Daryl was locked in a box and survived on dog-food sandwiches. Carol was MIA most of the time. And everyone in Rick’s group, including its usually fearless leader Rick, was so freaked out after that brutal first meeting with Negan and the Saviors that most of the Alexandrians couldn’t even bear to think about the future, lest they get weighed down by its hopelessness.
Yet, when the second half of Season 7 of The Walking Dead kicks off on Sunday, fans will be greeted with a premiere episode that not only expands on the midseason finale’s reunion between the Alexandrians and several of their scattered cohorts, but which also features quite a few moments that are going to make you laugh. Out loud. The Walking Dead!
There will be no spoilers here, but we can say that everyone from Rick and Gregory to Daryl and Ezekiel’s right-hand dude, Jerry, make funnies in the Greg Nicotero-directed return (titled “Rock in the Road”), which ends with Rick Grimes flashing the biggest smile we’ve ever seen from the character.
5 more things to know about the rest of Season 7:
1. As those “Rise Up” promo posters attest, a big part of the reason Rick and his crew can have some lighter moments in the second half of the season is because they’ve decided to fight back against Negan. Their experiences with the Saviors so far — not to mention Daryl’s time on the Saviors’ campus — have taught Rick’s group that defeating the Saviors isn’t possible on its own. That means alliances must be formed between Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and any other groups they might happen upon. (Hint, hint: They happen upon some new groups.) And it means that very early in the back half of the season, we see the much-anticipated first meeting between Rick and King Ezekiel.
2. While most of Rick’s group had been reunited by the end of the midseason finale in December, Morgan remains in the Kingdom, having become a trusted adviser to Ezekiel. Carol is still off on her self-imposed exile in that house near the Kingdom, and Maggie, Sasha, and Enid are still at the Hilltop, allowing the arrogant and deluded Gregory to think he’s still in charge. More reunions occur, but don’t expect everyone to return to their Alexandria home base, at least not right away. And for some, maybe never.
3. While there’s some lightness and a lot of hope, there’s also a lot of anger, particularly for Daryl and Rosita. Both are still reeling from all the Negan-related deaths of Season 7A, but they’re both also dealing with heavy doses of guilt: Daryl, Greg Nicotero tells Yahoo TV, probably can’t even look Maggie in the eye, because he’s so guilty about his outburst in the season premiere, which was followed by Glenn’s brutal murder. Rosita’s failed attempt to shoot and kill Negan in “Hearts Still Beating” predictably led to violent retaliation, which was to instruct one of his minions to kill an Alexandrian: Olivia, who Negan had been emotionally and verbally tormenting. Daryl and Rosita are ticked off at the world, and anxious to lash out at anybody not firmly onboard with Team Alexandria’s battle plan. Rosita also continues to harbor some, uh, feelings about her breakup with Abraham, which may come out in an unexpected way.
4. You assumed we didn’t spend a whole episode, “Swear,” with Tara and the Oceanside women and children only to never see them again, right? Good on you, because they will factor into the action, and the overall goals, of the second half of the season.
5. The first half of the season was marked by sadness, violence, fear, and the separation of the people who’ve continued to survive the apocalypse because of their group mentality. And while we watched their individual anguish play out, for the most part, those episodes also marked the largest block of time that one of the show’s most beloved and badass characters, Carol Peletier, has been MIA on screen. That promises to be corrected in Season 7B, but one of the big questions hanging over the storyline is whether or not Carol will continue to cut herself off from her friends and the rest of the world. She has continued to insist that her lonely lifestyle is the only way she can stick to her desire to not have to kill anymore. But it’s important to note that she remains unaware of the events of “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be.” When she learns that Negan murdered Glenn, whom Carol had been with since Season 1, it could motivate her to rejoin her friends and help them take on their biggest challenge yet.
Any predictions on which way Carol will decide to go? And do you think that even a supergroup made up of the Alexandrians, the Hilltoppers, and Ezekiel’s Kingdom followers stands a chance against the sadistic Negan and his Saviors? Sound off in the comments section below.
The Walking Dead returns Feb. 12 at 9 p.m. on AMC.