What was it? As the title would suggest, they took out the tiger. Ezekiel’s longtime and rather-large feline companion Shiva died over the course of the hour, and she did so in about the most heroic way possible: Protecting Ezekiel. The King gets to live another day, but without his tiger at his side.
There are some obvious reasons why The Walking Dead may have made this move, starting with the fact that it should be a nice lift off of their effects budget. Having a tiger roaming around the set is impossible, so you have to add all of this in during post-production and that costs a pretty penny. To go along with that, having a tiger running around in a zombie apocalypse just doesn’t seem altogether sustainable, either.
In speaking after the fact to Entertainment Weekly, Khary Payton (who plays the Ezekiel character) discussed what it was like having to play some of those scenes in the moment — and some of the challenges given that he was acting opposite an animal that wasn’t actually there in filming:
“There were the walkers that were there, but Shiva herself wasn’t there. And so I got a little esoteric in my interpretation of how to work that scene, and to me Shiva is kind of the embodiment of what the Kingdom is to Ezekiel. She is this rare, beautiful creature that somehow is surviving and thriving in this dark and hellish place, and that’s what the Kingdom is … It’s this bright, beautiful thing that he was able to build despite all of the death that’s rotting around him, and I think that moment is kind of the embodiment of seeing Shiva. In my mind, it just replayed everyone dying on that field, but the incredible loss that you feel when you lose so many so abruptly and so harshly. And so that, to me, was the connecting sinew that I was able to find in my brain to have that emotional connection. And another gut-wrenching scene to watch, good gracious.”
There are probably going to be bigger, more dramatic deaths that happen over the rest of The Walking Dead season 8, but what makes this one stand out is what it represented. The Kingdom still had this air of fantasy about it, like it was this other world that could still produce some element of joy. You have a man calling himself a king who rules alongside a tiger.
Yet, it’s all now gone. The illusion is cracked and it’s hard to know how Ezekiel will move forward.
For more Walking Dead coverage…
If you head over here right now, you can read our full review of Sunday’s new episode!
Meanwhile, like CarterMatt on Facebook to get some more insight on The Walking Dead and other shows we cover. (Photo: AMC.)