'Some Guy' is The Walking Dead season 8's strongest episode to date, tearing Ezekiel down in the hope he'll bounce back a stronger leader while finally wrapping up this needlessly drawn out phase of Rick's attack plan.
[WARNING - This review contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 8, episode 4.]
The Walking Dead season 8 has so far been a mixed bag, with episodes that have been promising and disappointing. Still, the season is young, and with more episodes like last night's 'Some Guy' - a well-structured and engaging exploration of Ezekiel's character with the occasional spurt of action - there's hope season 8 can course correct for The Walking Dead's recent drop in ratings and reception.
Just as the season 8 premiere explored Rick's return to being a pro-active leader, 'Some Guy' examines Ezekiel's leadership style through the loyalty he inspires and the consequences that follow. After a flashback to another of Ezekiel's rousing speeches - given before his merry band set off, during which several of those leaving The Kingdom have tearful goodbyes with their loved ones - the episode picks back up with the events right after last week's bloody massacre of a cliffhanger. As expected, Ezekiel has survived thanks to those who threw themselves on top of him in order to protect their king from the spray of bullets, leaving just about everyone else dead. He hasn't escaped unscathed, however, and as he begins to drag himself away from the scene, his fallen comrades begin coming back, slowing staggering towards him with hungry eyes.
While this is by no means the first time The Walking Dead has featured a lone survivor tormented by the recently deceased, here the scene is so effective because it represents the immense guilt Ezekiel feels after not just losing so many people, but losing them because they considered his life more important than their own. That's an incredibly heavy burden to bear, but one that anyone who accepts a position of leadership must accept. Being a leader means not just risking your own life, but risking the lives of those in your service. In 'Some Guy', Ezekiel is forced to reckon with the grief this brings him, and he's unwilling to accept the full breadth of responsibility that comes with styling himself a king when it means he has so much blood on his hands.
Throughout the episode, Ezekiel continues to have his failings thrust in his face, first by the dead, the continued sacrifice of his people, the harassment from the Savior who captures him, and finally, by Shiva's sacrifice in the episode's final minutes. Through it all he insists he isn't worth saving, begging for Jerry and Carol to leave him behind, finally admitting he's just "some guy" and therefor not important enough to save. This is, of course, a load of bull, as Jerry emphatically points out when retorting to Ezekiel's claim that Jerry doesn't need to refer to him as "your majesty" by reassuring him, "Dude, yes I do." (Jerry is also the absolute best in this episode, finally getting to wield that giant ax and really let loose on some walkers.) The fact is, that because Ezekiel chose to be a king and became a rallying figure who inspired so many to follow him, he needs to remain that king through both his victories as well as his losses.
Earlier in one of those flashbacks, Ezekiel and Carol discuss choosing to be the hero over having life choose for you, with him sharing the story of him choosing to save Shiva back at the start of the outbreak. Well, this is an instance where life chose for him, but Ezekial can still control how this major setback will affect him and his entire kingdom. Ezekiel didn't become a leader because he had the best strategies or knew the best way to survive, he became king because he best acted the part - and sometimes, that's what people need most, someone to rally around. Judging from that somber and silent trudge he makes once he, Jerry, and Carol return to The Kingdom, he's going to continue stewing in his guilt and self-doubt for a while, and that is going to hurt his people more than help them. Expect someone to give Ezekiel a taste of his own medicine with their own rousing speech on the merits of leadership in the coming episodes, to get this monarch back on his feet.
Going on elsewhere in 'Some Guy' was Carol again proving she's a one woman army as she narrowly secures the weapons herself, only choosing to let the Saviors flee because she isn't a total monster, and coming to Ezekiel and Jerry's rescue. Unlike Morgan, Carol manages to stay in control of herself while on the attack, remaining an efficient killing machine while not forgetting what it is she's fighting for. Granted, she's still a damaged person irrevocably changed by the tragic events she's endured, but she's at least demonstrated an ability to cope. Even if that means she'll ultimately always be living off by herself like a reclusive hermit, she's still willing to help those in need.
In addition to the introspection on Ezekiel and the moments of Carol stealth operation, 'Some Guy' also found time for a car chase during which Rick and Daryl finally got their guns, bringing this three-episode arc to something of a satisfactory conclusion. The sequence does seemingly come from nowhere and hurts the pacing of the episode by drawing focus away from Ezekiel's struggles, but it in itself was an entertaining (if a little ridiculous) interlude, with Rick giving us his best Indiana Jones impression and Daryl reacting as only he can ("You look like s--t.").
Without question, 'Some Guy' is The Walking Dead season 8's strongest episode to date, tearing Ezekiel down in the hope he'll bounce back a stronger leader while finally wrapping up this needlessly drawn out phase of Rick's attack plan. With the guns in hand, The Walking Dead turns its attention back to The Sanctuary for next week's episode, switching focus to Negan's next move.
The Walking Dead season 8 continues next Sunday with 'The Big Scary U' at 9pm/10c on AMC.