of the most devastating episode so far this season.
Here are all the terrible things that happened in the latest dispatch from AMC’s zombie drama.
The Kingdom Falls
You had to love King Ezekiel’s gusto in the lead up to the conflict with the Saviors, but alas, all the hammy psych-em-up speeches in the world were no match for a hail of actual bullets. An overhead group shot of the Kingdom’s army in a pre-battle embrace segued seamlessly to a much grimmer one: the same soldiers lay dead in a pile, killed protecting their king. And Ezekiel, badly injured and emotionally wrecked, was left to scramble through the field of rapidly reanimating corpses that used to be his most loyal subjects. Don’t worry, guys … it gets much, much worse.
Delusions of Grandeur
At first, it looked like a single surviving Kingdom soldier would be Ezekiel’s saving grace — only for a bespectacled, balding Savior to shoot the man and then lead His Majesty back toward the compound, taunting him all the while. The guy called Ezekiel “a meaningless con man in a costume” suffering from “delusions of grandeur” — which was a hell of a harsh judgment coming from a man who looked like an underachieving escapee from the Scumbag Stephen King cosplayer’s convention. Worse, Ezekiel clearly took the spectacled scumbag’s insults to heart. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) showed up with his battle-ax to save the day (and create the episode’s most memorable shot, in which the Savior’s cleaved torso was split in two to reveal Ezekiel on the other side), but the whole experience left Zeke prepared to give up the whole “king” thing entirely — even though Jerry made it clear that the royal fantasy is a powerful motivator for everyone, not just the man on the throne.
“Your Majesty,” he said, only to have Ezekiel interrupt: “You don’t need to call me that.”
Jerry looked exasperated. “Dude? Yes, I do.”
Meanwhile, Carol (Melissa McBride) survived the carnage outside the compound and went on alone to try to complete the mission, killing several Saviors in a quest to keep them from getting weapons to the Sanctuary. But after a firefight in the parking lot, she was forced to make a choice: take out the escaping Saviors or rescue Ezekiel and Jerry from a zombie onslaught outside the fence. She chose to save her friends — although she sure took her time debating it. Fortunately, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) were able to pick up the ball where she dropped it, arriving just in time to chase down the truck and give Action Hero Rick his big chance to have a slap fight in a moving vehicle.
Heavy Is the Head That Wears the Crown
With nothing left of the Kingdom’s army but Carol, Jerry, and Ezekiel, the three struggled to make their way through the zombie-infested forest to safety — a journey made that much more difficult by the fact that Ezekiel spent the entire time having an existential crisis and yelling at the others (in his normal voice, not his king voice) to leave him behind.
It all came to a head in a creek bed full of sewage-drenched walkers, where Ezekiel tried to make a last heroic stand so his friends could get away. But instead, a different hero emerged to make the ultimate sacrifice: Shiva, whose whereabouts was an open question all episode long, leapt out of the forest with teeth bared. But because The Walking Dead hates us and wants us to be miserable (and also probably because the CGI tiger was a serious drain on their production budget), Shiva, the powerful and glorious predator, was no match for six waterlogged walking corpses with no muscle tone. (RIP, Shiva.)
And when Ezekiel walked back through the gates of the Kingdom, there would be no scenery-chewing speeches about remaining hopeful in the face of defeat. Not now, and maybe not ever again.