Dead Inside: “A Rock in the Road” Recap – The Dead Have New Life
The first half of the season started with a bang, or a bat if you will, only to be followed by seven rather slow episodes that introduced important characters and settings, yet lacked the pacing and excitement of a tense conflict which, in previous seasons, would leave me impatient for the next week’s episode. Thus, the question I had going into episode 9 of season seven, titled Rock in the Road, is whether this episode would mark a turning point in the season and provide more of the intensity and excitement I have come to expect from The Walking Dead, or if it would be more of the same. Thankfully, it looks like the show is coming back to life.
This episode was directed by Greg Nicotero, the director of some of the best Walking Dead episodes in the series, and Mr. Nicotero has brought back intensity and excitement in moving the story forward. I have to admit, at one point in the episode I even had to hit the pause button to catch my breath. The episode had elements of mystery, suspense and even a little humor and of course a ton of gore. (It seems every week, they have to invent a new way to kill zombies, and this week’s method is one for the books.)
Spoilers Ahead – A “Brief” Summary of A Rock in the Road
The title comes from a story that Rick relates hearing as a child: there was a dangerous rock in the road. A poor girl taking goods to sell, hits the rock and loses her goods. Upset, she digs up the rock so that no one else will suffer only to find a hidden sack of gold under the rock. The moral: those who remove impediments will be rewarded.
Rick’s character is back to his “force-to-be-reckoned-with” self. He goes to Gregory at the Hilltop and the Kingdom to elicit support to fight Negan. Although they ultimately refuse, Rick is undeterred and explains that he will beat Negan with or without their help; his conviction alone is so much better than watching him wallow in hopelessness as we did in the last 7 episodes.
At Rick’s side is Daryl, a fan favorite, who is also back to his fiery self plainly showing his disgust for those that are unwilling to help. Thanks to a long-range walkie-talkie stolen from the Saviors by Jesus (aka Paul) the group is able to keep tabs on the Saviors and discover they are looking for Daryl, who recently escaped the Savior compound, and are going to check for him at Alexandria.
The group leaves Daryl hidden in the Kingdom in order to rush back to Alexandria before the Saviors arrive. On the way back, Rick’s group finds an elaborate booby trap set up by the Saviors to wipe out any zombie herd consisting of a steel cable stretched across the highway rigged with dynamite. They decide to carefully disarm the booby trap and steal the dynamite when discover a herd of walkers are en route. The next fifteen minutes gave me several heart attacks (as attempting to defuse bombs as a herd of zombies approach would tend to do).
After several anxiety attacks, the crew makes their getaway by driving the two cars with the cable stretched between them down the highway, mowing down hundreds of zombies in a literal gut bath. (I would really like to see Mythbusters take this one on as it seemed highly implausible that the cable would stay intact and attached to the bumpers after mowing down that many corpses.)
In the end, the crew barely makes it back before the Saviors only to discover that Father Gabriel has taken all their supplies. Rick is convinced that Father Gabriel did not act out of cowardice or treachery and vows to find out what happened. He finds Father Gabriel’s bible along with a clue that Father Gabriel has gone to the boat where Rick and Ethan found supplies a few episodes earlier.
After the Saviors – unable to find Daryl – leave, the group goes out to find Father Gabriel. On their way the group ends up being surrounded by a well armed group of men, women and children. Rick smiles mysteriously, hands raised and the episode ends, leaving one to wonder: who is this new group? What is making Rick smile?
As I said, the show is finally back on track; I cannot wait for next week’s episode to find out what happened to Father Gabriel, who the new group is, and whether or not Daryl will convince Ezekiel and the Kingdom to fight. Mr. Nicotero has brought back the mystery and intensity that makes me eager with anticipation for next week’s episode. Let’s just hope next week’s director Jeffrey January is able to keep up the pace.