The Walking Dead Season 10 finds King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) dropping the theatrics following the loss of son Henry (Matt Lintz) and a separation from wife Carol (Melissa McBride). According to official character bios published ahead of Season 10: “Ezekiel is a former shadow of himself, having lost his family and the Kingdom. Everything he has built is gone. He has let go of the pretense and presence of being King. He is unsure of his purpose and does not know if he will find hope again. His community is unraveling and looking towards him for help, but is this a weight too great to bear?”
Season 9 ended with a dispirited Ezekiel installed as leader of “Kingtop,” so nicknamed by loyal adviser Jerry (Cooper Andrews), a merger with the Hilltop colony made necessary when the Kingdom fell into disrepair. For his part, Jerry is “trying to hold on to Ezekiel, who is disappearing within himself.” As Ezekiel wrestles with the darkness growing within himself, his most trusted friend “wants his leader to return.”
Previewing Ezekiel’s story in Season 10 at San Diego Comic-Con in July, showrunner Angela Kang said this new spin on Ezekiel will be a “surprise left turn for people” before praising the “deep and touching work by our wonderful Khary Payton.”
When it comes to dealing with Alpha (Samantha Morton) — the Whisperer leader responsible for Henry’s abduction and subsequent death — Ezekiel of course “wants revenge,” Payton said on TWD Season 10 Preview Special in August.
“He’s always been the guy who acts after thought. When Rick and the gang came to meet him, he didn’t rush into the fight with Negan. When Carol said ‘It’s time to fight,’ [he said], ‘Yes, but not today,’” Payton continued. “He’s always thinking about action, but wanting to think his way through it. I think dealing with his whole guilt thing on top of that, he’s not gonna rush in. He’s not Carol, who’s just like, ‘Let me find something flammable and throw it on somebody.’”
Ezekiel also feels guilty for failing to keep his son safe. It’s a feeling shared by Carol: the grieving mother joined a crew from Oceanside as a “pirate,” and upon returning from sea, Carol is plagued by horrific visions of her murdered son.
“I think that, like so many times when bad times happen, you blame yourself. I think Ezekiel blames himself, I think Carol blames herself,” Payton said. “[They feel] that they should have been more vigilant, they should have been better protectors, better parents, somehow they should have seen three steps ahead of where Alpha was going. I think that’s what happens with their relationship, is that you turn that turmoil, sometimes you turn it outwardly, but both of them are very guilt ridden about what’s happened.”