The Walking Dead: Rock in the Road

"We're the ones who live."

The mid-season finale was genuinely uplifting. "Rock in the Road" was, too. I'm really, truly liking this.

Okay, yes, I am very aware that characters I care about will most certainly die in the upcoming painful and bloody war against the Saviors. But it still feels somehow like we're turned a corner on this show, that there is a much greater emphasis these days on the possibility of joy. Hey, I must have laughed out loud five times while watching this one. And that thing on the highway with the explosives and the cable slicing hundreds of walkers into bitty walker pieces may have been their best walker stunt ever, and that's saying a lot.

I am not surprised that Gregory is doing the avoidance two-step and is unwilling to commit to an anti-Savior alliance. He's so transparently craven and despicable that I sort of love him. (That's mostly Xander Berkeley. A really good actor can do wonders with a supporting character.) Enid is still a mystery, but after the way she supported Rick and Maggie by recruiting the sorghum farmers of Hilltop, I no longer think she's a spy for another faction.

Even Jesus is now treating Gregory with open contempt, and may I pause for a moment to mention how wonderful Jesus is? Jesus stole a walkie from the Saviors, which is so cool I can hardly stand it. And Jesus is trusted by King Ezekiel and the Kingdom. Rick and the Alexandrians would have had no freaking idea that the Kingdom was even there if it weren't for Jesus.

Wouldn't this series be poorer without the Kingdom? The horses, Shiva the tiger, the one-legged archer, Jerry, the guitar solo of a piece from Handel's Messiah, Martin Luther King's inspiring words as a bedtime story. It even seemed appropriate for Rick to launch into a corny anti-Negan parable during the royal audience.

I didn't expect King Ezekiel to sign on to the resistance movement immediately and in fact, agreed with his reasons. He's such a good guy, he takes his commitment to his people very seriously, and Morgan is absolutely right that people will most certainly die. It's hard to forget what the Saviors did to the women of Oceanside, even though only Tara knows about it. I'm now betting that something awful will happen to the Kingdom to turn them into Rick's allies. I hope it doesn't happen to young Benjamin, King Ezekiel's orphaned aide, who actually carries food and water into the woods with him in case he runs into a stranger who might need it.

Best dreads ever.
Tara mentioned the likelihood that Negan's slaves might be thrilled if he were taken out, and Morgan suggested taking Negan prisoner instead of killing him (hence the cell he built in Alexandria). Personally, I still think Maggie, Sasha and Rosita should beat Negan to death with baseball bats starting with his feet, but what do I know?

Moving on to the blowout on the highway. Even though it was our main characters running around with live explosives in their hands so that it was unlikely they would blow up, I still thought the construction and execution of that sequence was exceptional. Even the music with the massive drumbeat was perfect. I kept thinking that if everything went pear-shaped, there were no ambulances or bomb squad to call.

While it was a strong scene for Rosita, who clearly knows more than her fair share about dynamite and RPGs (I'm guessing that doesn't stand for "role-playing games,") the best thing about that massive herd versus the cable scene was Rick and Michonne. They're not just lovers now, they are partners who anticipate each other's every move. They were glancing at each other as they coordinated hotwiring and driving the two connected cars as the cable sliced the walkers in half, covering each other while trapped in that herd of walkers, touching and reassuring each other in the car afterward as if they'd been a couple for years. The way these two have come together has made me so happy. It might be the main reason I'm still here after they broke our hearts in the season premiere.

Finally, the opener was weird, and the related scene at the end was equally weird. Yes, Father Gabriel stealing all of the food and weapons and a car and taking off is in character, but it's in the character that he used to be, not the way he is now. I just didn't believe it. Rick clearly didn't believe it, either.

But we don't know what Rick knows. When the Alexandrians were surrounded by those scary-looking strangers, Rick was smiling. Why would Rick smile unless he knew and trusted someone in that group of people? Like who? (Or would that be 'whom'?)

Bits:

-- Gregory isn't calling Rick and Maggie the wrong names anymore, but he did call them "Ricky" and "Margaret."

-- Here's an obvious observation: Simon likes to mimic Negan's body language and exaggerated threats. And here's another: Rick isn't struggling with obedience anymore because he's made up his mind. Simon might not notice the change, but Negan could.

-- The stitched up cut on Rosita's cheek looked like a tear drop, like she's in mourning. Which she is.

-- Morgan confessed to Rick that he had to kill someone to save Carol. And then he lied about not knowing where Carol is. I'm sure he's simply protecting Carol's wish to be left alone.

-- Ezekiel still seems to be pursuing Carol.

-- Is Benjamin King Ezekiel's heir apparent?

-- That was a really nice domestic scene with Aaron and Eric. Not being stupid, Eric has of course guessed what is going on with Rick and the Saviors. Unfortunately, I thought that was a great big honking hint that either Aaron or Eric will die this season. I hope not.

Quotes:

Gregory: "What happens outside of my purview, happens outside of my purview."

Rick: "It's called 'The Kingdom'?"
Jesus: "Yeah. (pause) I didn't name it."
That came off as funny to me, in a Jesus Christ sort of way.

Kingdom guy: "Who dares to trespass on the sovereign land of the... oh, shit. Jesus, is that you?"

Jesus: "I forgot to mention..."
Rick: "Yeah. Tiger."

Sasha: "I knew what was coming. I knew that king guy would say no. But it still pissed me off."
Rosita: "What the hell you telling me for? We both had sex with the same dead guy. Doesn't make us friends."
Laugh out loud.

Rick: (to Daryl) "Try to talk to Ezekiel. Or stare him into submission. Whatever it takes."
Laugh out loud again.

Negan: (over talkie) "Fat Joey was not the most badass sonovabitch, but he was loyal. He had a great sense of humor. In fact, we were just joking about oral sex with Lucille the other day. Things will not be the same now that he's dead. Without Fat Joey, Skinny Joey is just... Joey."
And again.

More like this one, please. Four out of four RPGs (and that would be rocket-propelled grenades, not role-playing games),

Billie
---
Billie Doux loves science fiction but hates horror, and is confused about why she loves The Walking Dead so much.

5 comments:

Katerina said...

I was happy to see the gang back together again, actively plotting against Negan by trying to recruit allies, and not passing up the chance to grab the dynamite. I laughed out loud a number of times, too, which was a refreshing change. Regarding Father Gabriel, I could swear, when I watched the episode a second time, that a shadowy figure popped up in the passenger seat of the car as he was driving away. Maybe the mystery booted character who followed Rick and Aaron back from the boat? Or maybe it was my imagination. When Rick smiled at the end, I thought he was either seeing someone he recognized, or he was thinking that those people could help give him the numbers to fight the Saviors. I keep wondering, btw, if Tara is going to give up the women's group, since they had plenty of weapons.

Marianna said...

Role-playing games! LOL!

I assumed that Rick was smiling because this group was obviously not the Saviors and had likely been terrorized by the Saviors by the look of them so he saw them as a potential ally.

I'm at a loss as to why Gabriel took all of their supplies.

Anonymous said...

I agree with Katerina, has to be the guy from the boat! Rick and Aaron took all of his stuff and he took Father Gabriel as a hostage along with all of Alexandria's supplies in return, I think. Or it could be a she. Who knows but it is definitely great having the Walking Dead back! As usual, great review Billie!

Just Sam said...

*massive explosion*

"Yeah, I didn't like the look of that shit at all."

Never been a huge fan of Rosita, but the delivery of this line just cracked me up.

Patryk said...

I'm playing Borderlands now and that radio chatter by Negan so much reminds me of Handsome Jack now. With all the jokes about killing and dying deliverd in such a comedic way. They even scavanged for loot in the episode and mentioned RPGs. ;)

I'm guessing the boat guy/gal might have kidnapped Father Gabriel and stood out of sight of the camera during the entire opening scene. But I'm definately in the "here's the army I wanted" camp for Rick's smile in the end.