‘The Walking Dead’: Don’t worry, be happy

The Walking Dead
“Rock in the Road”
February 12, 2017

And after a two month break in which reality became MUCH MORE TERRIFYING than anything on a silly show about zombies, The Walking Dead is back.

With most of Team Rick over at Hilltop having a hug fest with Daryl, Father Gabe is left behind to stand sentry at Alexandria, a job he does until he gets bored, heads to the pantry, packs the remaining supplies in some boxes, loads them up into the back of a car and drives off into the night.


At Hilltop, Team Rick tries to convince that jerk Gregory to help him fight the Saviors, but Gregory is like, “LOL NOPE.” As the group leaves his office, Enid introduces them to some of the Hilltop residents who are actually interested in Team Rick’s plans, grateful that Maggie and the Alexandrians have saved them twice over and, you know, because that Gregory is a craven shitheel. So now they have like 14 people in their anti-Savior army, hooray!

And even as scrappy as Team Rick can be, they know this is not going to get the job done, so Jesus announces it’s time they head to the Kingdom to meet King Ezekiel.

They arrive on the outskirts of the Kingdom where they are greeted by that Richard guy, the one with the thing for milk bottles (???) and an itch to fight some Saviors. He’s friendly enough with Jesus, but understandably suspicious of these strangers demanding an audience with Ezekiel, and he demands they turn over their guns before coming inside the Kingdom — which they do, but Michonne gets to keep her samurai sword?


Once inside the Kingdom, Team Rick finds themselves impressed by the number of people in the colony, their food supplies and just the general good vibes of the place. And, bonus, they are reunited with Morgan. Rick asks about Carol, and Morgan explains that he found her just as one very pissed off Savior was about to kill her, so Morgan violated all his cheese farmer philosophy and killed the Savior to save her. He brought her here, she was patched up and then she left, the end.

Jesus then introduces Team Rick to Team Motherfucking Tiger, where they plead their “Let’s Kill All the Saviors” case to one very skeptical King Ezekiel. King Ezekiel notes the gravity of what they are asking and Rick is like, “UH, YEAH, I KNOW. They’ve killed a bunch of our friends, including Abraham, Glenn, That Spencer Asshole, and Pantry Lady, they took Dr. Mullet hostage and they had Daryl for a while until he escaped. SO WE HAVE SOME SKIN IN THIS PARTICULAR GAME. Anyway, if we team up, we could take these murderous jackasses down.” Richard is FOR IT, but Morgan is NOT FOR IT.

So Rick then tells this long boring story about a road and a rock and a bag of gold, and King Ezekiel is like, “Cool story, I’ll decide in the morning.”

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Out in the woods, that Benjamin kid is wandering around looking to get himself eaten when he happens to run into Carol. Benjamin lets Carol know that King Zeke is going to keep checking on her, and Carol is like, “Super.” Benjamin then offers her a bottle of water; he keeps extra on his person in case he runs into someone who might need it/to foreshadow that he is going to get his considerate ass killed in this war with the Saviors.

That night, King Ezekiel recites Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech to Benjamin’s younger brother (Happy Black History Month!) before chatting with Benjamin who urges him to join Team Rick against the Saviors. “Come on, what a fun time it will be! And besides, if you don’t agree to fight, I am guessing the Saviors will kill me and you’ll end up joining the fight in my name anyway, so let’s just cut that whole part of the story out and get to the point!”

But by the next morning, King Ezekiel has decided that it he’s not interested, that he can’t spare any more of his citizens’ lives or appendages. However, Daryl is welcome to hang out at the Kingdom with him and his tiger, mostly so that he can have a reunion with Carol in the next couple of episodes.

As Team Rick takes their leave, Richard makes whiny noises about how King Ezekiel’s decision will only make the Saviors stronger in the coming days, Rick urges Daryl to stay there and try to change King Ezekiel’s mind, and Sasha tries to make small talk with Rosita, who is all:

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On the way back to Alexandria, Team Rick minus Daryl find themselves at a roadblock made with abandoned cars by the Saviors. As they begin shoving them aside, Michonne spies something in the distance: a tripwire laced with explosives strung across the road. They decide they need these explosives to use against the Saviors, and suddenly everyone in Team Rick are munitions experts and it becomes the Hurt Locker up in here. I must have missed the episode in which Rosita and Jesus and Sasha and Tara took lessons in disarming dangerous explosives. Was that in season 4 or 5?

ANYWAY. As they are busily working on this, two things happen: they overhear on the Saviors’ walkie talkie that Jesus stole that the Saviors are on their way to look for Daryl, and a giant horde of walkers begins shuffling down the highway directly at them. Sasha and Jesus run off on foot towards Hilltop while Rosita, Tara and Carl fill their car with dynamite and put the blockade back in place. Meanwhile, Michonne and Rick hotwire the cars that the tripwire is attached to, and drive the wire through the horde for no reason other than it looks cool.

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They then get out of the cars in the middle of the horde for NO GOOD REASON, and fight their way through to get to the SUV Rosita, Carl and Tara are in. Remarkably, all the walkers they shaove their way through are very polite and do not attempt to eat their faces off. They drive away, things explode in the distance, but they are all safe. Team Rick:


The group arrives in Alexandria just ahead of the Saviors who trash the place looking for Daryl. But haha, they come up with bupkis — just like what is in the pantry, to Team Rick’s surprise. After the Savior’s departure, Team Rick finds that Father Gabriel left behind his Bible and the pantry ledger in which he wrote the word “BOAT” and they decide this is evidence that Father Gabriel has a plan and wasn’t just being a cowardly ass.


So they head out to the houseboat (after Aaron and Eric have a boring fight which mostly is just serving as more foreshadowing for one of their deaths), where the group finds a set of footprints that lead into a parking lot. There, they are suddenly surrounded by a mass of armed people, and Rick Grimes, he smiles like he’s been offered a piece of pie.

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So, what’s up with that smile? The simple answer is, Rick, though surrounded by seemingly hostile forces, believes he has found the one thing he needs: an army, a group of people feisty and sneaky enough to help him in his war against Negan and the Saviors.

But more importantly, the smile is a symbol representing the direction in which the series seems to trying to steer itself: towards optimism. After an oppressively bleak start to the season which killed off fan favorites and split up the core group, this episode is an attempt at a reset: how Rick got his groove back, if you will. Sure, there are going to be stumbling blocks in Rick’s way: Gregory is a cowardly asshole; the Kingdom isn’t going to join a fight it didn’t start, Carol is “gone.” But Rick’s smile here, smiling into the faces of the dangerous unknown represents the entire back half of this season: hope.

There is one other question from the episode: what the Hell is up with Father Gabriel? THis is a harder question to answer, as we don’t have any clues except for the “BOAT” message that he left Team Rick. Was he betraying Alexandria? Was this all part of some larger plan? Was he meeting someone else? Does this have anything to do with those mysterious boots we kept seeing at the end of the first half of the season? And if Father Gabe is not actively betraying Team Rick and the rest of Alexandria, why didn’t he let anyone else in on his plans? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

I assume all of these questions will be answered in the next couple of episodes, but I think the larger point of this subplot with Father Gabriel is about faith. Sure, on the surface, it looks like he reacted again out of cowardice and not just abandoned his friends but stole from them, too. However, Rick chooses not to believe the worst in Father Gabriel, and instead assumes that this is part of something larger that he does not at the moment understand, but in which he should just trust. I guess we’ll just have to wait and see if his trust is well placed.

Until then, here’s a cat dressed as Carl.

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The Walking Dead airs at 8/9 p.m. on Sundays on AMC and

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