On The Walking Dead, King Ezekiel has been a unique figure, and not just because he set himself up like royalty when the world ended. Keeping his pet tiger Shiva by his side certainly set him apart. Shiva was more than just a pet, however; she was Ezekiel's protector and companion, as well as a reminder of the life he lived before. But what happened to Shiva in The Walking Dead comics? Her comic book fate was mirrored onscreen in the episode "Some Guy."
The show appears to be sticking pretty close to the comics these days, and Shiva's death played out on the show much like it did in the comics. In both instances, Shiva sacrificed herself to protect Ezekiel from a horde of walkers after a failed attack against the Saviors. Knowing he would not be able to get away on his own, she allowed herself to be killed so that he would be able to escape. In the show, the circumstances were slightly different; both Carol and Jerry were there with Ezekiel, though they weren't able to save Shiva or dispatch of the walkers on their own.
Shiva has saved Ezekiel countless times after the outbreak (she could always be counted on to have perfect timing when it came to chowing down on a Savior) and she did so one last time in Season 8 Episode 4.
Shiva and Ezekiel's story has been the same onscreen and in the comics since the beginning. While Ezekiel told the story of their first meeting to Michonne on the page (they were romantically involved in the comics) and to Carol on the show, that story was identical. Ezekiel was a zookeeper who had cared for Shiva since birth, and formed a special bond with her after she lashed out at him while injured one day. Ezekiel lost everyone in the outbreak besides Shiva and that bonded them more than ever.
Losing Shiva will likely be an immense blow to Ezekiel. He has lost so much in Season 8 already after his people were massacred by the Saviors and Shiva's death was the last straw. Throughout the episode it seemed like Ezekiel was worn out by his adopted identity as a king and ruler, particularly because it caused people to give their lives for him seemingly without a second thought. The weight of that appeared to be causing Ezekiel quite the struggle, and he may continue to deal with that throughout the season. Heavy is the head that wears the crown, and all that.
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, actor Khary Payton spoke about Shiva's importance to Ezekiel and how deeply her loss will affect him. "The way I justified it for me was that Shiva is the embodiment of rare beauty in this dark, apocalyptic world," Payton said. "That's the symbol she carries for Ezekiel. She's the symbol and embodiment of the Kingdom itself. Who knows how many tigers there are left in the world? At least in [The Walking Dead world], she is a rare creature. I think he felt that way about the Kingdom. It's a rare place. Seeing that symbol that got him through the early stages of the apocalypse, that was the breakdown for me. It's all she represented."
Shiva's death pushes Ezekiel to the lowest place he's been on the series since his introduction. In the comics as well, her death gave him a crisis of faith that impacted his ability to be a leader for some time. It will take some effort for Ezekiel to find himself again and rise to the occasion, but there's no doubt he'll figure it out. He is the king, after all.
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