King Ezekiel is a fictional character from the comic book series The Walking Dead and the television series of the same name, in which he is portrayed by Khary Payton.
Ezekiel is the leader of The Kingdom, a community of survivors terrorized by a vicious group called the Saviors. Other communities including The Hilltop and the Alexandria Safe-Zone suffer the same subjugation. The communities, led by Ezekiel, Maggie at The Hilltop, and Rick at Alexandria, team up in an all-out war against the Saviors and their leader, Negan. Ezekiel has a loyal pet tiger, Shiva, that he saved from the zoo in the early days of the apocalypse when he was a zookeeper. Although Shiva can be deadly to Ezekiel’s enemies, she is not a threat to The Kingdom’s peaceful residents and guests. Instead, Ezekiel rules by the consent of his community, who believe in his charismatic leadership skills and ability to keep them safe. In the comics, Ezekiel enters into a romantic relationship with Michonne, while in the show he instead marries Carol.
Comic book seriesEzekiel, referred to as "King Ezekiel" by his fellow citizens, is the leader of a community known as The Kingdom. Ezekiel was formerly a zookeeper and has known his pet tiger, Shiva, since she was born.
At some point, Ezekiel meets and forms a friendship with Paul "Jesus" Monroe, who invites his community to join a trading network that includes The Hilltop community that Jesus belongs to. Ezekiel later discovers the Saviors are threatening and harassing the other communities in the trade network in exchange for supplies and possibly sees how vicious their leader, Negan really is.
Ezekiel bides his time and waits for the opportune moment to strike back against the tyrant. The opportunity Ezekiel is waiting for finally comes when Jesus brings Rick Grimes to meet him and passes on the information they have regarding the Saviors' strength and the location of their main base of operations.
During the war, Ezekiel starts a relationship with Michonne. Two years after the war against the Saviors ends, Ezekiel and Michonne break up, but Ezekiel is confident about starting their relationship again. However, he and 11 other people are decapitated by Alpha during the conflict with the Whisperers.
BackstoryPrior to the outbreak, Ezekiel was a zookeeper in D.C. as well as a stage actor. At some point he met Shiva, a tiger cub who was injured in her exhibit. Ezekiel cared for and befriended Shiva and formed a strong bond with her. When the walker outbreak began, Ezekiel returned to the zoo and freed Shiva with the two being together ever since. Ezekiel subsequently founded a community known as The Kingdom which grew to be a thriving community, lush with food and comfort. To better inspire his people, Ezekiel began referring to himself as King Ezekiel and took on the mannerisms of a benevolent and generous feudal king. He also formed a court of advisers to help him manage The Kingdom which include seasoned survivor Richard, his personal attendant and bodyguard Jerry, and Benjamin, a young survivor who was the son of a good friend of Ezekiel's.
Season 7Ezekiel is first introduced to the series in the episode "The Well", when Morgan Jones and Carol are brought to the Kingdom by his people to give medical attention to Carol. When Carol awakens, Morgan introduces her to Ezekiel and his pet Bengal tiger Shiva. Ezekiel's quasi-Shakespearean manner of ruling leaves Carol quietly incredulous. When Ezekiel asks what she thinks of his sanctuary and him, she feigns enthusiasm, and refuses his offer of fruit, stating that pomegranates aren't worth the trouble. Morgan, having swiftly gained Ezekiel's confidence, is taken out with Ezekiel's inner circle to perform a seemingly pointless task: herd a group of wild pigs into a barn far outside the Kingdom, where they feed on walkers. Ezekiel asks Morgan about his combat skills, as he sees Morgan is capable of using a staff, and asks him to train one of his men, Benjamin. After hesitating, Morgan agrees. Ezekiel brings Morgan and Benjamin to a secret meeting with the Saviors, who are given the walker-fed pigs, now slaughtered, as part of their tribute from the Kingdom. One of the Saviors, Jared, tells Richard the Saviors are letting the Kingdom off easy by taking only eight pigs, to which Richard replies: the Saviors are the ones being let off easy. Jared attacks Richard, and Ezekiel makes them break up the fight. The leader of the Saviors group tells Jared to stop only after Jared has hit Richard a few times. The Saviors leave and say they will want produce next time, or Richard will be the first to die. During the night, Carol is picking fruit as she prepares to leave town quietly, and Ezekiel catches her. He explains that he realized Carol's innocence was just an act but wonders how Carol could survive, and wants to know where she originally came from. After a few moments, Ezekiel slowly drops his guard and reveals that he was a zookeeper and amateur actor. He tells her that he developed the "King Ezekiel" persona so that the people would have someone to follow and to emphasize that there is still good in the world. Carol still wishes to leave, so Ezekiel suggests that she live in the abandoned house she passed on the way to the Kingdom, so that she could "go and not go". She agrees to this arrangement. Morgan takes Carol out to the house, tells her to take care of herself, and returns to the Kingdom. Later, she gets a visit from Ezekiel and Shiva. Ezekiel once again offers her a pomegranate causing Carol to smile.
In the mid-season premiere "Rock in the Road", Ezekiel is shown to be friends with Hilltop scout Paul Rovia, aka "Jesus". Jesus introduces Ezekiel to Rick Grimes, the leader of Alexandria, another community forced to serve the Saviors. Rick implores Ezekiel to join their fight against the Saviors as only together can they succeed. Ezekiel takes the night to ponder his decision, but ultimately decides against open conflict with the Saviors as he refuses to endanger his people's lives. He does, however, allow Rick's friend Daryl Dixon to stay in the Kingdom to hide from the Saviors. Ezekiel appears in episode "New Best Friends" when the Saviors arrive for their offering. When Jared continues to insult Richard, the two draw guns on each other and Morgan and Ben are forced to stop further violence. Ezekiel later chastises Benjamin for acting hasty as violence must be reserved as a last resort. In the episode "Bury Me Here", Ezekiel, Morgan, Ben, Richard and several others find a roadblock en route to their meeting with the Saviors. They then find a grave reading bury me here with Ezekiel claiming that it is only luck that the world has not driven them all insane, though Ben credits Ezekiel with keeping them together. They arrive to find that their load of fruit is short of the required amount, causing Jared to shoot Ben. They bring him to Carol's, but despite their best efforts, Ben dies. When they meet the Saviors to settle their debt Morgan attacks and kills Richard, strangling him to death. He reveals that Richard discarded a fruit on purpose in an effort to start a war with the Saviors. Ezekiel shown to be enraged at Richard's betrayal while shocked at Morgan's brutality. Carol later goes to the Kingdom and offers Ezekiel her condolences before stating that it is time to fight; Morgan, wishing to be alone, temporarily stays at Carol's house. Ezekiel agrees. In the season finale "First Day of the Rest of Your Life", Ezekiel leads Carol and a group of Kingdom fighters to Alexandria to accept Rick's alliance. They encounter Morgan along the way, and Ezekiel convinces him to march with them. Ezekiel's arrival proves timely; their group arrives at Alexandria just as Negan is about to execute Carl. Ezekiel and Shiva charge into battle, killing numerous Saviors and helping drive off the Saviors. The episode ends with Ezekiel standing beside Rick and Maggie Greene as the Kingdom, Hilltop and Alexandria pledge their aid to each other.
Season 8In the season premiere "Mercy", as Rick prepares for war against Negan, Ezekiel commits his own soldiers from the Kingdom, and provides rousing speeches to his men at Kingdom and later to the combined group prior to their first attack. After their initial assault on Sanctuary, resulting in a large walker horde that prevents the Saviors from leaving or entering, Rick's army breaks into several groups to attack other Savior strongholds. In the following episode "The Damned", Ezekiel, alongside Carol, leads forces most of Kingdom soldiers, clearing out all but one Savior at a stronghold. The solitary Savior escapes, but Ezekiel orders his group to give chase, fearing he will warn a nearby stronghold. With Shiva's help, the solitary Savior is stopped in time.
In the episode "Monsters", since they are close to another stronghold but still undetected, Ezekiel decides to launch an attack, despite not being in Rick's plan and against Carol's caution. The attack goes better than expected, with no losses to the Kingdom forces. As they are celebrating, Savior forces hidden in a nearby building fire on the group with a heavy machine gun, killing most of the Kingdom forces instantly; the few not yet hit rush to protect Ezekiel. In the episode "Some Guy", Ezekiel crawls out from the pile of corpses with a limp foot, aghast at the bodies around him that are starting to reanimate. Ultimately he is saved by Jerry, who remains a loyal follower, and Carol, who dealt with the Savior attackers. They struggle towards the Kingdom, but Ezekiel is broken both physically and emotionally, and tells them to leave him behind, no longer worthy of being their king. Shiva arrives to fend off walkers that are about to attack Ezekiel, but the walkers eventually overwhelm the tiger, and Ezekiel can only look on in anguish as his companion is fed upon. The three eventually make it to Kingdom, and Ezekiel cannot come to say anything to the families of his soldiers, and walks off in silence. In the episode "The King, the Widow, and Rick", Ezekiel has secluded himself in his home, refusing to allow others to see him. Carol is able to approach Ezekiel and tries to encourage him to take up leadership again, even if it just maintaining his act, but Ezekiel remains reluctant to participate and urges her to lead the Kingdom. In the mid-season finale "How It's Gotta Be", when his community is invaded by the Saviors and they demand to know where Ezekiel is hiding, he allows himself to be caught soon afterwards, so his people may escape.
In the mid-season premiere "Honor" Ezekiel is kidnapped by the saviors commanded by Gavin, but its plans to take it to the Sanctuary are frustrated by Carol and Morgan of successful way manage to annihilate their followers and rescue Ezekiel, when Gavin flees Morgan catches him but Ezekiel with Carol tries to convince him not to kill him, Morgan insists he has to, but before he can, a fighting stick pierces Gavin's throat, killing him and Henry is revealed to be the killer, shocking Carol and Morgan. Ezekiel soothes Henry and tells him not to look at Gavin's body. Carol berates Henry for not staying behind and disobeying her, but Ezekiel assures Henry that everything will work out. "All will be resolved" he tells him. In the next episode "Do Not Send Us Astray", Ezekiel and his community move to Hilltop to avoid retaliation from the saviors, Henry wants to join the fight, but Ezekiel orders him to defend Hilltop from inside and make the guard, when the Simon's convoy, Daryl leads them through the gate, the people of Hilltop block the convoy with a bus and Ezekiel and all open fire on the rescuers. The battle begins and the rescuers succeed in wounding several members of the militia with weapons contaminated with the blood of a walker, Ezekiel, Carol, Rosita, Tara, Maggie, Daryl, Enid, Jesus, Rick, Carol and others but they manage to survive, due to They manage to turn the tide of the attack of the rescuers as Simon and the remaining saviors flee. Mayhem erupts at dawn inside the Barrington house in Hilltop, as many wounded succumb to the infection and die, because of the savior's contaminated weapons, begin to revive as walkers and attack Ezekiel helps fight the walkers. Ezekiel shoots down a reanimated Kevin, while Rick, Morgan and Daryl manage to shoot down the remaining walkers. The next day, Ezekiel and Carol look for Henry, who disappeared during the night. In the episode "Still Gotta Mean Something", Ezekiel asks Carol to help him find Henry, but she refuses. Ezekiel realizes that Carol believes that Henry is dead. Carol gives the boy for dead and Ezekiel accuses her of being a coward for thinking that and leaves, later, Jerry rushes to Ezekiel to share the good news, just as Carol and Henry enter the community. Ezekiel hugs Henry and thanks Carol, Carol tells Ezekiel that he was right about her being afraid. In the season finale "Wrath" the combined forces mobilize to ambush the saviors, Ezekiel predicts that it could be the last morning for some of them, Ezekiel accompanies Rick and the rest of the militia to fight the saviors in the battle final. After most of the saviors are eliminated due to Eugene's defective bullets, Ezekiel and the others fight the remaining saviors until they surrender, shortly after Negan is defeated and captured while Rick addresses the crowd, declaring the peace among all the communities. Afterwards, Ezekiel returns home to the Kingdom.
Season 9In the season premiere "A New Beginning" 18 months have elapsed, Ezekiel and Carol have grown as a couple and adopted Henry, Ezekiel attended the expedition in the city of Washington D.C. to find a wooden cart and agricultural machinery needed by the rescuers and after finding everything they needed in an abandoned museum, the king helped the rest of the group carefully move the car through a glass floor that contained a huge number of walkers in inside, Ezekiel fails in the last crossing as the glass floor is broken, but they were tied with ropes to catch them and Carol and others rescued him quickly, before certain death, Carol and Ezekiel embrace and later the group goes back to their respective communities on their journey. On the way, Ezekiel proposes to Carol Marriage. She tells him to keep the ring and reminds him that he still does not want to be asked, especially about a horse. Ezekiel smiles and says he still loves her, the next day, Carol tells Ezekiel that he is staying in the Sanctuary, Ezekiel feels he is trying to be away, but she denies and kisses him, before telling him to kiss Henry for her and instruct Jerry to take care of him as they move away.
In the second half of the season, Ezekiel, who has married Carol and adopted Henry, struggles to reunite the fractured communities with a trade fair while the Kingdom begins to fall apart from old age and disrepair. The situation worsens when a new enemy, the Whisperers, arises and Henry falls in love with Lydia, the daughter of the Whisperer leader. The new threat brings the communities back together. Though Michonne has developed a more isolationist mindset, she allows Alexandria to send a delegation and is convinced by Judith Grimes to mend relationships with her old friends. At the same time, the Kingdom comes into contact with a new group, the Highwaymen, who try to extort the Kingdom for supplies. Instead, Ezekiel and Carol make a deal with the Highwaymen, who prove to be reasonable despite their rough start, to protect the area around the Kingdom in exchange for trade and getting to watch a movie using the Kingdom's recently repaired theater, something the Highwaymen haven't been able to do for years.
In "The Calm Before," the communities are reunited at the Kingdom's trade fair, much to Ezekiel's pleasure. To cement their reestablished relationship, Ezekiel has the leaders of the four communities finally sign Michonne's charter which had been recovered by Tara and given to Ezekiel after Michonne had given up on unity. Ezekiel and Carol invite Daryl, who has been living on his own in the woods since Rick's assumed death, to move to the Kingdom. However, the trade fair takes an ominous turn when it is infiltrated by Alpha, leader of the Whisperers who Ezekiel unknowingly encounters and talks with. Alpha kidnaps and brutally murders ten people from the fair, including Ezekiel's adopted son Henry.
In "The Storm," the Kingdom finally falls due to disrepair and disaster and Ezekiel and the other residents are forced to relocate to the Hilltop during a massive blizzard. In the months since Henry's death, Ezekiel and Carol's marriage has fallen apart. After reaching the Hilltop, Carol decides to end their marriage and return to Alexandria, though Ezekiel has her keep the ring he gave Carol.
Season 10Now living in Hilltop, Ezekiel struggles with the loss of the Kingdom and his divorce from Carol. Michonne later finds him suicidal and they share a kiss, but don't take it further than that. Ezekiel eventually reveals a large lump on his neck to Siddiq, knowing that it is thyroid cancer which his family has a history of. While his father and grandmother successfully fought it off, Ezekiel is convinced that his condition is terminal in the current world which lacks modern medicine. However, he can't bring himself to tell Carol, getting off the radio when she comes on rather than admit that he is dying. After Siddiq is murdered by Dante, Ezekiel attends the funeral and is reunited with Carol who he considers telling about his condition, but still can't go through with it.
Development and receptionEzekiel is portrayed by Khary Payton on The Walking Dead television series, beginning with the seventh season. Ezekiel and his pet tiger Shiva were introduced in the season seven trailer at the San Diego Comic-Con in 2016.
Noel Murray of Rolling Stone ranked King Ezekiel 9th in a list of 30 best Walking Dead characters, saying, "Thanks to Khary Payton's theatrical flair, the general congeniality of "The Kingdom," and one seriously awesome pet tiger, this new leader offered a reminder that violence and selfishness aren't the only way to survive. Sometimes an overly polite nice guy pretending to be medieval royalty can stir up some loyalty too."