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THE WALKING DEAD Recap: Rick and Co. Hit a “Rock in the Road”

THE WALKING DEAD Recap: Rick and Co. Hit a “Rock in the Road”

Editor’s note: This post contains spoilers for the latest episode of The Walking Dead! Proceed with caution, survivors. For reals, if you haven’t yet watched this week’s episode, “Rock in the Road,” we highly suggest you do so before proceeding. Okay? We good? Let’s go.

Aaaaaaand we’re back. After enjoying some time off during its midseason break, The Walking Dead returns to an audience largely burned out on the misery in which it wallowed in the first half of its seventh season. But the show’s midseason finale, recent interviews with cast and producers, and a multitude of billboards have promised us we’ll indeed see Rick and his friends “Rise up” against Negan and his Saviors. For the most part, “Rock in the Road” makes good on that promise, even if it is a tad predictable.

After turning to an indifferent Gregory for assistance, the Alexandrians gain the allegiance of a platoon of folks from the Hilltop colony, who owe Maggie, Sasha, and Jesus their lives. Jesus, as we saw in the trailer for the back half, then tells Rick of Ezekiel and his Kingdom, and the group tries to persuade the King to join them in taking up arms. Ezekiel, however, is, as expected, reluctant to disrupt a peace for which his people have already paid a heavy price in limbs and lives. Though Richard feels differently, as does Benjamin, who’s been tasked with spying, er, assisting Carol by kindly monarch.

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Fortunately, our heroes pick up a healthy helping of TNT on their way home. Wrapped in razor wire, it’s set to go off should any wandering walkers get too close; but with the help of Rosita’s mad military skills they succeed in disarming it. This also leads to what is far and away the episode’s most spectacular scene, in which Rick and Michonne slice through a host of undead in two hotwired cars, dotting the highway with decapitated heads. I’m a little unsure of the science behind this maneuver, and whether or not their cars could actually achieve enough velocity to so cleanly sever as many spinal cords as they do. But it makes for an impressive visual nonetheless, capped off by a big boom from a pack of leftover TNT. It’s the kind of spectacle we’ve come to expect from the show’s premieres and finales, and it’s a helluva lot more emotionally satisfying than this season’s infamous premiere.

Back at Alexandria, Negan’s mustachioed lieutenant/protege arrives looking for Daryl and winds up, in typical brutish fashion, wrecking a good bit of the town in the process. But there’s little time for retribution when Father Gabriel is discovered missing, along with half the food in the pantry. Most everyone believes he’s deserted them in fear, but Rick suspects otherwise. After taking to the road in search of the misplaced padre, he finally smiles when his suspicions appear to be confirmed–even as he, Tara, Aaron, and Michonne are surrounded by a squad of grim-faced, gun-toting ladies.

“Rock in the Road” is a decent enough attempt at course correction, and of repaying some of the goodwill lost by a terminally joyless, frequently defeatist first half of a season. Here, the sadistic Negan shows up for just a moment, as a voice on Jesus’ radio, announcing the death of one of his men–“Without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just Joey. So it’s a goddamn tragedy!” It’s worth noting that he’s never been funnier than when he’s completely out of sight.

I just wish there were some more surprises to go along with the housecleaning. There’s little doubt that Ezekiel will have a change of heart, and decide his brokered peace isn’t enough for his people, and that Father Gabriel didn’t lose his newfound courage. I also suspect the Oceanside community too will soon join the fray. In fact, the question I’m left with right now is whether Ezekiel or Carol will come to Rick’s aid first. Or if one will need to convince the other to do so. And how will Carol feel about sharing her home with a CG tiger if their too-cute relationship ever gets off the ground? Valentine’s Day ain’t easy in the world of The Walking Dead.

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Undead Afterthoughts

— Shout out to the Dream Academy, a sparse, acoustic version of whose “Life in a Northern Town” can be heard when Rick and co. arrive at the Kingdom.

— Jerry, Ezekiel’s right-hand herald, is hilarious when echoing his King’s announcement that he is pleased. He’s like an avid, overeager role player who found his perfect niche in the post-apocalypse.

— Andrew Lincoln wears a semi-bemused expression when Rick first speaks with Ezekiel, indicating he sees through his ruse but admires it just the same.

— “What the hell you tellin’ me for? We both had sex with the same dead guy. Doesn’t make us friends.”

— Now that Sonequa Martin has been cast as the lead in Star Trek: Discovery, does anyone care to wager how many episodes it will take for Sasha to be killed off?

— “Yeah, I didn’t like the look of that shit at all.”

What did you think of this week’s episode? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter (@JMaCabre).

Images: AMC

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