Nick must make the hardest choice of all to save his family from the Proctors
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
Here 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.
Back 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. “You‘re either with us or you ain‘t,” 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 you‘re 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.
Over 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: “We‘re 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?A 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.