This was posted on Sunday, March 12, 2017 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Until tonight's episode, the last time a "Walking Dead" episode really made me cry was the fourth season episode three years ago when Carol felt she had no choice but to kill disturbed child Lizzie using those famous words "Look at the flowers" to distract her.
It seems apropos that it was another scene featuring Carol that broke open my tear ducts, this time without warning. At this point, Benjamin was already dead. And Morgan had shockingly choked Richard to death in front of the Saviors for causing Benjamin's death.
Morgan arrived at Carol's door. She had already seen Benjamin die. Now she saw a human being who was as broken as she was when she arrived at the Kingdom.
He asked her if she'd like to know what really happened in Alexandria. She did. He told her about how Negan killed Abraham and Glenn, how he killed Olivia and Spencer, how Rick and the crew were now basically subjects to Negan's will. And he had come to the Kingdom to change that but Ezekiel had resisted.
What got me was the deep connection and understanding between Lennie James' Morgan and Melissa McBride's Carol. Morgan had chosen up to this point to protect Carol from what really happened. But now he knew Rick and company needed her. She had months to recover and reflect. Now they need her more than ever. And Morgan now needed some time of solace and alone time.
Carol walked into the Kingdom in the final scene and told King Ezekiel: "I’m going to be here now. We have to get ready."
Three more episodes this season and war is about to start.
This episode was far more compelling than last week's. Even though some viewers could see how the writers were telegraphing the deaths of both Richard and Benjamin, it wasn't so blatantly obvious as to reduce the shock value.
How convincing was Daryl's "everything is fine" story to Carol?
Not really convincing because Carol leaves her self exile to confront Morgan about what Daryl had told her. He didn't lie to her per se but simply pawned it off by saying she should accept whatever Daryl told her, then offered to accompany her to Alexandria if she'd like. Nope. She didn't. She left, not even helping out poor Benjamin, who saw her kill several walkers outside the walls and wanted some tips. Surely, Morgan's circumspect comments left her still doubtful but not doubtful enough to leave her self-imposed exile.
How was King Ezekiel using his "Royal Garden"?
He apparently was using his personal garden to siphon weekly gifts to the Saviors in the form of crops so the rest of the Kingdom would not be aware of the transactions. But one of his farmer folks told him bad news: weevils were rampaging his garden. They had to burn down his garden and start over or the weevils might enter the main garden.
Just 12 cantaloupes?
In past weeks, the Kingdom provided plenty of foodstuffs for the Saviors. This week, all they had were their usual number of a dozen cantaloupes before the garden had to be trashed. King Ezekiel knew this was going to cause a problem but he didn't have enough time to come up with more supplies without rousing Kingdom suspicion. So he gambled and left for the drop with just the cantaloupes.
Why did Richard forgive Morgan for his non-murderous ways?
We didn't know it at the time but Richard was hoping to die at the hands of the Saviors, hopefully instigating King Ezekiel to join Rick & his crew to war against them. He just wanted things square with Morgan before he died.
What was up with the shopping carts pointing to an empty plot with the sign "Bury Me Here"?
This was part of Richard's plan to create a diversion to purposely delay their arrival. (People in the zombie apocalypse still follow clocks, apparently.) This also enabled him to hide one of the cantaloupes. The "Bury Me Here" plot looked like the ravings of a mad man and they decide it was just some weird loner. So they move to the meeting site.
What is the penalty for coming up short with the Saviors?
After two tense meetings, the Saviors clearly have no taste for any shenanigans. Since there wasn't enough food, they request the Kingdom's guns. At first, they all point weapons at each other but realizing that this could end up being a bloodbath pull back. They give Gavin and his friends all the guns. That isn't enough. Ezekiel offers double the tribute in an hour. Nope. Gavin wants to punish them. So he allows Jared to do as previously threatened: kill Richard for his past sins. He points the gun at Richard for an uncomfortably long time. "Just do it," Richard says, ready to die. But no...
Why didn't Jared just off Richard?
Jared is imitating Negan. Negan has pointed his gun or bat at one person, then changed his mind and went for another. (Instead of killing Daryl, Negan bludgeoned Glenn. Instead of shooting Rosita, he opted for Oliva.) He shoots Benjamin instead. It does not appear fatal since it's in the leg. Jared figures this is cool payback for Benjamin hitting him with a stick a week earlier. (Soon, Carol will regret allowing him to go to the drop instead of teaching him ways to kill walkers.)
Why did Benjamin die?
He had lost too much blood by the time they got to Carol's place. And there was no Herschel or Denise to help save his life. Then again, you'd think they'd have done a better job staunching the wound.
What sort of weird flashbacks was Morgan having?
Losing Benjamin was a huge blow for Morgan, who had mentored him and had gotten to like the kid. He started having flashbacks to his past craziness when he had shacked himself up by himself mourning the loss of his family. He thought of just killing himself. Then he kicked a crate and found an extra cantaloupe. Hmm...
So what was Richard really up to?
Richard explained his actions to Morgan. When he was in a post-apocalyptic camp, he did nothing, thinking those smarter and braver than him could handle any mess. But then his wife died, then his daughter. He no longer wanted to be a bystander, explaining his hawkish ways. He said he purposely set all the whole drop up the way he did so he could play martyr and inspire the Kingdom to go to war against the Saviors. He just didn't realize it would backfire the way it did and cause Benjamin to perish instead. "Someone had to die," Richard told Morgan. "I tried to be the one. That didn't happen. So I'll be the one to lead the army to crush them, destroy them. Me!"
Was it surprising that Gavin actually felt bad about Benjamin dying?
Gavin has been somewhat reasonable for a Savior up to this point. His idiot minion Jared kept pushing the pressure points. He was not happy Benjamin had died. He knew he was just a kid. There is a small beating heart there. He actually told a smirking Jared, "Start walking back before I kill you!"
Did Morgan really have to kill Richard in front of the Saviors?
No. He didn't. But clearly, the savage part of him had taken over. The peacenik was gone. If anything, Gavin was satisfied that things would go back to whatever "normal" was for the time being once Morgan explained that Richard "wanted to start something between the Kingdom and the Saviors. I wanted to show you that we get it. We understand what it is we need to do, that we know how to go on."
What is Morgan thinking now?
He allowed himself to care about Benjamin like his son Dwayne (who he mistakenly referenced at one point). And he gets punished for it. He now appears ready to join the army against Negan but did what Richard wanted: make peace for now with the Saviors so they don't suspect anything is amiss. While he may feel bad in one sense about killing Richard in such a brutal way, he knew Richard wanted to die for the cause. And by telling Carol about Alexandria, he is honoring Richard's desire to help take down the Savior. He also notices and acknowledges that Richard wanted to be buried next to his daughter Katy, whose backpack was still sitting there. So he does that for Richard.
Describe the symbolism of the garden
The magic of a fire is from the ashes can rise new things. In this episode, the analogy is the deaths of Richard and Benjamin have prodded Ezekiel, Morgan and Carol into action.