The Walking Dead Season 8, episode 4 recap: The saddest death yet?
This interview contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8, episode 4, titled “Some Guy.” To refresh your memory of where we left off, check out our recap of episode 3.
Season 8 of The Walking Dead opened with a bang; Rick’s triumphant assault on the Sanctuary certainly made us believe that our heroes were starting off on the right foot. But the three most recent episodes have proven that Negan and his minions won’t go down without a fight, with devastating results.
“Some Guy” was a moment of reckoning for Ezekiel, the verbose and endlessly optimistic ruler of the Kingdom, who was forced to confront just how powerless he was after all of his soldiers — with the exception of Carol and Jerry (thank god) — were killed by the Saviors in episode 4. Luckily, Rick and Daryl were on hand to stop Negan’s henchmen from getting their stash of guns back to the Sanctuary, but the damage had already been done.
Beyond dealing with his own inability to protect his people (especially when their deference to him prompted many of them to sacrifice their lives for him), Ezekiel had to watch his beloved tiger Shiva die, torn apart by walkers in one of the most upsetting deaths on the show so far.
(Sure, we know she wasn’t a real tiger, but that didn’t make it any less horrendous to watch, did it?)
Mashable spoke to King Ezekiel himself, Khary Payton, to get his take on the monarch’s big losses in episode 4, and where the heartbroken leader goes from here.
For as many people as The Walking Dead has brutally killed over the years, losing Shiva was pretty devastating. What was your experience of filming that scene?
It was a muddy, disgusting, humid, hot fucking day. [Laughs.] We had already shot the scene where everyone died in the field, which is important because, as gut-wrenching as that scene is, the truth is that Shiva doesn’t exist in real life. In my mind, as far as my emotional connection to Shiva, it is tied to Ezekiel’s connection with the people of the Kingdom, because to me, she is a symbol of this beautiful, rare thing that is somehow thriving in the middle of a rotting, death-filled apocalypse.
That’s what the Kingdom is, and that’s why she’s the symbol, not just because she happens to be a tiger that they own, but they are two of the very same things that somehow, despite all of this shit, this beautiful thing is thriving. After watching everyone die in that field, I think to me, he wanted to save Shiva. It was almost like if he could save her, it’s like he’d be saving the Kingdom in a way, that all of those deaths were going to be salvaged somehow, because in his mind, I feel like he’s, at that point, feeling like they all sacrificed themselves for him.
And that’s the exact opposite reason why he decided to be a king in this world. The whole reason that Ezekiel decided to be king was so that he could protect his people. In this moment, it’s like everything is reversed, and they all decided to jump on him to save his life, and that’s the last thing that he would’ve wanted.
The whole point was that I put up this persona so that I can keep you guys safe, and now everybody’s wanting to save him. Everybody’s wanting to get their arm around him and help him limp across this field, and time after time, when someone does that, they die. I think that he’s never wanted that, and the whole reason why he keeps saying, “Leave me,” is because he’s like, “The whole point was that this was supposed to help you. This wasn’t supposed to benefit me this way.” When you’re the guy who’s keeping people’s spirits up for so long, it’s hard for them not to want to help you up.
I don’t know if I could’ve handled losing Jerry as well as Shiva in one episode, because Cooper Andrews is so fantastic…
I don’t think I could do it either. I would’ve died a grisly death. Sometimes… I was going to say that Cooper’s all that’s keeping me going, but that’s not true, because we have so many awesome people -— but he is that awesome, and I absolutely love him, and I think that he does an incredible job in this episode.
The [best] moments are him just being that old Jerry with the little wink and a smile, but then there’s beast-mode Jerry that is just fucking amazing… but my favorite moment is at the end of the episode where he’s just watching Ezekiel walk away, and you just see the tears in Cooper’s eyes, and it’s like that dude is … He’s got every level covered. He is absolutely incredible. I could not be happier that he and I are friends and coworkers now. It’s pretty awesome.
Ezekiel suffers a real identity crisis in this episode — how does he reconcile himself with so much loss and guilt, moving forward?
Well, I think that’s the story that we’re about to tell: how do you pick up the pieces, and how do you climb your way out of a pit once you fall into it? Especially in this world of The Walking Dead, it’s about what kind of person crawls out of that hole. How much of your humanity do you bring back with you? How much of your faith and light do you bring back with you? How can you put yourself back together so that you’re not just another soulless thing walking the earth?
I think that’s what this show does, is that it breaks its characters down and asks the question: “What kind of character is this?” Is it a person that can find their soul and hold onto it, or do they compromise it for the sake of survival?
It seems like Rick’s group is kind of going through an ideological shift where some of them are all for killing the Saviors in cold blood, and some want to take prisoners and try to be civilized because at some point they’ll all have to live together — where does Ezekiel fall on that spectrum?
I think all of that’s up for grabs at this point, and I think that beyond knowing what to do with someone else, I really think that he’s got to take a moment and pick up the shattered pieces of his own psyche before he can even start to answer that question. I don’t think it’s a question or a journey that’s answered very easily. It’s one of those things where it’s like, “Well, haven’t we figured this out yet?” He’s like, “Fuck no, we haven’t figured this out yet. People take a lifetime to figure this shit out.” Yeah, don’t expect next episode for him to have figured it all out and finished the crossword puzzle and moved on.
Does he still feel like he has to play that kingly role for the remaining survivors, or is it a case of reiterating that he is just some guy, like the rest of them?
I think that to say that he has any idea of what his philosophy of life is right now would be presumptuous. I wouldn’t presume to know what Ezekiel’s thinking, because I don’t think that Ezekiel has any clue at this moment. I think that when he walks back into the Kingdom and he can’t even look at Henry, let alone say anything, I think that’s because he literally has no idea what to say or what to think. He’s got literal pieces to pick up, bits and pieces of himself to pick up and see if they can put it back together and make sense of it and see if he recognizes anything of himself after this.
What kind of role does Carol play in helping him pick up those pieces?
It’s like I said, when you put out that much light, even if you don’t want it, people are like, “You’ve been there for me. I’m going to be there for you whether you want me to or not.” I think that as stubborn as Ezekiel can be about his point of view, I think he’s met his match in Carol. I think this is one of those moments that it’s going to be a good thing, that you need that. You need that when you feel like giving up. You need people around you that aren’t willing to follow you down that road. They keep you buoyed while you lick your wounds.
Anything you can preview about what’s coming up in the episodes to come?
It really has been quite a rollercoaster, and I feel like each episode so far has one-upped the last one. It’s like rungs of a ladder, that takes the story to a slightly higher level. I’m really happy with the way that the season’s progressed so far. It’s very much the reality of war.
Already in The Walking Dead, you know you’re going to lose people, but this show isn’t pulling its punches as far as there will be loss. The way that you deal with that loss defines you as a person. That’s what we have to look forward to as far as Ezekiel’s journey is concerned.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.