The Walking Dead’s midseason premiere, “Rock in the Road,” set the stage for all-out war with a curious opening sequence and mawkish allegory.

Rick, in an effort to solicit Ezekiel’s support, tells the king the tale of a girl, a rock in the road, and a bag of gold. Naturally, Negan’s the rock and the bag of gold is the reward for removing the destructor. A few scenes later, Ezekiel sits at a sleeping child’s bedside, reciting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.

Ezekiel’s recitation and reluctance to assist Rick, a sign of pacifism, give his title, King, greater significance. Benjamin told Morgan (in a previous episode) that Ezekiel hid his arrangement with Negan from the Kingdom because the people would want to fight Negan. Ezekiel does not want to lose his people.

How long will Ezekiel be able to hide his lush kingdom from Negan? Will Daryl, Morgan, or Benjamin change Ezekiel’s mind? Or will a violent encounter with Negan be all it takes to change his mind?

Meanwhile, Rick and the crew encounter new “rocks in the road,” as they surveil The Sanctuary. They find a Savior booby-trap, rigged to destroy a herd. Cue the herd.

The crew manages to gather the explosives and mow down a fair portion of the herd thanks to a steel cable,  two speeding hot-wired cars, and Michonne’s quick wit. A highway smeared with walkers and an explosion, though, will undoubtedly catch Negan’s attention; after all, Rick didn’t have time restore Negan’s roadblock. How long will it be until Negan investigates and interrogates Alexandria, the Kingdom, or the Hilltop?

The crew gets back to Alexandria unscathed, just in time for the Saviors to arrive.

Simon and the villains trash Alexandria looking for Daryl and they make a troublesome discovery- the pantry is bare. Once Simon leaves with a warning, Rick learns Gabriel is missing.

Surprisingly, Rick refuses to believe Gabriel abandoned them. Episode 8 closed with a strange figure watching Gabriel. Perhaps he didn’t run. Perhaps the figure forced Gabriel to gather the supplies; maybe Gabriel is a hostage. Rick’s quiet optimism and faith in a former adversary speak volumes of his growth.

Rick has grown so optimistic that when a group of armed warrior women surrounds him and Gabriel’s rescue crew, he smiles. He sees in them the army necessary to fight Negan. The women have guns…lots of them. Surely the women have been scorned by the caveman, Negan.

How hard will it be to sway the ladies to join forces with Alexandria? What will Rick have to sacrifice to solicit their support?

Did the Walking Dead midseason premiere satisfy you? You can share your predictions, impressions, and questions in the comment section.