This we discover through the incredulous eyes of our most reliable audience surrogate. Carol, recovering from the injuries she sustained at the end of the last season, in the bed Morgan procured for her at the Kingdom, finds herself face to face with this new community’s grand leader and can barely stifle her laughter. Carol feigns amazement and gratitude, once again slipping into the role of ineffectual suburban mom for the sake of self-protection. But she’s as appalled by the notion of this guy’s thespian panache as we are. “It’s make-believe,” she scoffs to Morgan after the meeting. She’s long-ago accepted -- as indeed we have -- that only the ruthless and realistic are suited to the world as it is now. As far as Carol is concerned, these people are about as safe here as if they’d holed up in Disneyland.
It’s when Carol makes to abscond from the Kingdom in the middle of the night that we find out the truth. Ezekiel corners her and makes it clear that he knows she’s putting on an act: "Don’t bullshit a bullshitter," he explains, before dropping the act himself. Ezekiel confides to Carol that all of this -- the pet tiger, the kingly air, the pretensions, the grandiloquence, even the voice -- is mere showmanship, smoke and mirrors affected as a leadership strategy. The Kingdom needs a ruler, and King Ezekiel, however how authentic he may be, is the best man for the job. What he’s doing isn’t much different from what Carol does when she acts meek in front of people she doesn’t know. He’s being tactical. He’s being smart. Ezekiel’s doing what he needs to do to survive.
That revelation transforms Ezekiel from a conceptual mistake into a creative windfall, and on the whole, "The Well" suggests that this fascinating leader may be The Walking Dead’s most promising character — its first opportunity in a long while to show us things we haven’t seen before and, after last week’s dire premiere, a glimmer of hope for the direction of the season.
Ezekiel is already serving Negan and the Saviours: no real surprise there, given the location of the Kingdom, and relations between them seem about as smooth as one can hope for. (Ezekiel also seems preternaturally adept at diplomacy: not a bad skill to have when you’re under the thumb of a group like the Saviours.) But perhaps Ezekiel and his people will become the right allies -- especially once word reaches him of the recent losses and how desperate the situation has become -- for Morgan, and a multi-community alliance is the solution to everyone’s Negan problem. Meanwhile, Carol was more or less won over by her newest confidant. She’s left the Kingdom to establish more private quarters not far off the lot, but it looks like Ezekiel will if nothing else be a frequent visitor -- and very possibly something more. But that’s just one more layer of intrigue in a character who’s quickly looking like The Walking Dead’s last best hope.