[Article may contain spoilers, and by may, I mean that it does, so don’t keep reading if you haven’t watched the episode yet…]

The Walking Dead is back, and while I would like to say that it’s better than ever, I can’t. I do however think that show is finally getting back on track after what was the relatively dull and uninspired first half of Season 7.

Sunday’s mid-season premiere didn’t wow as much as I had hoped that it would. I went into the night thinking that TWD was going to come out swinging—fighting to pull longtime fans back into the mix, but that didn’t happen. Instead, it appears as though TWD’s team plans to lull viewers back into believing that TWD is the best damn show on television. Is this possible? I don’t know. After all, none of us became fans this way.

Regardless of what the team behind TWD plans to do in the future to wrangle wayward fans, Sunday’s midseason premiere, Episode 709, “A Rock in the Road,” was just alright.

Father Gabriel is back to being a douche…or so it appears. Episode 709 opens with the mischievous man of the cloth packing up supplies and getting the hell out of Dodge. Worse yet, he does so under the cover of nightfall, and while I find it hard to believe that he just decided to up and leave because he’s too frightened to stick around, it doesn’t appear that his decision to leave is intended to benefit the group. I find this odd, but until we know the truth I’m alright with disliking him.

As we all guessed, Gregory *cough* coward *cough* wants nothing to do with Rick’s plan to fight Negan and the Saviors. Gregory prefers to sever all ties with Rick and company. Again, this doesn’t come as a surprise. What did come as a surprise, however, was Enid wrangling up some members of the Hilltop that are willing to fight. Ten points for Enid!

After the failed attempt to inspire Gregory to fight, Jesus elects to take Rick to The Kingdom and introduce him to King Ezekiel. King Ezekiel also turns down Rick’s proposal to team-up and fight, but since Daryl is a wanted man, King Ezekiel grants him asylum in The Kingdom. While this gesture is helpful, it also leads to Daryl yet again being separated from the group. Bummer.

There are a few takeaways from this section of the episode:

  1. Rick and Morgan are reunited! Isn’t always great when they get together? Ah, Season 1…
  2. We get to relive that pain of Episode 701 when Morgan learns that Negan killed Abraham and Glen.
  3. Jerry!
  4. The look on the group’s faces when they learn that King Ezekiel has a pet tiger.

The best part of the episode comes when the group finds themselves looting explosives from a highway spanning tripwire. There is some serious tension here because as the group struggles to attain some much-needed firepower to fight the Saviors, there is a horde of walkers closing in on them. Once most the explosives have been secured, Michonne and Rick hop in the cars that are connected by the tripwire and proceed to drive into the heart of the horde which results in one hell of an EPIC ClOTHESLINE. The gruesome, body-halving goodness of this scene automatically added it to my list of best walker-kill-scenes of TWD.

Episode 709 ends with Rick searching for Gabriel, and inadvertently being captured by a group of heavily armed strangers. Interestingly, Rick closes out the episode by smiling. Why is this?

To me, it appears that Rick realizes that—despite being at their mercy, so to speak—there is another group floating around that is heavily armed. Thus, there is a group that may be willing to stand alongside him to fight Negan and the Saviors. We don’t know anything about this group, except that it isn’t the ladies of Oceanside since there were men in the group. I’m sure we’ll find out what the deal is next Sunday.

The midseason premiere, Episode 709, “A Rock in the Road,” wasn’t what I was hoping it would be, but it is clear that TWD is getting back on track…

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