The Walking Dead 10x04, "Silence the Whisperers," may have foreshadowed a tragic ending for King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). After a felled tree left the Hilltop exposed to a flood of walkers, Ezekiel froze. The former Kingdom leader has fallen into a deep depression since the death of son Henry (Matt Lintz), murdered by the Whisperers led by Alpha (Samantha Morton). This unbearable loss was followed by the shuttering of the Kingdom and a split from wife Carol (Melissa McBride), now struggling with her own self-destructive behaviors. Ezekiel journeyed into the woods and considered suicide, but was talked down from the edge by a concerned Michonne (Danai Gurira).
"I lost my kingdom. I had a reign, and what did I do with it? I failed," Ezekiel confesses. "Benjamin, Shiva, Henry, then the Kingdom… now the Hilltop. And Carol… I don't even know how to talk to her. I didn't know what I was gonna do when I came out here."
Michonne once found herself in a similarly dark place: in the earliest days of the apocalypse, she suffered the loss of young son Andre. She admits she used to envy every walker killed with her katana.
"Every time I'd land into one, I'd tell myself, 'I'm gonna let it bite me,'" she tells Ezekiel. "Next thing I know, my sword was chopping off its head like it had a damn mind of its own. So I put the sword down. Killed them with my bare hands. Eventually… I just gave up."
Asked how that felt, Michonne answers, "It feels like a mask. Until it doesn't."
"My old mask saved my life," Ezekiel says of his regal facade. "But I can only wear it for so long."
Back at Hilltop, Ezekiel eases the worries of best friend-slash-adviser Jerry (Cooper Andrews). After convincing Jerry he's doing better, his smile fades.
Ezekiel's near-suicide attempt and Michonne's comment about walker bites could be foreshadowing a similar death from the comic books: in The Walking Dead #41, a depressed Carol committed suicide when she allowed a leashed walker to bite her neck.
Both Ezekiel and Carol "are very guilt ridden about what's happened," Payton said on a previous episode of Talking Dead. "When you think about Ezekiel losing the Kingdom, all of the people that were in the Kingdom, Shiva, the actual structure itself, not to mention his adopted sons — both Benjamin and Henry — it's a lot for a guy who tries to look on the bright side. I think people who tend to look on the bright side are really trying to force that darkness back down, but the truth is, it's still there, it's brewing. It's been no walk in the park."
"There's definitely a lot of fertile ground for Ezekiel, because the interesting thing with our show is we rarely kill a person the same way on the show that Kirkman did in the comic. Glenn (Steven Yeun) is a notable exception," she later told EW ahead of the new season. "We definitely have a story that I'm really excited about telling for Ezekiel in Season 10. I've talked to Khary about it. It opens a door to do something that's different and really hopefully interesting for people to see with Ezekiel in the next chapter of dealing with the breakup of his home and his family and the loss of his child. Hopefully good character stuff can come out of it all."