Who is King Ezekiel and why does he have a tiger in The Walking Dead season 7 trailer?
AMC unleashed the first trailer for season 7 of The Walking Dead at SDCC, revealing new footage and bringing a fan favorite comic book character to the screen for the very first time. Many viewers who have yet to read the source material are wondering who the enigmatic King Ezekiel is, and why on earth he has a tiger. We answer many of your questions below in a spoiler-heavy look into the character.
Introduced in issue #108 of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic, Ezekiel is a rather eccentric gentleman and self-proclaimed leader of a group known as The Kingdom. Much like Alexandria and The Hilltop, which viewers of the television series are already familiar with, The Kingdom is a community of survivors residing in Washington, D.C. It is the second largest settlement after The Hilltop. The Kingdom is based at a former high school, and is surrounded by a wall consisting of buses and sheets of metal. Little is known about the community, only that it is part of a trading network along with The Hilltop and The Saviors, which is run by Negan. The network of communities rations half of all of their supplies to The Saviors, and in return they don’t meet an untimely death at the hands of Negan and his beloved baseball bat, Lucille.
King Ezekiel is very charismatic, has a calm yet confident and firm demeanor, and is generally deemed to be wize. Despite being a capable fighter, he makes it known that he abhors violence. He prides himself in his abilities as a leader, and is generally be well liked and considered friendly. However, due to his eccentric nature, many find him to be arrogant due to his theatrics. Ezekiel is rarely vulnerable, as he is always accompanied by soldiers…not to mention his pet tiger, Shiva.
Ezekiel credits Shiva for protecting him and helping him to obtain leadership, as she gained him the fear and respect he required to do so. His followers believe that the tiger was a wild animal that he wrestled into submission and tamed into a pet. Having been the one who fed them the larger than life story, he allows them to believe it because he feels that people want someone to follow, as well as a need to feel safe, which makes them more useful, less dangerous, and more productive. With a background in community theatre, he is able to play the part well.
The truth is that prior to the apocalypse, Ezekiel was a zookeeper and was Shiva’s handler from the time she was born. After the outbreak and while she was still a young cub, Ezekiel rescued her and the unlikely pair formed a strong bond. Despite realizing it was impractical to possess a wild animal, Ezekiel kept her around because he’d lost everything else in the world that he loved. His background and the real story behind Shiva was revealed to Michonne when she called him out on his deception and accused him of being just another person tricking people into thinking he’s special. In turn, he called her out on playing samurai in the same way he plays king, due to her having no formal training with her weapon. The pair formed an attachment rather quickly and even had a meaningful romantic relationship for some time.
The peculiar leader was first introduced to Rick Grimes in the comics by Paul “Jesus” Monroe (know in the tv series as Paul Rovia). The three communities found a common interest in their contempt for Negan and The Saviors, and formed an alliance in an attempt to defeat the antagonistic group. The allied communities held covert meetings over a period of several weeks, and formed a battle plan to overtake their shared enemy. These events lead to a 12 issue run of the comics known as All Out War parts 1 and 2, which culminated into events that had a lasting trajectory on the overall narrative. While the tv adaptation frequently deviates from the source material, it seems likely that the series will follow a similar outline, uniting the communities to defeat The Saviors. And although fans have precious little to go on at this time, one thing is certain…Rick and company will have a powerful new ally in King Ezekiel.
With few exceptions, characterization has often remained AMC’s strengths with The Walking Dead, and they have consistently managed to honor the source material by remaining true to the spirit of the comic characters. However, it’s worth mentioning that there are already some slight variations between the comic and tv versions of King Ezekiel, though they are based solely on appearance at this time. Most notably is a rather large age difference, as the written counterpart is seemingly quite a bit older and is assumed to be in his mid 50’s to early 60’s. His portrayal for the series appears to be at least 10-15 years younger. Physically speaking, he seems to be more slender and slight of build, as the comic version appears heftier and more imposing. However, this may be a machination due to his extraordinary personality. Regardless of these minor variations, it’s always exciting to see a comic character brought to life on screen and fans are no doubt looking forward to seeing what King Ezekiel brings to the series.
Ezekiel is portrayed by actor Khary Payton, who is most known for his voice acting for his portrayals of Cyborg in Teen Titans Go, and Aqualad in Young Justice. He has also lent his voice to video games such as Metal Gear Solid 4, Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, and Batman: Arkham Origins.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, October 23rd on AMC and internationally on FOX.
Image credits: AMC, Image Comics