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Incorporating a growing sense of optimism into the bleakness of its continuing arc, "Rock in the Road" is an energized and amusing setup for a climactic, imminent war.
The good news is that "Rock In The Road" moves pretty briskly... there's some fresh zombie action, and no Negan to be found (save for a brief radio message). It's a welcome respite from the repetitive misery of the first half of the season.
The entire crew had their moment to shine. Rock in the Road essentially doubled as the best post-apocalyptic school reunion ever.
"Rock in the Road," is the showrunners' attempt at watching Rick amass an army. It doesn't come about in a standard sort of way, either. But by the end, the seeds have been sewn, the bricks laid.
With only about 20 minutes left, we do start getting some glimmers of interesting and unpredictable developments.
"Rock in the Road" is a decent enough attempt at course correction, and of repaying some of the goodwill lost by a terminally joyless, frequently defeatist first half of a season.
Understandably, "Rock in the Road" serves largely as a functional hour, prone to reminding us of what certain characters have been up to.
Unfortunately, it can also result in boredom. While "Rock In the Road" may be understated, it's front half is also fairly uneventful.
The focus on character has shifted to a focus on factions, clumsy politics, and increasingly bad dialogue. I've always had complaints with The Walking Dead, but at this point complaint would be an understatement.
The big shock of the midseason premiere is how it forged a bright new direction for the show's seventh chapter-injecting a little optimism into a story that's long been unrelentingly dour.
Either way, I'm glad to see Rick is leading the charge, and I'm interested in what comes next. Sure, the episode took its time initially, but it definitely kicked things up a notch as it headed toward that surprise ending.
After opening its seventh season with a run of over-long, graphically violent and generally painful episodes, The Walking Dead returns with a renewed sense of energy and -- dare I say it -- fun.
There were those of us who complained that the Walking Dead writers didn't know how to tell a story about hope anymore... Well, "Rock in the Road" gives us all of that in droves, and it's just so painfully on the nose.