Even the staunchest of Walking Dead fans has to admit that, with the exception of the bloodbath in the season premiere, the first half of season seven was absolutely boring. Fans were lead to believe that Negan was a villain who would make his grand entrance on the show and do things that would make The Governor look like a boy scout. Sadly, this was far from the case and fans were left with a very milquetoast first half of the season. However, it was a necessary evil. We needed to see that Rick had been broken. We needed to see what it was like for Daryl to be Negan’s captive. We needed to see Maggie and Sasha take the lead and protect the people of Hilltop. With Rick and company back in the fighting spirit, hopefully the show will rebound from being such a stick in the mud.
“The Rock in the Road” had a lot of things it needed to get right in order to not lose any more viewers. For the most part, the episode succeeds where several others did not. As always SPOILERS FOR THE WALKING DEAD!!!!!!
What better way to grab the audience’s attention, than by introducing a new mystery. The episode opens with Gabriel abandoning his post at Alexandria. He empties the food supplies, grabs various sharp objects, and high tails it out of town in a car. It took several viewings to make sure, but if you look closely, the shadow of a second figure can be seen sitting up next to Gabriel as he drives away.
Naturally, some of the survivors think that Gabriel abandoned the group. Gabriel’s courage has been lacking for most of his time on the show, however, as one of the survivors said, he has changed and it would be hard to believe that he was capable of running off for no good reason.
After Gabriel’s midnight run, Rick and the gang are seen at the Hilltop, trying to convince Gregory to fight against the Saviors. Of course, Gregory is spineless and useless, so he tells them “no”. As the group prepares to leave, Enid brings them to a group of Hilltoppers who are interested in fighting, even though Gregory is not. It’s good to know that not everyone on Hilltop is content with being a farmer.
While Rick’s Recruiters are getting ready to leave Hilltop, Jesus decides that it is a good time to go meet King Ezekiel. Rick is worried that the Saviors might make an early return trip and may discover that he isn’t there. It is then, that Jesus decides to let everyone know that he just so happened to pick up a long range radio that is tuned to the exact channel that the Saviors use. So, conveniently, the survivors can listen in on Negan’s transmissions.
So several things happened when the group went to see King Ezekiel. Notably, the group reunited with Morgan. The group seemed to warmly welcome him at first, but Rick was obviously cautious with Morgan. There was no hug like there was when Rick and Daryl came back together. Yet again, that was probably one of the best bro hugs in history. In turn, Morgan was vague about what happened to Carol. He was more than likely doing it out of respect to Carol and her desire to remain on her own, yet keeping a secret from Rick will not help Morgan in the long run.
Rick is granted an audience with Ezekiel. Things seem to be going well, but then Ezekiel asks Morgan for his opinion on the situation. In classic Morgan fashion, he tells Ezekiel that he hopes that there is another way than war. Morgan even suggest that the Saviors may fall apart if Negan himself is captured. It seems like a valid point, but there is the fear that merely capturing Negan will only empower one of his generals to launch a rescue mission.
Once again, it should be noted that the graphics and the animations for Ezekiel’s tiger are far too obvious. It distracts from every scene the tiger is in.
The group went before Ezekiel and things went pretty much as one would expect. At least the good king hade the decency to wait until the morning to let them know that he wasn’t going to lift a finger to help them. Ezekiel, did however offer asylum to Daryl, which actually makes a whole lot of sense. The Saviors do not (for now) set foot inside the Kingdom, so any search for Daryl would be conducted outside their walls.
Big kudos need to be given for the entire sequence where the cast was on a bridge. They find some convoluted booby trap by the Saviors on the bridge. It’s designed to thin out a horde of zombies walking through them by using dynamite and RPG rounds. The group decides that they need every one of those explosives in order to use against Negan at a later date. It made for a very intense and exciting scene once the zombie horde showed up. Part of the scenario is that they need to put the blockade of cars back so the Saviors do not know that the Survivors were there. Realizing that they are running out of time, Rick splits the group so that they can have more time to move the cars, while still getting all the explosives. The line that the explosives were on, was made of steel and strung between two cars on opposite sides of the freeway. So, in order to return to the car they came in and clear a path through the horde, Rick and Michonne decide to hot wire the cars that the steel cable is connected to. Rick and Michonne proceed to barrel down the highway with the cable between them cutting down every zombie on the bridge. Perhaps the most satisfying scene in existence. They make it to the other car and drive off with everyone unscathed.
The squad makes a quick jaunt back to Alexandria but before they can do anything, good ol’ Steven Ogg shows up looking for Daryl. They leave pretty quickly after they don’t find him. Rick and company then track Gabriel back toward the boat where Aaron almost got bit while trying to scavenge the boat for supplies. While there, they find an almost obvious foot print. They follow the tracks some more and are quickly surrounded by women and men warriors. The episode ends with Rick smiling.
Overall, this episode felt good, plain and simple. Rick got the band back together and is looking for allies in the upcoming fight. To know that Rick is back to his old self is a positive step for the show. No one wants to see Rick or any of the other cast being broken. Having everyone be defeated and just going through the motions leads to viewer boredom. If the show really wants people to come back, then killing off more of the main characters is not the answer.