Who Is "The Walking Dead's" Ezekiel - And Why Does He Have a Pet Tiger?

Who Is "The Walking Dead's" Ezekiel - And Why Does He Have a Pet Tiger?
SPOILER WARNING: Major spoilers from AMC's "The Walking Dead" (and the Image comic series it's adapted from) follow.

When the Season 7 trailer for "The Walking Dead" arrived at Comic-Con International in San Diego, it appeared to be a retrospective showcase for the show rather than forward looking teaser. The first half focused each of Negan's potential victims, highlighting key moments from their time on the show as they await the wrath of his barbed-wire baseball bat, Lucille. While that's very much in line with the life-flashes-before-your-eyes theme of the Season 6 finale "Last Day On Earth," the first minute or so of the teaser had viewers wondering whether new footage would be held back from the show's SDCC panel.


Then, lo and behold, the trailer exploded with new footage, including confirmation the introduction of The Kingdom, nearby community that wants to stop The Saviors as much as Alexandria does. The show hinted at this mysterious, Medieval-themed locale (stationed in a school, in Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard's Image Comics series) towards the end of last season, when Rick, Morgan and Carol pursued a rider on horseback who appeared to be wearing armor. Shortly afterwards, they discovered an archaic-looking spear used to kill a nearby walker.

As we noted at the time, this didn't necessarily mean the mysterious character was from The Kingdom, especially since his protection looked more like combat gear than the more extravagant armor and helmets found in the source material. The new trailer, however, confirmed our suspicions, going as far to show more shots of several guards and -- in the biggest reveal of all -- their self-proclaimed king, Ezekiel. Brought to life by Khary Payton, the voice of Cyborg on the "Teen Titans" and "Teen Titans GO!" animated series, Ezekiel is easily the most eccentric figure to ever grace the pages of "The Walking Dead" -- even more so than out-there baddies like Negan and the yet-to-be-introduced-on-television Whisperers. Visually distinctive as well, he sports a head full of dreadlocks, an ornate staff, feathers in his hair, and -- wait for it -- a pet tiger named Shiva. All of these traits appear to have made their way to television, though the character appears to be a bit younger.

Ezekiel Tiger The Walking Dead Comics

The tiger, frankly, comes as the biggest surprise. As cool as it is for a fearsome jungle cat to be wandering around a zombie-filled wasteland, Shiva's presence always feels a tad strange in the comics. As such, it might be even more jarring to see her in the flesh (or in the CGI) on the show. Then again, the world of "The Walking Dead" is a chaotic one, and when you think about it, if the zombie uprising ever did actually occur, there would probably be some people who'd take on zoo animals as pets/personal guardians. In Ezekiel's case, he actually knew Shiva long before the collapse of civilization, having cared for her as a zookeeper ever since she was a cub. Their bond became unbreakable when, after the feline slashed his stomach, he continued to feed and nurture her.

If all of that sounds theatrical, it's very much meant to be. In the comics, Ezekiel also has a theatre background, which comes in handy when he establishes The Kingdom, developing a unique, over-the-top facade for his subjects to look up to, all while still remaining practical and fair in his leadership. Naturally, he becomes an important ally to Alexandria and Hilltop, even though -- as we discover -- he's certainly not without his faults.

It's unclear at this point how much of his backstory and personality will make its way into the show, but hey, they threw the tiger in there, so anything's possible! Tune in to the Season 7 premiere on Sunday, October 23, at 9 p.m. ET to see what else survives the jump from page to screen.

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