On the whole, I’d argue THE WALKING DEAD could do with mixing up their episode format to visit various characters and locations throughout an episode, more like the standard Game of Thrones format. However, this episode is actually a good example of using the bottle format where we focus on just one place or person. Episode 13 sees us back in the Kingdom, as Morgan’s (LENNIE JAMES) character and resolve is truly tested, and Carole (MELISSA MCBRIDE) finally learns the truth about the events that have taken place, while she was hiding in away in her house in solitude.
The episode opens with a nice cut back and forth between Morgan training Benjamin’s (LOGAN MILLER) little brother, Henry (MACSEN LINTZ), to defend himself, and Carole having a dawning emotional realisation that Daryl was hiding something from her. Carole makes her way towards the Kingdom, and demonstrates her superior walker-slaughtering skills. This opening really adds more pace and is nice to see Carole getting more physical and action-orientated again, finally.
Morgan eventually tells Carole about their real circumstances; what happened in Alexandria, and Rick’s (ANDREW LINCOLN) plans to rebel against the Saviors. I wouldn’t say I’m a fan of Carole, particularly since she snapped and had her ‘no-killing’ mind-set, but I found her to be quite endearing in this episode. Full of guilt for abandoning her friends, and still emotionally torn about not wanting to kill. Melissa McBride gives a really great, believable performance, and actually feels like she could be getting back to a valuable and interesting addition to the cast.
The majority of the episode focuses on the relationship between the Saviors and the Kingdom, with tensions high at the drop-offs. From the start of the episode, the actions of Richard (KARL MAKINEN) crop up between Morgan and Carole; he digs a grave with a makeshift headstone reading “BURY ME HERE”, and a little girl’s backpack alongside it. It’s intriguing as there are hints throughout at something bigger going on with him, but we don’t get to piece his plan altogether until later in the episode. We can guess that it will involve provoking the Kingdom into war with the Saviors, but exactly how he intends to do that, we don’t initially know.
At the drop-off, the Kingdom are short on their supplies, despite checking that everything was there when they set off. Gavin (JAYSON WARNER SMITH) goes to intimidate Ezekiel (KHARY PAYTON), while the hot-head Savior, Jared (JOSHUA MIKEL), takes things too far. He initially points a gun to a seemingly expectant Richard, before instead firing on Benjamin. Richard stands in shock as the boy bleeds out, and the group rush to reach Carole’s in time to save him. They don’t succeed though, and Morgan, who’s started to see the boy as his own son, is devastated once again. He puts two and two together to realise that Richard set the whole thing up, and intended to be killed. He dug his own grave ready, and had his daughter’s (who’d already died when he didn’t act against a threatening group before) backpack ready to go with him.
When the group met again with the Saviors to provide the missing food, Morgan snaps and beats Richard to death in front of everyone. It’s a shocking and brutal scene, and effective at showing Morgan at the end of his emotional tether. We understand his reasoning is to convince the Saviors that the Kingdom are loyal, whilst showing Ezekiel that they can’t continue like this any longer; the situation is unstable and unsafe, and they need to be free of the Saviors. But he can’t be part of it right now. Carole convinces him to take her house, while he needs to figure things and himself out, and she goes back to join the Kingdom. There’s a nice metaphor for hope at the end, as Ezekiel acknowledges that the Kingdom must join Rick in fighting for their freedom, whilst replanting his garden from scratch. It was burned to stop a disease spreading, but comments on how it can grow again. We get the sense that no matter how much the Saviors affect and damage these characters, they can come back from it.
Overall the episode is actually pretty good. The pacing is OK, and the the slow reveal of Richard’s full plan is an interesting subplot. The acting stands out as some of the best this half of the series I’d say, and had a reasonable balance between the character development, some zombie killing, and the odd shocking scene with Morgan killing.
The only thing I have slight issues with is that the set-up of Benjamin dying was a little too obvious. While there have been hints at his fate before, in this episode they heavily build additional emotional ties to the kid – having his little brother want to be like him, the possibility of a girlfriend on the cards, his connection to Morgan being played on. It’s the classic move of writers readying to kill someone off and wanting as big an impact as possible, but to have it be more effective and less of an obvious plot piece, this should have been scattered throughout a lot of episodes. A prime reason why shows shouldn’t have bottle episodes so regularly.
THE WALKING DEAD SEASON 7 AIRS IN THE UK, MONDAYS AT 9PM ON FOX