Thursday, February 16, 2017

The Walking Dead S7x09 Rock In The Road

The Walking Dead Rock in the Road review
Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page
The midseason finale in December ended on a rare high note for season seven. Rick finally moved on from his fear and need to provide for Negan, and decided to heed Maggie's words: let's go to war. After a cathartic reunion at the Hilltop Colony, the Sherriff is back in town. One question remained if he could get other groups under Negan's thumb on his side to rise up. This post contains spoilers - you've been warned!

The triumphant march into Gregory’s quarters in the midseason finale didn't last long - maybe a good ten minutes. Rick and the group (Michonne, Carl, Jesus, Sasha, Tara, Maggie, Daryl) tried to reason with him that they should band together and fight Negan. Their drive might be in the right place, but not their reasoning. Gregory is a mouse, not a cat, who's scared of his own shadow, has people working under him to keep his life cozy and safe, and they completely failed the satellite outpost mission. Why would he sign himself up and his people up for something like this again?

Thank heavens for Xander Berkeley playing this guy who has no idea what to do in any given situation, except slink into the shadows or surrender. Gregory’s refusal to join in what could be another fatal idea was hilarious – calling Rick and Maggie, Richy and Margaret (he won’t call her honey or some other cat-calling name, so he goes for a formalized substitute, goodness gracious).

Right away, the tone of the episode was humorous but also had a purpose: the gang was blazing a campaign trail for supporters, and it wasn’t going to be dry or drag things out. The group may have not gotten Gregory to join forces, but Maggie’s leadership won the hearts of several Hilltop Colony Members to volunteer. This was mostly in thanks to Enid acting as vice president to spread their message. Maggie road to the presidency begins.

But a few extra hands are not enough to take out Negan, so Jesus finally led Rick and the gang to The Kingdom. With the help of Richard and a Red Shirt, Jesus with Rick and the group were granted a meeting of King Ezekiel.

Morgan was briefly reunited with the group to serve two purposes: catch Rick and Daryl up on Carol’s whereabouts by lying to say she’s long gone, and to taint Rick’s offer to Ezekiel to go to war. Rosita revealed Glenn, Abraham, Spencer and Olivia’s fates, but she didn’t mention Denise who would’ve been the only person Morgan was probably familiar with since he didn’t spend any time with the four….

Speaking of Rosita, we could be grateful for a millisecond there wasn’t a catty love triangle between Sasha, Rosita and Abraham when he was alive, but that doesn’t stop resentment from spilling over after his death. She's unabashedly voiced her opinion i.e. “just because we had sex with the same dead guy doesn’t make us a friends”. I didn’t find this outburst to be a direct insult, just more anger spewing after the line-up massacre.

Similar to Sasha's PTSD storyline to hunt walkers, Rosita's outbursts are a different facet of grieving. She already bullied Eugene to make a bullet which got him captured and Olivia dead. She might just want to be careful with what she says before she really can’t come back. It might not be what many viewers consider the right response of mourning, but it’s okay to say ugly things to reflect how she feels. The double-standard between her as completely unlikable versus a murdering rapist like Negan branded as a cool supervillain is absolutely disgusting...What makes the difference between a good or bad person is if they ever show remorse or guilt and ask forgiveness. Give her time to recover and come back...

All in all, there wasn’t much of an emotional reunion between old friends, and Daryl wasn’t surprised to learn that Carol had left. The only detail he latched onto was that the Saviors were responsible for shooting her. At this point, everything is adding fuel to the fire to get vengeance.

Morgan fibbing about Carol’s puts his ethics on the line, but it’ll probably only come into question for a quick second and then bygones will be bygones. Once Rick and the group were finally acquainted with Ezekiel, and Jesus also forgot to tell them that HEY, he has a TIGER, Rick began to make his plea. (Good God, he looked fantastic in this....)

No episode of Rick on an uncertain quest would be complete without a poignant speech about where the anti-hero might be heading. If Jeffrey Dean Morgan could learn one thing from Andrew Lincoln, I’d hope it would be how to pace your monologue. Each one Lincoln has to do is different – from his Ricktatorship declaration in season two to his season five outburst towards Alexandrians in season five, and even little bits in between like “we are the walking dead” campfire tale. He knows how to make it captivating and not so dead-on obvious about the emotional impact it'll have.

As Lincoln dives into a story from Grimes’ childhood, a village girl who dug up a rock in the road to find riches set by the king, we’re sorta getting the episode's angle. Rick and co. believe that if they take out the rock in the road (Negan) that is destroying or killing everyone who comes near his path, they will be rewarded with a life worth living. It’s just a matter of when it will all come into play, and we honestly don’t have a long wait.

But by Jesus bringing Rick to Ezekiel, and revealing the terms he has with the Saviors to exchange food and supplies if they never directly enter the compounds, he put a damper on Rick’s case before he even started. And, Morgan’s influence on Ezekiel didn’t help matters much since he still insists on playing kumbaya with everyone.

The group was invited to stay until the morning when Ezekiel would make his decision, of which we didn’t doubt it was going to be a straight-up No, even with cinnamon-roll Ben trying to appeal to his better side. Once Rick and co.’s proposition was turned down, Ezekiel at least granted Daryl asylum for as long as he would need it.

After leaving Daryl at the Kingdom, and hopefully, to stare Ezekiel into submission, the group started heading back home…only to come across the literal rock in the road.

As Rick and Co were heading home from the Kingdom, they stumbled across Negan’s plans with a walker herd to set off explosions on a major highway.

It was by this point that I was surprised Greg Nicotero directed this episode because this whole sequence was exciting and suspenseful. After Rosita defused the detonator, the group raced to remove a whole line of dynamite off of a metal pole attached to two cars on opposite ends of the highway and to barricade the road with other cars. They didn’t just contend with thousands of walkers coming their way (the same ones from the quarry maybe?), but also Negan announcing over to Jesus’ stolen walkie talkie they were on a manhunt for Daryl and heading to Alexandria to find him.

Hotwiring two of the cars on the highway, with the metal pole still attached, Richonne basically clotheslined a few hundred walkers together. And, honestly, it probably couldn’t have been any hotter or awesome.  The episode was packed with subtle moments for Richonne with the way that they are always looking out for each other, especially Michonne trying to keep Rick on point from losing his endurance or changing his mind. Pretty much the whole scene played out like Richonne’s dream apocalypse date night.

Eventually, the group made it home in time to stash their stolen explosives and let Simon with other Saviors ransack the place in search of Daryl. After all the commotion, Aaron and Toby made Rick aware that Father Gabriel (which was the opening part of the episode) he stole all of their left-over food supplies and every pointy object in the kitchen in one of their last working vehicles, and has been nowhere to be seen.

The only trace they could find of Gabriel was that he didn’t take his Holy Bible, but wrote Boat in Olivia’s rationing notebook. No one has a clue of how he could’ve done this, except my only suggestion is that he discovered it on his walk home from the failed attempt to scavenge with Spencer. Maybe it’s the show’s way of misdirecting us from more important storylines, or Gabriel is trying to add one less enemy onto their list by making it up to Mr. Houseboat dude. We’ll find out.

The Walking Dead finally remembered it had an LGBT couple where both characters are still alive, long enough to insinuate that Aaron and Eric might break up because the former keeps joining up with Rick to overthrow Negan. We weren’t really given a clear indication of an official separation except to say the show didn’t put to fine of a point on it by having an EXIT sign hanging on the wall straight behind Eric as he was giving Aaron an ultimatum….*sigh* The show has also yet to address Aaron’s friendship with Daryl by asking anyone about his whereabouts or if he’s okay….

Finally, and happily, the episode closed with Rick and the group trailing Gabriel at a lakeside to the houseboat, but then randomly out by an abandoned factory, surrounded by a hundred survivors carrying weapons. Just as Rick smiled about making another persuasive speech, it was hard to not feel relieved and happy with the season premiere.

Rock In The Road might’ve felt like a political tour of Grimes Michonne 20## on a campaign trail trying to rack up supporters against Negan (sign me up), but the quality of the episode was a step up from the move-at-a-snails-pace first half of this season. Seeing a majority of the group together with moments of humor, suspense, and lingering conflicts between each other, already made me feel like the show is back to some of its original roots. It was like a rainbow after a season-long ****storm.

Additional Thoughts:

  • I'm currently working on the next Wonder Women edition of The Walking Dead. Sasha Williams is going to be next.
  • Rumors started circulating over the season break that Sasha is the next to go. The thought kills me that Sonequa Martin-Green could be gone...but her cast in Star Trek is amazing. I want to honor her before she goes. *sobs into the void*
  • MVP of the episode was Gregory. Hands down.
  • With all of the climbing, running walkers over in a bulldozer, and generally not resting, what are the chances 
  • Loved that Ezekiel’s bedtime story to Ben’s son was Martin Luther King Jr’s I Have a Dream speech.
  • Between his granddad’s wartime recollections and mom’s bedtime stories, Rick had one heck of a childhood.

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