Season 7, Episode 9: Rock in the Road
PLOT: Our heroes run into roadblocks both figurative and literal as they try to start rising up against Negan.
REVIEW: Although I have been a dedicated viewer of The Walking Dead on AMC since episode one, I have only read the first TPB of the comic book source material, so I have never seen a full Negan story on the page. Even though I'm not a reader of the series I became very aware of the Negan character as time went on, and I saw that fans were looking forward to the day when he would make his television debut with eager anticipation. Now that Negan is finally on the show, and has been brought to life in such a captivating way by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, I've been surprised that the reactions to this season have appeared to be so split. The Negan storyline isn't working for some viewers; I keep seeing people say that they're giving up on the show. I don't get it - for me, the arrival of Negan has breathed new life into The Walking Dead. I am more interested now than I have been in a few seasons, I can't wait to see what horrible thing Negan will do next, or to hear what terribly inappropriate thing he might say. And I can't wait to watch him get his comeuppance.
As promotional materials have made clear, the theme of this second half of season seven is "Rise Up", and we're going to see Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the rest of our heroes take a stand against Negan. They're going to take their lives back or die trying. The resistance has begun, but it's off to a bumpy start.
This midseason premiere also got off to a bumpy start as far as I was concerned. There weren't exactly a lot of thrills in those first 30 minutes. As we watched Rick and his cohorts talk and talk with the leaders of other communities, unsuccessfully trying to get them to join the fight against Negan, I was starting to think that a better title for this episode would have been "Chatting with Chickens". I mean, Hilltop leader Gregory (Xander Berkeley) not getting on board was to be expected, the guy's a sleazeball coward, but the Kingdom's King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) also opting out? What a disappointment this guy is. Well, we already knew he's a total pussycat when he drops the royal theatrics, which is unfortunate. At this point he's coming off like a joke. In fact, everything about the Kingdom came off as kind of silly tonight, as its environment doesn't really mix well with most of the characters from Alexandria.
More than halfway into the episode, I was concerned that my favorite thing about Rock in the Road (which takes its title from a story Rick tells Ezekiel that has no impact on the man) would be the "Alright!" reaction Kingdom resident Jerry (Cooper Andrews) had to a moment in that story. Then our heroes happened across a roadblock created by Negan's Saviors and found a cable rigged with a whole lot of explosives. Finally there were some walkers and some action in this episode, and the discovery of those explosives was exciting, because surely they are going to be very handy in future episodes.
Our heroes didn't accomplish much with the other communities tonight, although they do have some support at both the Hilltop and the Kingdom. While Morgan (Lennie James) holds on to hope that there can be a more pacifistic solution to their problems, I like that his Kingdom protégé Benjamin (Logan Miller) is ready to fight. I loved Benjamin's line, "If you're asked to be the hero, be a hero." Damn right.
Things left off on a very interesting note, with the reveal of a community that fans have been referring to as the Garbage Pail Kids. I'm looking forward to seeing what this bunch is all about, and to hopefully watching the anti-Negan resistance grow as the remaining episodes play out. The Hilltop and the Kingdom need to face their fears. It's time to go to war.
BEST ZOMBIE MOMENT: The sequence where the massive zombie herd is approaching the roadblock while Rick and co. are trying to finish collecting the explosives was great, the tension building as the walkers got closer and closer. And then, the bloody climax.
GORY GLORY: The obvious standout moment; when Rick and Michonne drive through the herd with a cable strung between their cars, slicing through dozens of zombies. It was a very cool moment that would have been incredibly cool if it weren't also so incredibly CG.
FAVORITE SCENE: This episode was all about that herd scene.