From Greg Nicotero

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 9: “Rock in the Road”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Angela Kang

* For a recap & review of the previous episode, “Hearts Still Beating” – click here
* For a recap & review of the next episode, “New Best Friends” – click here
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-46-30-amHere it is – the mid-season premiere!
Open on Alexandria. Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) stands on watch at the top of the gate, everything is dark. He passes time reading the Bible. But it’s getting harder to read, you can tell by the look on his face. Soon he goes back to one of the houses, starts piling canned food into a box and looking through the inventory, most of which is going to The Saviors. He packs what he can into a car, gasses up, then heads out into the night.
Is he bringing things to them? No, I think he wants to hide things from them. That could turn things awful tricky.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-1-49-37-amBack at Hilltop things aren’t so easy, either. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) argues with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his people, he isn’t so convinced the group can do what they say and take out Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) or his Saviors. Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Tara (Alanna Masterson), and the rest try convincing Gregory, but he’s simply not buying it. “Youre either with us or you aint,” Daryl (Norman Reedus) reminds him.
After they’ve gotten nowhere with the fearful leader, Enid (Katelyn Nacon) brings a few people to speak with Rick and the group. One woman named Bertie (Karen Ceesay) tells Maggie that they’re willing to fight, long as they’re shown how to fight and defend themselves properly. This is a good turn of events, they don’t need Gregory when the people at Hilltop are ready to be part of the resistance. Jesus (Tom Payne) also says it’s time that the gang meets King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). Yes!
They go to the Kingdom – Jesus, Rick, Daryl, as well as Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs), Tara, Rosita (Christian Serratos) and Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green). And there they meet a couple guys on horses, one of whom is Richard (Karl Makinen).
It’s amazing to see Rick and the group when they witness the Kingdom. Even better once Morgan (Lennie James) strolls out to see greet them. He tells Rick and Daryl about Carol (Melissa McBride) wanting to be left alone, too. Afterwards they meet the King and Shiva, and it’s a big of a culture shock. Although Rick jumps on in for a chat. He brings up The Saviors, wanting to band together and bring them down. Everybody discusses Negan, his brutality, why he must be stopped. Jesus also chimes in to say that he once thought their deal was something they could all “live with” but that’s all quickly, horribly changed. On top of that we already know Richard doesn’t like The Saviors, he’s on board to get shit done.
Ezekiel: “And what plans have you, Rick Grimes of Alexandria?”
What comes out is Rick talks about his mother telling him a story when he was a boy, about a road to a kingdom. A little girl and her family went along the road, losing all they had after their wagon hit a rock in the road. The girl, determined never to let the rock hurt another, dug at it until eventually finding a bag of gold. Negan is the rock in the road, and if they’re able to dig him out then at the end of the line is their gold: a world at peace.


Out on his own, Benjamin (Logan Miller) runs into a gun-toting Carol. They talk about general badassery. They also talk about Ezekiel, a little. In this brief exchange, Benjamin instils a tiny smidgen of hope in Carol, somewhere deep down. The fact that this young man still holds hope for mankind, wanting to help others, it sort of goes against everything she’s started believing about the new world.
I love that we get a guy like King Ezekiel, too. Because for so long we went from either Rick’s group and their various people, some good and some bad in the end, then there’s The Governor, all those battles, and then it was Terminus, and so on. Once Negan turned it up you start to wonder, if you haven’t read the comics like many of us, if only the big baddies are kicking around. Finally, we get a guy who’s pure, or at least his intentions are of the purest sort. A little later Benjamin actually becomes the voice of reason for the King, in regards to helping the people of Alexandria: “My dad always said that if youre asked to be the hero, be a hero.”
We find out that Ezekiel has regrets about once sending some of his people into battle, which yielded many dead, many children orphaned. So this is part of why he’s so altruistic at this point in time. He wants to right his wrongs. But Rick has been there, as well. We’ve seen all that. He has demons, he also isn’t a total saint. In the end, Ezekiel won’t agree to help, though offers Daryl asylum from The Saviors. Hmm. Something needs to happen to change the King’s mind. Richard’s on the side of Rick and his friends. That’s not enough. At the moment Daryl’s left at the Kingdom with Rick asking him to try his best on swaying Ezekiel.
screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-19-34-amOver the radio Negan’s voice is heard eulogising Fat Joey. Meanwhile, Rick and Co head onto the highway where they find a bunch of cars blocking the way. They move them with their vehicle while Michonne keeps her eye on the horizon; she spots a strange device. It’s a rope across the road rigged to an explosive device. Now, they’ve got to disarm the thing. Rosita has her hands into the trap’s inner workings, as they hear Negan call out over the radio for men to go searching for Daryl. Following that, Rosita gets the main component of the trap disarmed, and they all go about carefully unwrapping the dynamite and other explosives, watching the road for Saviors or walkers.
And sooner than later the undead come shambling from a distance. The group packs up what explosives are in good condition, scrambling to put the cars back in place on the road. A massive horde of zombies works its way up the highway faster than expected, forcing Michonne and Rick into a quick plan.
We get one of the coolest zombie killing scenes EVER, as Michonne and Rick use the wire between the cars from the trap to clothesline tons and tons of the walkers before climbing in with the rest of the crew and scooting to safety. Behind them an explosion goes off blasting more meat into the sky.
Michonne: “Were the ones who live


Once Rick makes it back to Alexandria they’re greeted by a Saviors convoy. Simon (Steven Ogg) arrives, coy as ever. They’re trying to find Daryl, of course. Simon wants to search the entire place and they go about their business, all the while trashing everything like pigs. The Saviors also come across the empty shelves in the storage garage, the stuff we saw Father Gabriel take in the opener. But they don’t care, not until pickup day. When the group is left on their own again people believe Gabriel ran off with their supplies. But what’s the truth? Rick, Tara, some of them don’t believe he’d do that to them.
Turns out they were left a message: BOAT. Mysterious how he knew where Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Rick had gone. So, another journey is at hand. When the crew make out for the boat on the lake they find footprints. They follow them to an old factory in a field where they encounter people with guns, many others with weapons; MANY.
But Rick smiles in the face of it all. Literally. A big shit-eating grin. Is it a ‘bring it on’ smile, or a ‘these people can help us’ grin?screen-shot-2017-02-13-at-2-41-24-amA great mid-season opener after the break. So many things to look forward to, and lots of character development going on, especially when we get a conversation between Aaron and his partner Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson). We see that everyone has issues, everyone has worries. This will only continue in the next episode “New Best Friends” and I’m excited.

The Walking Dead – Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 1: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Scott M. Gimple

* For a review of the Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Well” – click here
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Our episode’s title comes from Dr. Jenner at the CDC, way back when Rick said he was thankful for all the man had done for them. To which the doc replied: “The day will come when you wont be.”
Today is that day.
We start on Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), his face spattered with blood. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts him. But Rick replies: “Im gonna kill you.” The nastiness of Negan’s demeanour is so perfectly awful. He digs into Rick, already having taken his victim from the group. He takes the hatchet Rick arrived with and brings Rick into the RV with him nearby. Behind them, a pile of blood and gore.
Who was killed?
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Inside the RV, Rick cowers like we’ve never seen him do before. Hiding in the shadows. And Negan tries to clue him into the new rule of things. He challenges Rick to take the axe and do him in. But you know it ain’t going down like that. He knocks Rick to the ground, dominating him. Proving a point. “Think about what happened, and think about what can still happen,” Negan all but cackles in the driver’s seat, taking Rick for a ride somewhere.
Then we flash throuh Rick’s mind, as he sees memories of everyone in their group. Glenn (Steven Yeun), Enid (Kately Nacon), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Aaron (Ross Marquand), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl (Norman Reedus) , Michonne (Danai Gurira) – while Negan throws his axe from the RV into a foggy road of walkers, beckoning Rick to go get it. Our trusty leader, the onetime Sheriff Grimes, manages to get on top of the RV, hatchet and all. Although as he stares into the distance either way you can see the hope starting to fade. For the first real time, he’s a broken man. “I bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together,” Negan pokes at him more from inside.


Now we’re back to the eenie meanie miney moe. Negan goes around the line. We watch Rick’s eyes. We see the terror in the eyes of every single person. The taunting of Negan and his bat land on: Abraham. He savagely beats the brains out of Abraham’s head, smashing him over and over. Everyone watches in sickly disgust, as nothing is left of the skull and brains. Nothing. “Look at my dirty girl,” Negan calls to them horrifically. He even taunts Rosita (Christian Serratos) with the bloody end of Lucille. Then Daryl breaks loose, punching Negan.
Will he get the bat, too? No. Even Dwight (Austin Ameli) rushes in to try putting an arrow in Daryl’s skull. Negan won’t allow that. Not right yet: “Thats not how it works.” No, no, no. Another victim for Lucille comes next.
Glenn’s head is smashed in. The front caves. So suddenly. Everybody is brutalised by the sight of Glenn, his eye popping out, trying to speak to Maggie in his last moments. Negan goes on whacking away until there’s only blood and hair left on the end of Lucille. The group is left devastated.
Rick lies on top of the RV, remembering what’s happened. All to well. This is the worst and most wounded we’ve ever seen him.

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In a crazy moment, Rick jumps from the RV, using the hanged man from the bridge as a grip. With zombies clawing at him, walkers of all kinds trying to rip him apart, Negan pops them all off and saves him. He urges Rick: “Think about what can still happen.” And Rick does. He sees the rest of his group smashed by Lucille, one by one.
Back in the RV, hatched in hand, Rick makes it to Negan. A real sick game, all around. The man with the bat continues his cerebral assault, in such a villainous, nonchalant way that it’s sickening how good Jeffrey Dean Morgan plays the role. When they get back to the group, Negan has Rick kneeling in the middle of his remaining friends. The Saviors put guns to the back of their heads and the wretched Lucille-holding monster calls Carl (Chandler Riggs) to the centre. He wraps a belt around the boy’s arm, puts him to the ground next to dad. Negan proceeds to mark off a spot on Carl’s arm with a marker.
Rick has to cut an arm off his son. With his hatchet. Or else everyone dies.
So, what does Sheriff Grimes do? It’s all a psyche out. Rick has been broken, in front of everyone – The Saviors, his own people, his son. He’s torn every bit of Rick apart, his soul, his manhood, his power. What a vicious cycle. Because you know it’s a cycle. Broken as he is, Rick will be coming back. He will not let this rest, not forever. For now, sure. But not forever.
Things have changed. Whatever you had going for you, that is over now,” says Negan to the crowd. He takes Daryl in the back of their van. Property of Negan. They’ve got a week to start getting supplies together for him. A new day. A new deal. Minus two strong people from their crew. People they’ll never get back, ever again. Literally left in Negan’s dust, the rest of the survivors struggle to figure out how to move on from there.

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Maggie’s the first to get up. She wants to keep fighting, even if Rick is beaten to a pulp emotionally. He also understands how bad things are right now, she isn’t acting or thinking rationally. But sadly, Rick has also lost control. He has no more power. And Maggie, she’s in a depression spiral, unable to accept that they’ve just got to go back home, pick up the pieces. Now, they take their dead friends with them and do what they can for them.
In a vision, we see all the group, happy, healthy, a baby on Glenn’s lap. As if there weren’t enough tears shed. Negan’s voice rings in the ears of Rick as they load up the RV to leave. He thought they’d all be sitting around, as in the vision, that dreamy world. These days that vision is a far cry, and Rick is realising it. Around him he’s also watching the walkers die off. Everything is dying. Everyone and everything dies.
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What a savage episode. Completely numbing. I expected Glenn’s death, but didn’t anticipate such a wildly effective execution. Love how the power dynamics are shifting. No longer is Rick the big, tough guy he was once. Although he’ll get back there it’s going to take a major event, or series of them.
Looking forward to the next episode “The Well” and what it’ll bring!