"The King, the Widow, and Rick" takes a little bit of a break from the predominantly action-driven sequences of the beginning of the season and instead focuses on the decisions of leaders. How Ezekiel, Maggie, and Rick decide to handle the challenges they face at this tipping point in the war will determine everything for their communities. What decisions must each leader face, and how will they affect the war?
Having experienced what appears to be his greatest loss since the turn, Ezekiel is utterly disabled by grief and refusing to fight. It isn't only the loss of Shiva that wrecks him, it is also the loss of his morale, the disintegration of his ranks, and the self-doubt that threatens his identity as a leader. In fact, Ezekiel isn't a leader at all at this point. Carol has taken over as leader of the Kingdom, corresponding with Maggie and Rick, making orders to others, and carrying on the fight without the King. In this desperate time with few soldiers left to fight and no official leadership, Carol even allows Children to fight with her. Despite Ezekiel's total reluctance, Carol remains focused on the fight to defeat Negan as well as win back the King's spirit.
Maggie has come out as a wise, composed, and fearless leader in the wake of Negan's destruction. Rather than being paralyzed by her loss, it's as if she is strengthened by it. Her unwavering strength, even at times of uncertainty, seems guided by the strength and wisdom of Hershel and Glenn. While Hershel and Glenn might be compelled to keep the Saviors alive, Maggie is more conflicted over this decision. She, perhaps more than anyone, is ready to see the Saviors die, and she also understands the many reasons why they should die. Being faced with this decision, though, forces her to think about the reasons why they should live. Keeping them as POWs, and throwing Gregory into captivity with them, could prove to be a brilliant move or a fatal mistake.
Rick's patience with Jadis and the Scavengers is a little confounding. This cryptic and unpredictable community has proven themselves intelligent, dangerous, and conniving as they have already betrayed Rick once. As Rick is not famous for giving anyone the benefit of the doubt, why does he decide to gamble with them again? It is important to reiterate that they are in fact quite intelligent and dangerous, which Rick sees as useful. Even more important is the mentality of this group. They are outsiders who are not interested in politics and are partial to nothing but themselves and what benefits them. Rick understands that they were not indoctrinated as "Negan" by working with him. Now that he knows them better, perhaps he is more confidant in his ability to negotiate with them.
Ciara Cerrato was a projectionist and curator at the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival, and she currently is a poet and freelance writer in New York.
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