One of the advantages to splitting a season of television in half the way The Walking Dead does every season is it affords an opportunity for course correction. The first half of season 7 was marked by a near record-setting ratings winner with a bloody and divisive premiere episode that went heavy on the violence to make sure those watching were as certain of Negan’s intentions as the characters living them. The follow up was a different story, though, as Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s bat-wielding madman proved a questionable draw as the season’s ratings dipped noticeably in the aftermath of Glenn and Abraham’s grisly deaths.
For all the criticism The Walking Dead faced during the first half of season 7, the show stuck to its guns, leaving Rick and the other survivors together in a united front ready to face off against Negan and his Saviors. It was the kind of uplift the series needed after a run of increasingly solemn, often overlong episodes of television focused solely on selling just what a bad customer Negan was and continues to be. It was effective to a point, but the show was in dire need of conflict greater than Daryl listening to ‘Easy Street’ on repeat.
The series returns next Sunday with ‘Rock in the Road’, the first of an eight-episode stretch tied to the marketing campaign featuring Rick encouraging others to “Rise Up” and face a common enemy together. In addition to the promise of the battle being taken to the Saviors, it also affords the series a chance to make good on all the world-building it’s been doing the past season and a half, bringing Alexandria in league with Hilltop and The Kingdom. The potential storytelling opportunities this presents The Walking Dead are vast, as it may yet bring Carol and Morgan back to the central storyline where their characters can do more good.
At any rate, the new promo is here just in time to show fans what’s in store for the remaining episodes of The Walking Dead season 7. And if the humorous TV spot letting everyone know that their Sundays are more or less open to watch some zombie shenanigans is any indication, the series have have indeed turned over a new leaf with regard to its tone.
Seeing the series take itself less seriously (and maybe thumb its nose at another long-dominant form of entertainment experiencing a ratings slump) in commercial form may not necessarily mean Rick and Co. will suddenly be faced with a lighthearted journey, but showrunner Scott Gimple has gone on the record with EW, saying “You will see Rick smile” during this upcoming batch of episodes. While it’s anyone’s guess what turns Rick’s frown upside down, it’s a good bet it has something to do with bring Negan down.
The Walking Dead returns next Sunday @9pm on AMC.