WARNING: This article contains major spoilers from the newest episode of The Walking Dead! Continue reading at your own risk...
Last night's episode of The Walking Dead was tough on fans, but it was even more difficult for the king himself, as Ezekiel lost just about everything. Not only was his entire army defeated, but Ezekiel lost Shiva the Tiger, the creature he cared about most in the world.
Watching Shiva sacrifice herself to save Ezekiel was gut-wrenching for fans of the series to witness. The King himself, Khary Payton, also had a difficult time with filming the tragic goodbye scene.
Payton spoke with THR about the devastating death, and explained what losing Shiva really means for the character, as well as for the future of The Walking Dead.
"The way I justified it for me was that Shiva is the embodiment of rare beauty in this dark, apocalyptic world," Payton explained. "That's the symbol she carries for Ezekiel. She's the symbol and embodiment of the Kingdom itself. Who knows how many tigers there are left in the world? At least in [the Walking Dead world], she is a rare creature. I think he felt that way about the Kingdom. It's a rare place. Seeing that symbol that got him through the early stages of the apocalypse, that was the breakdown for me. It's all she represented. I wasn't just thinking about a CGI character necessarily. I was thinking about the embodiment of this rare and beautiful thing he had willed himself into believing could happen."
The actor went on to explain how Shiva's final moments mirrored Ezekiel's story leading up to the episode, specifically how the character sacrificed himself for Shiva at the beginning of the outbreak.
"It's pretty amazing work that [showrunner] Scott M. Gimple is able to fold into these stories," Payton said. "I know there's lots of discussion about the number of bullets people are using and things like that, devices for storytelling that people kind of laugh about and harp on. But there's some beautiful stuff here I think people are missing when they're worrying about how many bullets are left in the gun before they reload. There's some really great symmetry there. We talked about Henry V, which is one of my favorite plays, and my favorite Shakespeare play. I talked months ago with Scott about the speech that Henry V gives at the Battle of Agincourt, as his lieutenants are saying they should call back to England for more people. Henry says: "Not one more," because we're going to win this battle and they are going to wish they were here. I was talking to Scott about Ezekiel giving these kinds of speeches. He took this 'not one more,' and he switched it: 'We will lose not one of our number.' That's just brilliant. It's a different take. You take that Shakespeare, you twist it, you make it your own."
The Walking Dead airs on Sunday nights at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.