Spoiler Warning for Season 8, Episode 4 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed.
War is hard. War is brutal. War is deadly. The latest episode of “The Walking Dead” is a harrowing tale of sacrifice and loyalty as King Ezekiel sees his beloved Kingdom collapse before his eyes. The brave Shakespearean leader that we have been following for the past season is given his best development to date in what will forever be known as Ezekiel’s defining hour. Long gone are the days of royal gardens, melodic choir practices and inspiring speeches; since the start of the apocalypse, King Ezekiel was the hero of a story that he created, but that story has now been flipped upside down. Not only does this episode deliver in terms of intense action and brilliant performances, but the powerful symbolism and character development establish this as the strongest of the season yet. Lives were lost on the battlefield, but All Out War rages on.
“Some Guy” plays with the timeline slightly to provide a moving look at the sacrifice the Knights of the Kingdom are making as they leave their quaint community to fight for a better future. A series of flashbacks open the episode as the story jumps to the Kingdom prior to the events of “Mercy,” as King Ezekiel and his people prepare themselves for what will be a deadly war. Several of the soldiers say their goodbyes to family and friends inside the Kingdom; a man kisses his wife and newborn baby as a mother hugs her son and accepts a flower from him. A chilling shot follows King Ezekiel as he makes his way through his congregation into the center of the community to deliver a rallying speech about the unity this group shares; this particular speech is one of my favorites of his as it really incorporates the positivity and peacefulness that he exudes as a leader. Both soldiers and civilians surround their King in a group hug to showcase this unity as the camera quickly transitions to a pile of Kingdommer corpses on top of Ezekiel; what started off hopeful and optimistic has become grim and deadly. Back to the flashbacks, there’s a brief scene between Ezekiel and Carol that does an excellent job at paralleling their experiences in the apocalypse; Carol chose to use her past trauma as a catalyst to become a hardened survivor just as zookeeper Ezekiel chose to save an injured Shiva in her enclosure. These decisions (which was also a theme in “Monsters“) serve to provide context for how these two characters ended up where they are today.
The opening scene picks up almost immediately after the horrific shooting that took place at the end of the previous episode. King Ezekiel breaks free from the pile of bodies and crawls away as the camera focuses on the dozens of mangled corpses spread out across the battlefield. He lets out a blood-curtling roar after taking in his surroundings and realizing that his family has been brutally gunned down, including Daniel, who died after tackling Ezekiel (there’s a continuity issue here as Daniel’s body is several feet away, even though he was one of the first to pounce on the King). Being that this is still the zombie apocalypse, the dead soldiers begin reanimating as Ezekiel struggles to get away with his gunshot-wounded leg. Just as it looks as though Ezekiel is about to be devoured, Alvaro arrives and rescues his King, pulling him away from the battlefield as more of their comrades turn; he also mentions that he hasn’t seen Shiva since the massacre, causing them both to worry. It looks as though they will escape, but Alvaro is shot through the chest by a Jeffrey Dahmer-lookalike Savior named Gunther (Whitmer Thomas). It’s clear from this moment that Gunther is a Savior that is more interested in making a name for himself than he is in “just getting by,” as some of his colleagues have stated; I mentioned in my previous review that I believe that some Saviors deserve mercy, but Gunther is not one of them.
For much of Season 8, Carol has been delegated to fighting in the war alongside the rest of the Kingdom, preventing her from having any real standout moments for herself. That changes this episode as she goes on a solo mission to stop the Saviors that laid waste to her people; sneaking into the outpost, Carol listens in on the conversations between the Saviors as they prepare to transport the .50 caliber machine gun to the Sanctuary. Obviously, Carol knows this cannot happen and she puts her stealth skills to work by hiding in the ceiling of a room before shooting and killing several of the Saviors. Backup arrives and Carol is forced to retreat, but the Saviors are so preoccupied with getting the gun to the Sanctuary that they allow the kickass assassin to flee (rule number one in “The Walking Dead”: do not underestimate Carol). In the courtyard of the outpost, the Saviors load up the .50 cal as Carol lurks and plots another attack; she ultimately begins firing her gun, but she finds herself caught in a gun battle as they return fire. Hiding behind a truck, Carol’s ingenuity and attention to details combine to help her formulate a solution. Watching Carol operate is always fascinating with a large part of that due to Melissa McBride’s performance, specifically her eyes, which demonstrate a wide range of emotions and depth.
Back with King Ezekiel, Gunther is still leading him to the outpost with a gun to the back of his head as the now turned Knights follow closely behind. Ezekiel repeatedly tells off the annoying Savior, but he repeats what Morales stated about their orders to keep “the King, the Widow and Rick” alive. They make it to a locked gate and Gunther continues to joke about the fallen Kingdom, even dropping a worrisome line that may be foreshadowing to Ezekiel’s fate later on in the series (comic fans definitely picked up on this). As walkers close in on them, Gunther decides that killing the King is the best course of action to save himself, but a battle scream and the slam of a battle axe results in the cocky Savior being literally sliced in half by Jerry. The loyalty and kinship between these two men is undeniable as they link arms and stand side-by-side to fend off the walkers; Jerry keeps up his respectful “your Majesty” talk even as Ezekiel tells him that it is no longer necessary. My worry for Jerry’s survival ramps up as his battle axe breaks in half while trying to break the chain; he also thanks Ezekiel “for being such a cool dude,” showing that even in their darkest hour, Jerry’s cheeriness is still ever-present.
The standoff with Carol and the Saviors continues as a familiar face makes a return…and no I don’t mean Morales; he’s dead, let’s move on. Coy Carol enters the scene as she tries to convince her opponents that she is willing to reveal the location of the Kingdom backup if they let her go. Stepping out from behind the truck with her hands up, Carol uses her high-pitched alter-ego to draw in a Savior, who she turns the tables on by knocking the rifle out of his hands and holding him at knife point. Her hostage’s friends don’t seem to care and open fire, but Carol’s quick-thinking allows her to press a button that opens a gate, releasing walkers into the courtyard; this leaves the Saviors distracted and made to use their ammo to take care of the dead while she grabs a weapon. Carol forces the two surviving men behind their humvee, demanding that they surrender, seeing as how they are surely low on ammo. She herself becomes distracted when she spots Ezekiel and Jerry fighting off walkers at the fence, presenting her with a difficult choice: stop the Saviors from leaving or save her friends (this hearkens back to the conversation she had with Ezekiel prior to heading out to battle). Carol makes the right decision and arrives at the gate to kill several walkers and bring Ezekiel and Jerry into the courtyard; at the same time, the Saviors flee the scene with the machine gun, but a smile lights up Carol’s face as she hears the familiar rev of a motorcycle engine in the distance. Undercover Carol is always a joy to watch and this episode is no different; this is such a crucial element of her character and I am absolutely thrilled that the show regularly reminds viewers of this tactic and of just how badass Carol is.
The only real issue that I have with the episode comes in the form of the Daryl and Rick high speed chase. While not terrible, this scene does demonstrate the lengths the series goes to in order to protect its main characters from death; obviously, plot armor has and will always be present, but it is especially noticeable in this scene. The Savior humvee speeds down a road, but Daryl follows closely behind on his motorcycle as Rick tags along on in his Jeep; a firefight erupts as the .50 caliber machine gun is fired at Daryl, causing him to crash his motorcycle. Rick speeds up and oddly zigzags to avoid the gunfire as the Savior humvee also swerves to get away from walkers in the road; Daryl miraculously catches up and shoots the gunmen in the head, allowing for Rick to pull up alongside the target and jump into the Savior vehicle, killing the driver in the process. This struggle in the driver’s seat causes the humvee to swerve off the road and crash into a ravine, but of course Rick survives and reunites with Daryl; there’s a lighthearted moment here where Daryl tells Rick that he “looks like shit.” My issue with this chase scene stems from the fact that it was established with the Kingdom slaughter that this machine gun rips through pretty much everything, yet both Rick and Daryl are caught right in the line of fire and make it out without any injuries (I realize that this complaint is slightly nit-picky, but it really stands out). Also, the filming style of this scene gives it the feel of a cheesy action movie with overly-dramatic zoom ins. Still, it’s great to see Rick and Daryl working together in a high stakes scenario while still maintaining their brotherly kinship.
The final sequence of the episode is both devastating and game-changing as Carol, Ezekiel and Jerry fight to get back to the Kingdom in one piece. The King’s leg injury prevents him from being able to move on his own, but Carol and Jerry are not leaving him behind. They come across a creek bed, where they find several gnarly walkers that have been doused in chemicals and now have burns on their bodies; there was a single walker with similar burns in “The Damned” that Jerry killed, foreshadowing this scene. While crossing the stream, the walkers begin to overwhelm the trio and Ezekiel yells at his two comrades to leave him behind. When Jerry continues to call him “your Majesty,” Ezekiel snaps and drops his act as he unleashes a torrent of regret toward his royal persona. Suddenly, Shiva arrives and begins attacking the walkers, allowing the three to escape; sadly, they are forced to watch helplessly as Shiva is overwhelmed by the walkers and is ultimately devoured. Ezekiel desperately tries to rush to her rescue, but it’s just too late…her screams of pain subside as the walkers tear into her flesh. This small group of survivors return to the Kingdom and are met by a worried group of residents, who are left with a world of questions and sorrow as they realize that only three people have survived the onslaught; even young Henry is left bewildered and stunned, which is especially heartbreaking considering not much time has passed since Benjamin’s death. Fathers, mothers, sons and daughters are dead…and Ezekiel has to answer to their families. The most peaceful community in the apocalypse has just been decimated beyond belief.
— The Walking Dead World (@TWalkingDWorld) November 13, 2017
Damn…that was a rough episode. “Some Guy” turns the tide of the war and allows the Saviors to gain an upper hand that will likely be explored throughout the next few episodes. Ezekiel’s faith has been ripped apart as nearly his entire army is wiped away. The death of Shiva represents the end of the Ezekiel and the Kingdom that we met in Season 7’s “The Well.” While “Bury Me Here” may have been about positioning the Kingdom on the warpath, this episode is all about presenting the viewpoint that getting involved in the fight against the Saviors may not have been in the community’s best interest. I just have to point out that Shiva died protecting her King, which bring their relationship full circle to when Ezekiel saved her way back before the apocalypse. Khary Payton, Melissa McBride and Cooper Andrews all deliver stellar performances this episode as their characters are pushed to their limits, forcing them to do some absolutely grim things. These three characters really steal the show this episode and I hope that what they went through here sends them each in interesting directions moving forward. The action sequences (sans the car chase) are a definite step up from some of the rushed and clumsy camerawork/choreography that is present in certain scenes in the first three episodes. The symbolism, tone, juxtaposition and cinematography are other major highlights that help establish this as the strongest chapter of “All Out War”; I would even go so far as to say that this is one of the most impactful episodes in the series (bold statement…I know). Next week’s episode looks to check in on Father Gabriel, Negan, Eugene, Dwight, Simon and the rest of the Saviors trapped at the Sanctuary.
Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.