I confess, I no longer tune in weekly to catch The Walking Dead when it airs live. Several seasons ago, the series became a DVR show for me.
That’s not to say I don’t enjoy it. There have been some phenomenal episodes over the past seven seasons. So I’m hangin’ in there. However, the writers have fallen into this pattern of strong season premieres and mid-season finales with everything in-between mostly filler. Yes, I was one of those five and a half million folks that tuned in for the very first hour “Days Gone By” on Halloween 2010. The show was an instant hit with me, a fan of genre TV but not a zombie geek per se. Last season, I didn’t watch the second half until it hit Netflix. However, knowing Negan’s big scene was coming up in the Season 7 premiere “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” I was sitting there at the edge of my seat watching along with everyone else. The installment was gruesome, sure, but I didn’t feel the violence was overdone. It was a damn good example of what The Walking Dead should be. I was disappointed to learn that Co-Executive producer Gale Anne Hurd said they “toned down the violence” in upcoming episodes.
Fear not Dead fans, my pal Brandon Davis recently posted on Comicbook.com that Co-Executive producer Greg Nicotero said, “Fuck that! Why would we tone it down? It’s a brutal world, our characters live in this world that’s brutal, that’s what it’s about.”
In keeping with the strong season/mid-season premiere design, tonight’s “Rock in the Road” was a killer hour that saw the return of King Ezekiel. Is Khary Payton amazing or what? The installment also brought Rick and Ezekiel face to face, which is a moment I’d been hoping would take place in the first half of the season. Why haven’t we spent more time at The Kingdom? Instead, we were tortured along with Daryl listening to “Easy Street,” and bored nearly to death by Tara’s Oceanside adventure. Yeah, I’m not a fan of dragging out Negan’s arc to fill up sixteen hours worth of TV. I feel this series should consist of ten hour seasons like Game of Thrones. That said, this episode felt like the series is finding its footing again… which absolutely rocks!
Listen, it doesn’t get much better than watching Rick and Michonne rip through a herd of walkers with a chain tied between two cars. Now that was a sensational moment. All it takes is a scene like that to make me a cheerleader for The Walking Dead again. Keep ’em coming Scott M. Gimple and Greg Nicotero… don’t let me down.
The start of the hour threw me off for a moment. Though I’ve never fully trusted Father Gabriel, the preacher packing up to leave was an odd turn of events. Then, as his car pulled away, we saw someone sit up in the passenger seat. You did catch that, right? Who forced Gabriel to abandon the group, and why would he go along with it?
Back in Alexandria, Gregory continued to prove himself a total douche. Don’t get me started on how many real life politicians bend over and take it without Vaseline from tyrants like Negan. He’s a classic example of the cowards that ruin society. Luckily, Jesus rallied the troops and more Alexandrian’s were prepared to fight than I expected. While I was thrilled to see King Ezekiel reappear, and his scene with Rick was fantastic… I was also bummed he didn’t join the fight right away. Of course, his reasoning is different to Gregory’s. I have a feeling Ezekiel will ultimately join Rick and his crew, but I am curious to see if Daryl will stare the king into submission. Ha! Morgan is good to go, which was exciting. Carol will come out of hiding at some point as well.
Again, the scene with the herd approaching while Rick and company attempt to swipe the bombs was classic Walking Dead. I am sure the two cars cutting walkers in half will be talked about for years to come. There was so much tension, and I was at the edge of my seat the entire time. You see, there are plenty of creative options to keeps us engaged. You don’t have to just kill a character every few episodes. Though, Spencer’s death scene was one of my favorites. I hated that character, regardless of the fact my sister thought Austin Nichols was “cute.” Good riddance loser boy.
Negan’s second (I forget his name), terrorized Alexandria a bit, but he is not nearly as intimidating as the man himself. It’s a good thing Daryl stayed behind at the Kingdom. While his reunion with Rick was brief, that hug the two shared was powerful. They are one of the best bromances on television. In my opinion, we need to root for our heroes. Rick has been forced to become such an anti-hero that it’s tough to like him, while Daryl is a boss. When the antagonists become more interesting than our protagonists, people tend to tune out. The Marvel vs DC film universes are a great example. Marvel has weak baddies and are all about its heroes, while DC has the cooler villains. Which property is currently blowing the other away? Exactly *wink wink* Anyway, that smile in the closing moments, really gave me a sense the Rick we fell for is about to make a comeback. I stopped reading the comics after Glen’s death, so I have no clue who the new group is. Either way, the tables are turning and The Saviors are going down!
As I mentioned at the top, The Walking Dead is a DVR show for me because I watch three of four episodes at a time. However, “Rock in the Road” is the kind of hour that may just bring me back to tuning in LIVE. If the writers deliver a few more like this over the next few installments, I will finish out the season with other fans. Waiting six to ten months to catch up on Netflix is kinda rough. By the way, for all the latest on TWD you should check out Rantpocalypse.com. It’s one of the best Dead podcasts out there, and I may just pop up on the show at some point.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.