It’s just too bad that teen dream Benjamin and Sir Richard, my problematic Kingdom crush, had to die in order for Carol and Morgan to join the central storyline of this season. Though before they left us, Sir Richard especially was given an arc worthy of a standalone Kingdom episode away from Rick Grimes.
Men like Richard are strong enough to open their eyes and acknowledge that war is happening, but they’re not going to lead the charge at the drop of a dime like Rick Grimes has 17 times already on this TV show. And they’re certainly going to exhaust all other options before doing something risky that could get somebody they love killed, like Sir Richard did before he, well, did something risky that got somebody he loved killed.
He was 100 percent correct to assume that this would get a Kingdom-er killed, but his stupidity lied in thinking that it would be him. Literally the only thing that anyone knows about Negan’s henchmen is that they’re despicable, unpredictable sadists, so of course they’re not going to kill the sad-looking dude wearing a “please kill me” sign, despite Gavin’s earlier threat to off Richard first should anything else go wrong.
So they clipped poor Benjamin in the kneecaps instead. It was bloody and it was sad, but if you found yourself attached to Benjamin … well, shame on you. Benjamin was essentially the Kingdom’s Beth. He was genuinely sweet to Carol, he got Morgan a cool poster, and he was the kind of kid who blushed when he met a cute girl; even in the zombie apocalypse. He didn’t live long enough for us to find out whether or not he can carry a tune, but something tells me Benjamin warbled a Tom Waits hit or two in his day.
So in other words, Benjamin was dead from the moment we met him. And we should hate Sir Richard for getting this special snowflake killed, but in viewing Richard’s very human suffering through the also very human eyes of Morgan, the show offered a compelling, compassionate case for why Richard was how he was and did what he did.
Morgan quickly surmised that Richard was behind Benjamin’s death, and not only because Richard had given him an eerily resigned pep talk before the group left for their run. When Morgan returned to the site of the road block to have a “Clear”-esque meltdown after the doomed drop, he found the missing cantaloupe hidden near a fresh, empty grave site marked “bury me here.”
Knowing that Richard was pretty much the only Kingdom-er gung-ho about going to war, Morgan then confronted Richard, and demanded he fess up to Ezekiel immediately. Richard, understandably distraught, told Morgan a story that was eerily reminiscent of his own: back in the early days of the apocalypse, Richard’s own inability to take action got his daughter killed right in front of him, mere days after he lost his wife to circumstances beyond his control. He thought taking action against the Saviors would spare the lives of his surrogate family, but Richard’s fatal flaw was underestimating the cruelty of his opponents, and overestimating his own ability to be a one-man army.
He then pitched Morgan on his new plan, which was to re-gain the Saviors’ trust then blindside them. “You have to kill, or else you might as well just kill yourself,” Richard said.
Morgan, who clearly didn't like the cut of Richard’s jib during this entire exchange, took Richard’s advice to heart. When Richard failed to inform Ezekiel of his role in Benjamin’s death or of his plan of attack before their drop the next day, Morgan re-gained the Saviors’ trust himself — by brutally beating and strangling Richard to death in front of the entire group.
“I want to show you that we get it,” Morgan told the Saviors, also informing them and Ezekiel of Richard’s plot to ignite war between their tribes. “That we understand what it is that we need to do; that we know how to go on.”
So Morgan co-opted Richard’s plan for himself, and in the process, finally convinced Ezekiel that joining Rick Grimes’ war was necessary.
An oft-repeated line throughout the episode (these were literally Benjamin’s dying words, which, okay) was, “To injure your opponent is to injure yourself.” Killing Richard injured Morgan greatly.
After burying Richard in his chosen gravesite, Morgan went to see Carol, who was finally coming out of her year-long Bell Jar. Carol, being a smart cookie, spent most of the episode questioning whether Daryl had told her the truth about everyone in the Grimes Gang surviving the Saviors. Because if Rick and Co. had truly defeated them back at the outpost, then why were Ezekiel and his gang still making weekly tributes?
Shoulda thought of that one, Pookie.
By the end of the episode Carol was ready to hear what had truly happened, and it was more than enough to convince her to come out of hiding. But just as Carol had regained the mental strength to go to war — knowing she would likely lose people that she loves — Morgan had lost it completely, and was planning to leave town to take on the Saviors solo. Carol convinced him to take psychological refuge in her hidey-house instead, and packed her bags to stay with Ezekiel and prepare for the fight. (ASIDE: These two are going to hook up soon, right? And we’re all 100 percent here for that, right?)
We have two episodes left before said fight actually goes down, and it will be interesting to see how the disparate armies manage to come together under Rick’s questionable tutelage. Regardless, it was a relief to spend a week with the refreshingly human citizens of the Kingdom, and a firm reminder that Dead can actually be really good when it scales back and relies on human stories.
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Photo: Courtesy of AMC.