“Tick tock, chop chop!” The Walking Dead returns this week with its mid season premiere, and our core group of survivors are still reeling from last season’s bloodbath. However, now they want revenge, and although not all of Rick’s new friends are on board, he might’ve raised an army big enough to take down Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s truly onerous Negan.
After meeting up with his old buddy Morgan, now a member of Ezekiel’s Kingdom, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) has to relay the horrific fact that Negan cracked two of his friends’ skulls. It’s a sobering moment, and Rick repeats it a few times to other characters, using Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham’s (Michael Cudlitz) deaths to try and rally his troops against the Saviors. King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), who hasn’t lost a follower to Negan’s thugs yet, refuses to go to war, but the episode ends with a horde of angry survivors meeting Rick at the boathouse. As Payton says on The Talking Dead, “Even Ezekiel can feel the storm coming. This was just the first raindrop.”
When The Walking Dead ended Season 4 with Negan taking a bat to an unknown survivor, AMC left its fans with an insane cliffhanger that gave Season 5’s premiere bloated ratings. After Negan killed Glenn and Abraham, and tortured our hero Rick into a sniveling, confused worm, AMC’s zombie drama lost viewers like flies each week. Eventually, The Walking Dead was facing its worst ratings in history, presumably because no one could stand to watch the incomprehensibly cruel Negan make mincemeat out of their favorite characters anymore. Now, the back half of season 5 appears that it will focus on killing Negan off, which can only help a show that’s hobbling to the finish line. Once a ratings monster, the story of Rick and his fellow survivors searching for a safe place after the apocalypse has become a depressing slog, so it’s heartening to see Rick making moves.
It’s also interesting to watch Rick, who began the series of a hard-headed cop, altering his persuasive skills to fit his audience. In trying to convince ridiculously anachronistic King Ezekiel to join them, Rick tells him a biblical-sounding parable about a rock in the road. As Rick tells it, there was once a rock in a road that caused wagons to crash and people to get hurt. One day, a little girl’s family hit the rock and lost all of their stuff in the crash. The girl cried, wondering why no one had bothered to dig the rock out, and after digging at it until her hands bled, she pulled it free. Underneath the rock was a bag of gold.
Get it? The rock is Negan. Everyone’s favorite character Jerry (Cooper Andrews) gets the story, but Ezekiel isn’t impressed.
Watch Rick’s newly formed, multi-group army attack the Saviors when The Walking Dead airs on AMC, Sunday nights at 9 p.m. Eastern.