Warning: SPOILERS for The Walking Dead episode 8x04, "Some Guy," the comics, and possible future deaths on the show.
After the airing of The Walking Dead episode 8x04, "Some Guy," fans everywhere are mourning the devastating death of King Ezekiel's beloved pet Tiger, Shiva. The loyal animal came to her King's aid one final time, saving Ezekiel, Carol, and Jerry from a crowd of Walkers before being overwhelmed and devoured by them.
As tragic as Shiva's death was, fans of The Walking Dead comics couldn't help noticing that the episode may have given us reason to preemptively mourn a future heartbreaking death — that of Shiva's master and the much-loved leader of The Kingdom, King Ezekiel.
For just over half of the latest episode, King Ezekiel, badly injured in the hail of Savior gunfire that killed many of his loyal subjects, was held captive by Gunther, an immensely hateable low-ranking Savior. As part of "The King, The Widow, and Rick," the leadership trinity that Negan wants captured alive, Gunther clearly sees delivering Ezekiel alive as his ticket to greater power and position within The Saviors.
Unfortunately for Gunther, it soon becomes apparent that this is not going to happen, as he is unable to open the padlocked gate that will get he and his hostage out of the compound and away from a pursuing herd of Walkers. Although he quickly decides to leave the injured Ezekiel behind as a distraction for the Walkers while he makes his own escape, Gunther is unwilling to completely give up his chance to impress Negan. It is this line, uttered moments before Ezekiel's loyal bodyguard Jerry arrives to save the day, that has some fans worried:
"Negan was hopin' to have your ass chained to the Sanctuary fence. You, The Widow, Rick.. But your head on a pike will do just fine."
The reason for that worry is that the line clearly references King Ezekiel's ultimate horrifying fate in the comics.
What Happens To King Ezekiel in the Comics?
Thus far, King Ezekiel's storyline has unfolded on screen in more or less the same way as it did in the comics, aside from a few minor differences. In The Walking Dead comics, King Ezekiel does not need nearly as much convincing to join the fight against Negan and The Saviors. He had already decided that Negan needed to be taken down, and had simply been waiting for strong enough allies to make the fight winnable. As soon as Jesus introduces him to Rick and Michonne, he knows he has found such allies. Around the time of The Kingdom's rescue of Alexandria during an assault by Negan, Ezekiel begins a casual relationship with Michonne. Though no relationship has begun on TV as yet, Carol currently seems to be filling the role that Michonne did in the comics.
As far as the events of "Some Guy," the main difference in the comic is that Ezekiel is the sole witness to Shiva's death, and it is more explicitly implied that the Tiger intentionally sacrificed herself for him. Following this, as we saw beginning in the show, Ezekiel suffers a bout of deep depression, doubting the Alexandria-Kingdom-Hilltop alliance's ability to win the war. After spending some time with Michonne, he eventually recovers, leading The Kingdom's surviving soldiers to Hilltop, where the alliance's final battle with Negan occurs.
After the five-year time jump that follows the war, we learn that Ezekiel and Michonne's relationship has recently crumbled. While attending a Fair held in Alexandria, Ezekiel decides that he is not ready to give up on her yet, and leaves early to go find her. Tragically, this is the last time King Ezekiel is seen alive. Rick later finds his zombified head on a pike among those killed and used to mark the boundary of The Whisperers, the series' next major villains.
The End Of The King?
Knowing this, it is understandable why Gunther's line has comic fans so concerned. The show has often foreshadowed character's ultimate fates. Glenn is a notable example, with baseball bats often being his weapon of choice, and the fact that he found photograph's of Lucille's previous victims a few episodes before he tragically met her himself. Morales using a bat in the one major battle he participated in during season one possibly foreshadowed his future as a Savior.
Still, it's probably a bit early to begin planning Ezekiel's funeral. As often as The Walking Dead foreshadows major deaths, it remixes them, substituting one character for another. Also, Ezekiel is not the only major character in the comics to end up with his head on one of The Whisperer's pikes, meaning he could potentially be spared without ruining the scene's emotional impact. And even if events do unfold on the show as they did in the comic, at its current pace, we won't meet the Whisperers until at least Season Nine. King Ezekiel has a few rousing speeches left in him yet.