(Spoilers for this week's The Walking Dead follow. Read at your own risk.)
Animal lovers were covering their eyes during Sunday's The Walking Dead as our beloved tiger Shiva met her heartbreaking demise at the hands and mouths of a gang of walkers.
The episode focused on Shiva's master, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), as he was beaten down by horrible circumstance. Ezekiel had been a meek and humble zookeeper before the apocalypse and adopted his regal persona as a survival mechanism. Throughout the war up until the very last moments of last week's episode, he had been very cloyingly putting on a brave face ("and yet I smile!") and promising victory to keep his followers in good spirits. He had even said he didn't think any of his people would die on this particular mission, which was an ominously hubristic statement.
And then, of course, while he and his people were celebrating what they thought was an immaculate victory, they were cut down by a hail of machine gun fire in last week's episode. As this week's episode picked up, Ezekiel was injured — shot in the leg — and after some upsetting encounters with walkers and a creepy Savior, he escaped the Savior outpost with the only other surviving human members of his party, Carol (Melissa McBride) and Jerry (Cooper Andrews), his most trusted disciple.
The devastating outcome threw Ezekiel into an existential tailspin. They were fighting their way through a colony of walkers trapped in a stream in the woods, and he wanted Carol and Jerry to leave him behind since he was slowing them down, but they refused, with Jerry repeatedly giving the reason that Ezekiel is his king.
"I ain't no king!" he finally exploded on Jerry. "I'm just some guy!"
And then to add further insult and injury to Zeke's terrible day, Shiva came out of nowhere to rescue her master, jumping into the stream and taking out a few walkers before being swarmed and eaten. She drew the walkers away from the humans, though, allowing them to escape. She sacrificed herself for Ezekiel, who surely will not feel he deserved it.
Shiva's death is easily the show's most heartbreaking since Glenn (Steven Yeun) died in the Season 7 premiere. She was just a tiger!
At least Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) got ahold of those pesky machine guns. When they use them, it will be in retribution. I mean, the Saviors weren't directly responsible for Shiva's death, but still. It feels like their fault, and they must pay.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.