SPOILER ALERT: Read only if you’ve watched The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere, “Rock in the Road.”
The Walking Dead made its return after a three month hiatus, with a midseason premiere that found Rick and the rest of the Alexandrians scoping out Hilltop and the Kingdom for potential allies in the upcoming war with Negan and the Saviors. Suffice it to say, things didn’t really go according to plan and the episode ended with Rick’s group held at gunpoint by a mysterious (and large) group of survivors.
While viewers were left wondering who this new group might be, Rick’s big grin suggests that he may know their identity … or does it? According to executive producer Greg Nicotero — who also directed the episode — Rick’s smile actually indicates something a bit different:
You know, we see him [Rick] at the beginning, he’s pretty dedicated to putting an army together. He needs people to fight, so he goes to the Hilltop. He has a loss with Gregory, but then he has a win with Maggie. Then he goes to see King Ezekiel, and the king was not necessarily willing to fight, but Rick knows they’re there. Then they find all the explosives on the freeway. So the whole episode is really based on that series of wins and losses for Rick, but Rick’s not giving up.
When they get back to Alexandria and they realize that Gabriel’s gone and strange things are afoot at the Circle K — when they are surrounded by that new and mysterious group that we’ve only caught a quick glimmer of, Rick sees soldiers. That’s why he smiles. I don’t think he’s worried for a second. I think he looks, and he’s like, okay, I need a win here, and there are a lot of people here, and they have weapons, and this is what I need. So the gears are clicking. The gears start turning, and then, boom, we’re out.
It remains unclear whether Rick actually knows anyone in the group, but either way, it probably won’t be easy to convince these new people to help win a war. It looks like Father Gabriel is the key to getting this new connection to work, but we’ll have to wait for next week’s episode to see where it all goes.
If Rick shows up at the Kingdom with about a hundred new gun-toting allies though, something tells us King Ezekiel may reconsider his decision not to fight Negan.