After its usual mid-winter sleep, The Walking Dead returned on Sunday night with the premiere episode of the second half of Season Seven. And unlike many episodes from the first half of the season, a whole bunch of things actually happened. Interesting things actually, that could lead to further interesting things, as multiple conflicts are now popping up at once. It’s a welcome break from the first half of the season, which largely consisted of viewers wondering when Negan would pop up again and who might die when he does.

In this slightly longer than normal midseason premiere, we finally see the group working together again after Daryl’s escape from the Saviors’ compound. Additionally, Rick and King Ezekiel finally meet, although it doesn’t go very well. We were often critical of the show for much of the first half of this season, as the plot plodded along at a snail’s pace after the explosive season premiere deaths of Glenn and Abraham, but now it finally feels like something is about to happen again.

Here’s a rundown of what happened, what it might mean, and speculation about what happens next.

Gabriel Abandons His Faith and His Friends

One of our co-workers actually missed the opening shot of with Father Gabriel stealing supplies and taking off in one of Alexandria’s cars. So when the other characters were talking about him at the end of the episode, our co-worker’s response was literally “who the hell is Gabriel?” That reaction perfectly exemplifies how little anyone cares about Gabriel as a character. He’s useless as an aggressor and does a terrible job trying to play the pacifist. And he’s already shown on multiple occasions that he only cares about himself.

Now that he’s taken the supplies and skipped down (and also leaving his bible behind, because symbolism), it creates an interesting situation. First of all, Alexandria has no food. Second of all, where exactly does Gabriel plan to go? And finally, what will happen when Rick eventually catches up with him? Will Rick give him (yet another) chance to redeem himself or will Gabriel finally be punished for endangering the lives of everyone else? Or maybe, Gabriel’s actions will be revealed as part of a larger plot to help Alexandria as a whole. Either way, we finally care about what Gabriel is doing, and that’s a good thing.

Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC

Gregory Remains a Coward

Rick has suddenly decided to grow a pair and really mount an offensive against the Saviors, after previously underestimating them and basically causing the death of his friends. He knows they can’t do it alone though, so he’s hoping that the other communities under Negan’s thumb will band together to resist. Gregory, who is a huge coward that will do whatever it takes to keep himself alive regardless of how many other people it might endanger, outright refuses to pledge the Hilltop’s support. Gregory is a perfect opposite of Rick, because he’s annoying, cocky, and he’s right. There’s no reason he should place in trust in Rick again, because another failure could get the entire Hilltop burnt to the ground by vengeful Saviors. Of course, none of that matters, because Gregory’s citizens pledge their support to Rick anyway, as a thank you for the time Maggie and Sasha saved their bacon.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Rick Meets The King

Having Rick finally be introduced to King Ezekiel is a important moment in the show. The Kingdom clearly is the most advanced settlement in The Walking Dead universe. They have food, they have people, they have roles and responsibilities. They have training and even a security force. And they have a tiger — which is awesome. Unfortunately, Rick’s pleas for help again come up short, as Ezekiel insists he must do whatever he can to keep the “shaky peace” he has with the Saviors intact.

We already know that he changes his mind at some point in the future. The real question is what happens to make him change it? Will the Saviors break their end of the deal of not entering the Kingdom? Will one of his trusted advisers talk him into it? Will someone close to him have to die before he realizes that fighting the Saviors is the only way? Plus, we wonder whether his decision to give Daryl asylum will come back to haunt the Kingdom.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Daryl is Back

Speaking of Daryl Dixon, he spent the entire first half of this season as Negan’s prisoner. It was really depressing watching him be turned from a cross-bow wielding zombie killer into a crying sack of human slave. We guess it served a purpose, giving the viewer an inside look at how Negan runs his community — if you can even call it that. Now that Daryl has escaped, we’re eager to see what new shape his role will take. We already know that Negan is looking for him and plans to kill him. We also know that Rick wants Daryl to talk Ezekiel into joining the fight, although those two couldn’t have more different personalities. Daryl’s adventures in the Kingdom should make for some interesting viewing over the next couple episodes.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Okay, We Admit It, That Was Really Cool

As Rick and company travel back to Alexandria, they encounter a booby-trapped road block presumably set by the Saviors to take care of a massive herd of walkers. Rick decides to steal the explosives, but then — oh no! — the herd is suddenly upon them. The writing of this scene was borderline ridiculous, but we’re willing to forgive all that because what happened next was just awesome. Rick and Michonne drive two cars down opposite sides of the highway, connected by a steel cable which just slices and dices through hundreds of the undead. It looked like a crazy power up from a zombie video game, and we mean that in a good way. Richhone (aren’t couple names cute?) definitely set a new high score for walker kills with that bit of ingenuity.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

Home, Sweet Home

Rick gets back to Alexandria after carving up walkers on the road Max Max style, but things are not great. Negan’s flunkies immediately show up and trash the place, looking for Daryl. Luckily, Rick insisted that Daryl accept Ezekiel’s offer to stay at the Kingdom, so he wasn’t there. As Simon and the Saviors search for Daryl, they come across the empty pantry. Rick hides his surprise (remember, he didn’t know anything was missing), but it’s clearly a big problem. When the Saviors leave, Rick demands answers. The Alexandrians seem to be split in their opinion about whether Gabriel actually stole the food or whether he’s “not that kind of guy.” We’ll see.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

The Boat

Rick finds a clue in Gabriel’s notebook that leads him to the houseboat from from the midseason finale. That’s just speculation on Rick’s part though, since Gabriel doesn’t have any real knowledge of the boat’s existence or whereabouts (unless he was the mysterious boots — but he probably wasn’t). It doesn’t matter, since the group ends up surrounded by a pack of heavily armed survivors before they can find Gabriel. Who are these people? They can’t be from Oceanside (remember that place?), since the group clearly included men. It’s more likely that the mystery boot belonged to one of these people, and they’ve been watching Rick for a while.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

The Smile

Despite being vastly outnumbered by an aggressive looking posse, Rick cracks a smile in the final scene of the episode. Originally, we thought it was because he recognized someone in this new gang. However, executive producer Greg Nicotero revealed that Rick actually smiled because he instantly sees the first members of his army. That may be counting your chickens before they hatch, Rick, since nobody has any idea who these people are or what they want. Do they know about the Saviors? Do they also serve Negan? Hopefully we find out next week, and not three weeks from now.

Via AMC

We Almost Forgot

Carol makes a brief appearance, foraging around the woods when he encounters Ben, Morgan’s protege and a young Kingdom solider in training. We’re not really sure where the story is going to take Carol, but her new “leave-me-alone” attitude is wearing thin. This is a woman who saved the entire group with cold-blooded violence. This is a woman who shared a special relationship with Daryl, although the show seems to have forgotten about that completely. This is a woman who argued with Morgan about whether they should kill the captured Wolf last season. Her story can’t simply end with her living alone in the woods while Rick wages war on the Saviors. Stay tuned for more Carol developments.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC

So In Conclusion

We won’t say that a lot of things actually happened this episode, but we will say that a lot of things were at least set in motion. For the first time in a while, we’re actually interested in seeing what The Walking Dead will show us next, and it’s a welcome change from the depressing and sadist “Rule of Negan” that was basically the entire first half of Season Seven. Don’t get us wrong, we think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is doing a great job playing the series’ ultimate bad guy. But too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, if you follow us. Sunday’s episode did include Negan’s voice over the radio making a fat joke (Skinny Joey is now just Joey, after Daryl killed Fat Joey), but that was it. Less Negan gave the other characters a chance to do something more than cower in fear, which has helped make The Walking Dead interesting again. At least for now.

Photo by Gene Page/AMC