King Ezekiel seems to have struck a delicate arrangement between The Kingdom and The Saviors. So how did he and Negan come to such terms?

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead was a welcome respite from the brutality of Negan. With that said, Negan and his Saviors still had a fairly important presence.

Morgan learns from King Ezekiel that The Kingdom has struck a deal with Negan. They supply the Saviors with wild hogs and produce. In return, Negan’s men don’t invade and kill the people of The Kingdom.

Negan and Ezekiel

So what’s the history behind this arrangement? How did Negan and Ezekiel come to terms? Actor Khary Payton, who plays Ezekiel, has some thoughts on that backstory.

“His philosophy is that he puts a good front, and the front has been working,” says Payton. “I may be talking out of turn here because I haven’t discussed this with [showrunner Scott Gimple] at all and he may come back to me say, ‘Khary, that was total B.S. I don’t know how you came up with it, but since he hasn’t given an explanation, I’m going to tell you what I think.”

Ezekiel and Shiva on The Walking DeadImage Credit: AMC

“My idea is that the Kingdom was the one place that Negan hasn’t come to on his own and hasn’t Lucille-d anyone from. I think the Saviors came upon him and he brought out the tiger and he made a deal: ‘If you don’t touch anybody, we’re going to be all right.’ I think the whole king thing and the tiger and everything might’ve thrown them off just enough to be like, ‘You’re gonna do as we say just as long as we walk away and don’t go any further.’ I think as far as Ezekiel’s concerned is that as long as he can keep his people alive, then that’s all that matters. If he can keep the peace, he can walk this fine line with the Saviors, and as long as they don’t do any harm to the people in the Kingdom, because I think that’s kind of where he draws the line.”

It’s an interesting theory. Shiva is definitely an intimidating presence. Perhaps if Ezekiel’s men didn’t put up a front, Negan could have been convinced to simply make a deal.

Protecting His People

One thing is clear: Ezekiel cares deeply about protecting the people of The Kingdom. That seems to extend particularly to Benjamin. His father died in service to King Ezekiel.

“Benjamin is kind of a metaphor for the Kingdom as a whole,” says Payton. “He absolutely has this connection with Benjamin and feels the need to kind of take over as a father figure in his life and to give him responsibility and help him become a man, but beyond that, he absolutely feels a responsibility that these lives are precious and that the true mark of a leader is how you treat your people and how you protect your people. I think that that, in his mind, is the most important thing.”

It’ll be interesting going forward to see how the relationship between The Kingdom and The Saviors develops. The people of Alexandria and The Hilltop may be eager to overthrow the Saviors. But for King Ezekiel, the cost may be too high when he’s already achieved a delicate peace.