“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”~Martin Luther King, Jr.
What seemed like another throw-away episode this week turned into a very deep exploration of how we, as people, define ourselves, along with the how and why we make the choices that we make. In fact, in a season where TWD is facing rapidly declining viewership, I found myself thinking more and more about this episode. And, if I’m still considering an episode long after it has ended, that means it not only held my attention, but it made me take pause and question some things. (Something the series rarely asks of me anymore).
Do you need a refresher on what happened? Then CLICK HERE for a spoiler-filled play by play. All set? Let the discussion begin!
First off, I have to comment on the current TWD reviewer for EW. Dude…it’s one thing to make an occasional error because you were so wrapped up in what you were writing that you accidentally cite something incorrectly. However, it’s another thing entirely when you write the wrong things week after week. Ezekiel did not return to the Kingdom and place his hand on the shoulder of some random child hoping for a sign of his mother. That kid was Henry (Ezekiel spoke to him by name at the start of the episode). Henry is/was Benjamin’s little brother. An orphan. Pay attention to what you are being paid to write about *said with clapping hands between each syllable*
Now that we have that out of the way…
When this episode began, I literally rolled my eyes. “Here we go again,” I mumbled. “Another one of Ezekiel’s speeches.” But, the show quickly regained my attention with the juxtaposition of the two scenarios in which Zeke was surrounded by his people. The first shot was of all of them clamoring to get an arm in, chanting and getting pumped for battle, because “We are one“. The second was of the same group of loyal followers, blown to bits by that 50-cal, a number of whom had thrown themselves at Zeke for protection rather than ducking for cover as he ordered. It was grotesque and heartbreaking and beautifully shot. All for one and one for all.
Did you notice the foreshadowing during the opening farewell sequence? Each person who took the time to say goodbye to a loved one wound up having that be their last day on earth together. Just as Zeke was leaving and handed off Shiva’s leash to their secondary group (which they met up with later on that day) Zeke reached over and gave her some love pats. If you didn’t know right then and there that Shiva was not going to survive then we must not have been watching the same show. Not only is it straight from the comics that she should die saving him from a group of the undead, but they hinted at it all episode. Poor kitty.
So, in a matter of seconds (and being watched from a sniper’s vantage point) Carol somehow managed to make it into the building just before nearly every member of the Kingdom was gunned down. Because she is a badass. Then, she pulled an Indiana Jones, giving drop-in ceilings a whole new meaning. Unfortunately, she underestimated the Saviors she was tracking and wound up pinned in the lot where they were loading up their high-powered weapons onto a vehicle for transport. Once again utilizing her go-to tactic of I’m just a weak woman, please don’t shoot me, Carol managed to get one Savior killed, opened the gate to allow a slew of walkers entry, and swiped some keys and ammo. Just when we thought our one-man wrecking crew had it all under control, she spotted Ezekiel and Jerry pinned against a locked gate. Naturally, she saved her friends.
We knew Jerry didn’t die. Though, I am confused as to where he was. At the point Zeke yelled for them to “Scatter!” Jerry wasn’t too far away. I was surprised he wasn’t one of the loyalist who threw themselves on top of the King and perished. Even so, with the crazily rapid speed with which the dead began to turn, I am still baffled as to the How/What/Where/HUH?? of Jerry’s valiant escape. But, I digress.
In the moments before Jerry swooped in and sliced Dahmer…I mean, Gunther…in half, Zeke was being emotionally as well as physically tortured. Gunther was a certifiable nut job, however, he made some good points. “Take away that tiger and what’s left?” Things we should be thinking about at that point.
So, Carol saves the day. Ezekiel is upset that she let the guns get away. In the distance, Carol hears the sound of Daryl’s motorcycle and proceeds to show Zeke what a real smile looks like. [Side note: the Rickyl show is becoming a buddy-cop comedy and makes me smile more than should be allowed because it’s ridiculous] And they begin their hobbled trek back to the Kingdom. Along the way, they discover the source of the extra gooey “What befell this creature” walker. Whatever industrial area the Saviors were holed up in, had its own waste-dumping ground. This festering pit produced some HAZMAT walkers that Carol, Zeke and Jerry had to pass through, while being followed by more non-toxic walkers. It all became too much for Ezekiel to handle, when suddenly, as if we weren’t supposed to be expecting it, Shiva jumps into the waste dump to protect her King! Just like he jumped into her pit all those years prior to save her. It’s the circle of liiiiiiife.
Watching Ezekiel watching Shiva die a slow and tortured death was awful. Especially so soon after Gunther’s remarks and witnessing the deaths of most of the members of the Kingdom. He now carries the guilt of all of those lost lives, and he will blame himself for all that has happened.
But did you see Carol’s face as Shiva died? This was his Sophia moment. She felt it. She felt a lot of things on this journey with Ezekiel, even more so on the occasions he would let his guard down and speak to her as his true self. During the flashbacks of their conversation prior to battle, Ezekiel told Carol, “I am ready to become what I must.” Carol questioned it, as she should have. The title of the episode, “Some Guy”, tells us what we need to know. But is that information accurate?
We’ve seen the personal growth experienced by Carol since the start of the ZA. One of her biggest defenses–and deceptions–is when she pretends to be just ‘some gal’, a nobody plain-Jane who will always be underestimated. Her old self, if you will. But, for Ezekiel it is different. He didn’t become a stronger person, as Carol did. His journey was slightly more akin to Eugene’s. Eugene used his natural skills and knowledge to deceive others into placing a higher value on him and thus protect him. (We have come to see, and will continue to see, Eugene’s growth as his self-worth increases, allowing him to rise to the occasion.) Ezekiel used his natural skills and knowledge, along with his mysterious relationship with a large jungle cat, to create the persona we know as the King. As with Eugene, this caused others to place a higher value on him and thus protect him. Along the way, Ezekiel admitted to taking the time to try and learn from his ‘followers’, so that should the time ever arise, he could step up. “If you’re asked to be the hero, be the hero.” Thanks, Benjamin.
The difference between Eugene and Zeke is that Eugene was never placed into a scenario where he could take on an Alpha role. Whereas, Ezekiel was thrust into a leadership position rather quickly. Clearly, he didn’t realize just how good an actor he really was or how powerful his motivations had been on his people. Seeing them sacrifice themselves, not just for the cause, but specifically for him, was overwhelming for Zeke. Seeing him frantic in the pit, begging Jerry and Carol to leave and save themselves, pointing at the walkers and shouting that “This is real” broke my heart. This day was his reality check. Deandra had one of those back in Alexandria. She soon snapped out of the depressive funk and stepped up in a brave way. Ezekiel has a lot of blood on his hands, or at least he believes that he does, but in time, he will also get out of his depressive funk and step up again. Ezekiel, like Deandra, didn’t have to deal with a lot of the “real” world when things fell apart. They each quickly became part of a situation bigger than themselves and began to lead. Ezekiel, however, was under the ruling thumb of Negan, and that more than anything is what kept the people of the Kingdom alive. Zeke kept them motivated.
Carol’s journey began with the one-two punch of losing her husband and daughter. She had to harden up so that she could keep up and survive. As she put it, becoming who she is now was partly her choice and partly the moments when life chose for her. This day was the moment life chose for Ezekiel. He is now a broken, terrified man who feels he has no purpose. The weight of the world is on his shoulders and he is truly lost. Carol is recognizing a lot of her own journey in Ezekiel, but I believe she is also seeing their differences. She won’t let him slide down into that pity party for long. No, Carol understands that the people who remain still need him to become what he must.
And so, I present to you the Donna Noble Principle. If you watch Doctor Who, you already know where I’m going with this. Donna Noble, Human, Companion to the Doctor. And, in her own words, “nothing special”. She’s just a “Temp from Chiswick” who can’t seem to get anything right. No matter how many times the Doctor tells her that she is special or brilliant, she never believes him. In the end…nah…I’m not going to spoil it for you with details…but in the end, the Doctor tells Donna’s mother, “I just want you to know, there are worlds out there, safe in the sky because of her. That there are people living in the light, and singing songs of Donna Noble. A thousand, million light years away. They will never forget her — while she can never remember. … But for one moment… one shining moment… she was the most important woman in the whole wide universe.”
Right now, Ezekiel has been reduced to just “some guy”. But he is not. Jerry’s actions alone let him know that. Everything was falling apart spectacularly, Ezekiel had lost so much and snapped at Jerry not to call him “your highness”. “You don’t have to call me that!” And Jerry yelled back, “YES, I DO!” Because, whether Zeke feels it or whether he believes it or not, to Jerry, Ezekiel will never be just “some guy”. Jerry has his reasons for believing in and being grateful for Ezekiel.
We don’t always know the reasons why people feel the way they do about us. We don’t always know if/when/how we have affected someone else in our lives, or even perfect strangers. But every single day, it’s true. The things we say and do have a profound effect on the universe. As we learned listening to the Hamilton soundtrack, “I am the one thing in life I can control.” What defines us? Is it the clothes we wear, the house we live in, the music we listen to, the company we keep, our manners or lack thereof, our taste in food, our choice in dog breed, the car we drive, the promises we make/break/keep, the bat we carry, or the tiger who walks by our side?
Donna Noble didn’t know that her choices and sacrifices throughout her time as companion would affect the outcome of one of the greatest galactic incidents or that she would save the lives of every living thing on 26 stolen planets. Self-doubt, self-deprecation, and fear kept her from reaching her full potential…or so we thought. In spite of her self-doubt, Donna was a confident woman who was not afraid to speak up when she didn’t agree with something going on around her. And Donna was a fierce daughter, granddaughter and friend. Donna is “inimitable” she is “an original”.
For now, Ezekiel will feel worthless. But, in time and with the help of his companions, the King will once again take his throne, in a different way than before. But he will learn that the outfits, the Shakespearean tongue, and the faithful Shiva are not what define him.
What defines you?