Even before a thoroughly brutal season seven premiere, The Walking Dead could never be mistaken as an optimistic show. However, after Negan killed Abraham and Glenn — arguably, two of the more entertaining, affirming characters on the series — and emasculated Rick in front of the group, the zombie drama was seemingly devoid of all hope. But now the show's introduced a literal tiger, a shining light (with stripes!) in season seven's pillar of darkness and despair.
The second episode of season seven, "The Well," caught viewers up with Morgan and Carol, who have been introduced to a new post-apocalyptic safe haven: the Kingdom. The Kingdom has a distinct aura compared to other communities from the show, which starts with the members of the Kingdom who are clad in absurd-looking body armor. They, essentially, look like servers from the Medieval Times restaurant.
But the Kingdom's subjects are one thing — their leader King Ezekiel is another. He brings the eccentricity up to a fever pitch. When Morgan takes Carol to introduce her to Ezekiel, she's understandably shocked when she sees not just Ezekiel, but his pet tiger Shiva.
"I forgot to say that Ezekiel has a tiger," Morgan says nonchalantly.
Shiva's boisterous roar led The Walking Dead to its opening credits, and by that point, the Twitterverse had already fallen in love with the best — and only? — CGI tiger since Life of Pi. Some were even tempted at the notion of Shiva meeting Negan, which, based on how diluted the show's plot has become, would be a welcome respite.
But a CGI tiger in the zombie apocalypse was just one of several moments in "The Well" that made The Walking Dead feel like two completely separate shows after that brutal, Negan-heavy premiere. Ezekiel speaks in an ostentatious, faux-royal tone and takes his mantle as a king quite literally. His chief bodyguard, Jerry, is the only person in the show who has ever said, "Deuces!" and walked out of a scene throwing out a peace sign.
The Kingdom also has a choir — yes, a choir in The Walking Dead — that sings Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice, It's All Right" during a montage that mostly featured Morgan teaching a young member of the community how to wield a staff at a gazebo. Again, this happened one week after viewers were treated to a premiere so gruesome, the U.K. censored the goriest parts of the episode.
This isn't necessarily a bad transition for the show — and to its credit, Negan's group is seen taking some of the Kingdom's supplies, meaning they have the same arrangement as Rick's crew — but it still feels familiar, except that now there's an awesome tiger thrown in the mix. It's another safe haven that sprinkles in the peaceful elements of Woodbury and Hershel's farm. The biggest commonality there, of course, is that eventually these communities collapsed through some unforeseen circumstances.
While it may take awhile — a couple of seasons, at best — eventually the show seems destined to move on from the Kingdom and find more communities; rinse and repeat for however long AMC wants to keep this show on the air (based on its outstanding ratings, it won't end soon). In other words, The Walking Dead isn't bringing anything new to the table, they're just changing a few ingredients.
Unfortunately, what will most definitely have a shorter shelf life than the Kingdom is its greatest member: Shiva. The CGI'd Shiva looks fantastic — and expensive. Considering the show didn't want to follow the comic books when Rick loses his hand because it would've proved too costly, it's hard to imagine Shiva roaming the Kingdom and our TV screens for long.
In the meantime, however, we can bask in Shiva's on-screen glory. Even if Shiva never has a chance to meet Negan, we'd settle for a zombie kill or two — or just more sunbathing on a porch.