Tara tells Rick about Oceanside, & the group descend on the survivors to try making a deal. Meanwhile, Sasha must make a tough decision.
Rosita & Sasha start their journey towards Negan. Meanwhile at Hilltop, The Saviors arrive; and not for supplies.
Morgan is put to the ultimate test of his ethical code when a death in the Kingdom rocks everybody, even Carol.
Rick & Michonne are on the road looking for guns, while Rosita's planning something outrageous & dangerous.
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.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell
* For a review of the previous episode, “Sing Me a Song” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock in the Road” – click here
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is still reeling from the death of her husband, obviously. You can’t expect she’ll get over that quick, if ever. Especially not in this new post-zombie apocalypse world. At the Hilltop community, she’s getting by, as well as expected. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is being a real dick, though. He doesn’t like anybody else looking like the big dog around his backyard, y’know.
Back at Alexandria, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith, then cooks a bit of pasta and suace for dinner. Most interesting is at the Savior’s compound, where Daryl (Norman Reedus) is more and more on the verge of getting himself free; hopefully.
Nobody in Alexandria is happy, not with Negan around. Olivia (Ann Mahoney) tries her best to keep it together with a bit of help from Tara (Alanna Masterson). But Olivia’s the one who has to sit down to dinner with Negan. Pretending like they’re a happy family. She only does it to keep a promise to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), that she’d look after the baby.
We keep seeing that Morse code in Rick’s place, as well. You think that means something? I do. But we’ll see.
Of course Rick is still out and about with Aaron (Ross Marquand), attempting to get out to the boat on the lake where the place is probably loaded with supplies. At home, Rick’s son has to “pass the rolls” to the man who smashed Abraham and Glenn into bloody chunks. Because “Lucille is hungry” and so is Negan.
Possibly the most sinister opening to any episode yet, honestly. Loved it.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Spencer (Austin Nichols), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) bring their latest finds to the Saviors. One of whom, a lady, hits on Spencer: “Maybe I‘ll buy you a sandwich.” He plays along, for the time being.
We can’t forget about Carol (Melissa McBride), in her house just outside the Kingdom. And Morgan (Lennie James), he leaves a little something on her doorstep – fruits from the garden. She likes to be on her own, she’s got plenty. Ezekiel keeps on bringing her fresh produce. But she’d rather be alone. Then Richard (Karl Makinen) shows up, too. He has something the three of them need to discuss.
Morgan: “I think you‘re goin‘ soft.”
Carol: “I think you‘re going.”
Out on the lake Aaron and Rick come into trouble, though they fight off the water zombies to get to a canoe in good shape. Only more walkers swarm, and Aaron’s hauled into the water. Dead? No, sir. He’s just a damn good swimmer. They both make it to the boat, in one piece. Barely. They find lots of guns. As usual, not much ammo. Rick and Aaron talk about the deal with Negan – Aaron understands, he was present for the brutality of the man. “What we‘re doing is gonna keep people living. We get to do that. Doesn‘t matter what happens to us.” The title of the episode comes from Aaron’s talk about keeping people alive, taking what they can. Across the lake, someone watches them both.
At the Saviors’ compound, Daryl runs through the dark halls and ends up in somebody’s bedroom. He searches for a way out, getting some peanut butter on the way and a new shirt. Please, Daryl: get the fuck out of there. He sits first, listening to nearby voices, and then gets on the move.
Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Maggie hang out together, talk it up. Maggie’s pregnant stomach keeps her eating constantly. Everyone in Hilltop, aside from Gregory, is a fan of her, as well as the other two. But while the expectant mother leaves, Enid confronts Sasha about a lie concerning Jesus (Tom Payne). It’s because Sasha wants to get Negan. And Enid wants in. They just want to keep Maggie out of the equation because she’s too headstrong, even with a baby growing inside her. Yet Sasha tells Enid she has to keep Maggie safe.
Back with Richard, he tells Morgan and Carol about when he came to the Kingdom, about the terrible threat of the Saviors. He wants Carol and Morgan to help him convince Ezekiel they need to take action against Negan, because “things will go bad; and when they do, the Kingdom will fall.” Thing is, he’s come across Carol at a point in time where she wants to let go of everything – the killing, the people, all of it: “I don‘t want anything to do with your lives, or your deaths.” Interesting to see someone like her, and particularly Morgan, turned away from violence now being forced to maybe turn back; the never ending plague of this new world.
Oh, Spencer – will you die tonight? He gets back to his once nice, well kept home, to find it in complete disarray. Negan and his crew have tossed the place. He cleans the place up, he cleans up, practises his best introduction and leaves with a bottle of liquor. Will he actually dare try something against Negan on his own? Yikes.
In Savior territory, Daryl makes it to the motorcycle lot where a guy finds him. He agrees to let Daryl go. Rather than go on, Daryl beats the man to death, as Jesus shows up just in time. Now they’ve got themselves a gun to boot.
“We‘re all Negan”
With Michonne (Danai Gurira) still holding one woman at gunpoint, she finds where she’s headed. Furthermore, we see how people are willing to die rather than go back to Negan, as the woman essentially asks to be put down. And Michonne obliges the request.
In Alexandria, Rick and Aaron get back with supplies. Over on the porch Spencer shares a glass of liquor with Negan. Something bad’s brewing in their little town. When one of the Saviors gets rough with Aaron, this leaves Rick helpless, watching on. Spencer gets a pool table into the street for him and Negan, then brings up the dissent with his leader in Alexandria. Great editing takes us from the pool balls knocking together over to Aaron’s beating, as Rick must stand there, doing nothing. Such an amazing build, between editing, dialogue, action, score. “You should know Rick Grimes has a history of not working well with others.” This takes Spencer into talking about how he believes Rick brought their town down, his family now dead. Then he offers to lead Alexandria.
Does Negan take the bait? Well, he isn’t exactly impressed that Spencer’s not out gathering things, like Rick, who’s “swallowing his hate and gettin‘ shit done.” As he says, that “takes guts.” Oh, is that the cue? If so, pitch perfect line.
What follows is straight from the comics: Negan plays on the word guts again, then plunges a knife deep into his stomach, letting those guts fall right out, horrifying everyone watching on. Another vulgar display of power. Out of nowhere, Rosita fires a bullet at Negan and it digs right into Lucille. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, ROSITA! YOU BAD ASS MOTHERFUCKER. Wow. Did not expect that. Neither did the man himself. Plus, now he’s discovered their homemade bullets. Uh oh. “You may be stupid, darlin‘, but you showed some real ingenuity here.” It’s either give up the secret of the bullets, or get a new carved up face. Rather than carve her up when she refuses to give it up, Negan has Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) shoot somebody at random: Olivia. Fuck, man.
None of that sits well with Rick. Except Negan wants a thank you, for not killing Carl, for taking Spencer down when he was crying mutiny. All for you, Sheriff Grimes. And Negan isn’t leaving until he figures out who mad the bullets. Eugene doesn’t let anyone else take the fall this time, he confesses. Bad news for him: he’s now Savior property. Alexandria is left devastated, without another couple members, and “in the hole” with Negan worse than ever.
As always, Rick blames himself. For everything. Like he asked to be the leader of their group, to be the one to make all the tough decisions. He never asked for that, it was heaped upon him. Then everyone blames him when things go sideways. He doesn’t always make the best or right decisions, yet he always does the best he can.
When Michonne gets back, she tells Rick that she doesn’t want to go it alone. She wants them to go it together, to fight alongside one another. And she won’t give up hope.
At Hilltop, Maggie gets one nice gift: she gets her friends back. Rick embraces her, glad to see her again, and he gets to see she’s safe, healthy. Rick is ready to fight. He’s ready to do what’s necessary. Oh, and Daryl is at Hilltop, too. The whole gang reunited. A heartwarming scene after so much devastation and blood and hurt. One fantastic mid-season finale. Rick even gets his gun back, a figurative recharging of his will to live and to fight for a better life.
I’m so pumped for the back half of Season 7! I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve enjoyed all these episodes. Lots of fun and the show is picking up steam from a few lacklustre moves over the course of the past couple seasons. Great to see them pushing ahead.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 6: “Swear”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by David Leslie Johnson
* For a review of the previous episode, “Go Getters” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Sing Me a Song” – click here
On the beach two girls find Tara (Alanna Masterson) washed shore, still alive and not infected. One of the girls nearly kills her, but the older one decides they won’t kill her, not if she isn’t sick. They won’t tell their community about it, or at least the older of the two won’t. At least there are still some good people left in the new world. Sad to see the youngest are already becoming desensitised to living in the post-zombie apocalypse. Although, lucky for Tara one of them was willing to do the right.
Some time before, Heath (Corey Hawkins) and Tara survive on their own. They’re losing hope about what’s next. No gas, barely any food. Heath laments what happened at the station, when they killed those Saviors. All over food and rations. Now with Hilltop and the deal with the Saviors things are supposed to be… tolerable. However, that isn’t enough for everybody. All Heath knows is that to be honest to themselves, they’ve got to admit who they are: killers beneath it all.
Tara’s personal saviour, Cyndie (Sydney Park), tries keeping her presence secret. She leaves a passed out Tara some water, a little food, along with a spear to defend herself. When the poor girl finally wakesup she doesn’t know whether Cyndie’s there to help. So she remains sceptical. Out into the woods Tara goes, following Cyndie back to her community. The place is full of people, and firepower. Suddenly everyone rushes at the sound of a whistle, or a horn, or something. Guns are handed out to everyone. The community’s on high alert. Then the bullets start flying, as Tara runs for her life. She gets the jump on one woman, but the young girl who wanted to kill her earlier stops Tara, gun pointed. Once more Cyndie stops it, although the rest of the community – all women notably – hold their weapons on Tara. “Look, I‘m cool,” she tells the group. She tries talking to them, even if the place looks on edge. Who knows what’ll happen next.
Back when Tara was with Heath, they come across a bridge, old cars, tents, tarps, you name it scattered everywhere. Lots of “blind spots,” as Heath points out. They go ahead, slow, steady. They find a load of sand dumped on the bridge, covering a ton of bullet casings. When they try sifting through, one wrong pull sends the sand down on top of them, and a load of walkers crawl out from underneath. In the crowd of zombies Heath leaves Tara to fend for herself; no, you fucking didn’t, Heath!!!!! Oh, man. That is raw.
Tara’s now handcuffed to a radiator in the head honcho Natania’s little house. She learns more about the place. They have lots of security measures. Natania wants to know about Tara. She talks a big load of shit about working on a fishing boat before, she and a friend. Smart move, girl. But the community isn’t pleased with strangers wandering in. Regardless, Tara gets an invite to the dinner table for fish stew. Things go normally, and later Natania extends another invite: for Tara to stay with them. Somewhere she can “put down roots” and be a part of their community. We again find out more about the community, that they were in a fight with another group, which left them decimated, and without any of the men who were a part of the group prior. True survivors, hiding and fending for themselves, alive, healthy, together. They trust Tara because she’s had the opportunity to hurt them and chose not to do so. She then opens up to them about her own community in Alexandria, her girlfriend, their way of living. She tells them about killing the people at the station, hoping their groups can work together. “Sooner or later you‘re gonna need a friend.” Natania proposes sending a guide, to help Tara find Heath, then go to Alexandria and scope out their community for safety.
They head out through the woods. When a zombie needs killing Tara offers to get it done, taking her chance to run from her guides. She fights one of the women when they cross one another. She lands on the other side of a gun, again. The woman says that The Saviors can’t be stopped, there’s no point in going home. They are everywhere, they kill everything and everyone. They’re the ones that killed this community’s men; “every man, every boy over ten, they lined them up, shot them in the head.” Those women ran from Negan and The Saviors and they’re not willing to let Tara ruin any of that. Cyndie manages to help Tara get free, and follows her away. She pleads with Tara not to tell anyone where they are out in the woods, giving her rations for the trip home. On the bridge there are tons of walkers, though. Cyndie helps Tara to get around them, providing gunfire from a car nearby as Tara runs right through the crowd. She makes it to the other side of the zombie wall eventually.
Cut back to when Heath left her on the bridge. Or did he? Nope. He comes back with a gunshot, but Tara’s forced to jump off the bridge to save herself. Now there she stands at the bridge, not sure where Heath might’ve gone. For a second she thinks he’s there on the bridge; only a lady walker with similarly braided, tied up hair. Phew. A little farther off the bridge, Tara finds Heath’s glasses, a swipe card with PPP written on it, and tire tracks.
Out in a field she heads forward, anywhere else. She happens upon a store and some houses, an overturned boat. She keeps moving on back towards home. At the walls of Alexandria, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) sees her coming, happy as can be. But she hasn’t been back in awhile. She doesn’t know about the latest deaths, Denise, all the horror. Rosita (Christian Serratos) asks her about where she was, what happened, and true to her word Tara says she saw nothing.
This was a slower episode, but a good one. I love Tara, and Heath. They got a bit of good screentime, which I hope continues. I’m also itching to get back to Rick and Negan, too.
Next up is “Sing Me a Song” and I’m willing to bet things are going to get nasty.
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Cell” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Go Getters” – click here
Back in Alexandria once more. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) lay in bed next to one another. She rests uneasy, her breath heavy. She heads downstairs and gets a gun from the chimney, then leaves the house, as Rick watches her go.
In an open field Michonne walks by herself. She stops at a rusty old truck and gets up to look around. She sits there, waiting with the rifle in her hands. At the house Rick holds his little Judith. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) fumbles around with a radio outside while Rosita (Christian Serratos) and others hope to gather more for Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) when he arrives.
But he has already arrived: “Little pig, little pig, let me in.” Rick meets him at the gates. As always, Negan talks shit. He’s brought his Saviors, Dwight (Austin Amelio) and captive Daryl (Norman Reedus) included.
Negan lets himself into their little town. Even makes Rick hold Lucille while he waltzes. And seeing Rick hold that bat, new blood splattered over it, there’s a hate in his eyes we’ve not seen in a long, long time. If ever.
Negan’s pleased with the looks of Alexandria. Plenty of spoils to take. When Rick tries talking to Daryl, the bad man makes clear he is “help” and nothing more. Scariest part of this guy is that he’s also sexually threatening to the women. We’ve already seen, and heard from his own mouth, about what happened to Dwight; not good. He’s got women amongst the Saviors, as well. But just like hardline right-wing women, there is a seething hatred likely underneath their hard exterior. No telling what Negan’s offered them, what type of options they’ve been given to this point to make them follow his orders. On top of everything else, Alexandria gets pillaged of supplies, so on. Leaves them withered to even think about taking on Negan if they’re struggling to keep themselves in goods to appease him.
Out in the field Michonne takes shots at a walker in the distance. She never quite hits the thing in the head. So it’s back to the sword. Moments later she happens across a deer in the woods, dead, bullet hole in its neck.
More and more we see that Negan is happy with what Alexandria provides: “This is the kind of stuff that just tickles my balls!” Moreover, he finds the tapes Deanna left long ago. The tape shows a bearded, wild Rick. Not the man he is today. Such a stark contrast, one heavy reminder. Then Negan begins taunting some about Maggie (Lauren Cohan), talking about widows in a real nasty manner. Oh, and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) shows up. They tell Negan that Maggie is dead, buried. We know it isn’t true. That isn’t something we’d not see. But this baseball wielding bastard doesn’t need to know.
A gun goes off down the street. Carl (Chandler Riggs) isn’t letting the Saviors take all their things. He’s holding them at gunpoint. This pisses the big guy off when they catch up. Negan does feel slightly impressed with Carl’s balls. Eventually the kid gives up, his father watching with tears welling in his eyes, not wanting another person – especially his son – dead in front of his eyes. Shitty thing is that Negan will be taking firepower with him when he leaves. Again, withering Alexandria worse than before.
Lots of psyching out from Negan. He continually batters people, physically and mentally, no matter with whom he’s dealing. Even his own guys, now and then. With Rick it is brutal. To see such a strong, relentless leader as him be crushed into submission by anyone shitty, let alone this dude, is a bit of Shakespearean tragedy. Yes, it’s needed story wise. And I love it. But still a hard pill to swallow when you love Rick, as well as Andrew Lincoln (gives him a proper role to chew into this season though).
Rosita and Spencer (Austin Nichols) head out and find Daryl’s motorcycle in the woods. “This is where Rick got us,” he tells her. Sad that he sees it that way. A defeatist attitude. Rosita then runs into the woods out of nowhere while he talks.
Negan gets his hands on the RPG the gang used – Daryl specifically – to blow those guys off the road last season. Furthermore, he discovers an accounting error in the books Olivia keeps for the armoury. Missing guns. Uh oh. “Two handguns short.” This might cause trouble. Lucille is thirsty for Olivia.
In the church Rick asks his group who’s holding the guns. Nobody speaks up, though Rick and the core few witnessed what happened to Abraham and Glenn. “I‘m not in charge anymore; Negan is,” he tells the people in front of him.
Rosita tracks a couple zombies in the woods and then takes down a group of them like a bad ass. She snags a gun off one of them. No ammo. She wants to make sure Alexandria has some protection left when Negan rolls out. “This is not our life,” she tells Spencer. I love her, and hope she continues to be a bigger character from here on in.
Whereas Rick panics looking for the guns, Gabriel tries reassuring him that things will change for the better. He has faith in Rick, after all they’ve been through together. Aaron (Ross Marquand) searched Rosita’s room, nothing, and there are less places by the minute to check. When Rick steps on a floorboard there’s a hiding place with canned food, liquor, and… you betcha, a couple handguns. A Savior accosts Enid (Katelyn Nacon) outside like a dirty creep. Nobody can do anything except watch on, which doesn’t make Carl happy, or anybody for that matter.
So Negan’s got his guns, for now Olivia is safe. But the bad man and his bat wants Rick to keep a lid on his people. If not, I imagine more head smashing. Oh, I can’t wait to see someone get the upper hand on Negan! I want his villainy to last, but very much looking forward to the tension once he and Rick (or whoever) go up against one another in a more violent way.
The toughest is when Rick has to go to Michonne for her rifle. He knows that she’s been practising. She refuses to let go of her weapon. Rick is done losing people, regardless the price. I understand that, in a way. Upsets me to see these two divided amongst themselves after so much.
When the Saviors are ready to leave, Rick wants Daryl to stay. Seeing as how they’ve given over so much. No dice. Next time Negan comes through he wants “something interesting” or somebody will get fed to Lucille.
With nothing left Alexandria goes on as it did before, only hungrier, less equipped. At least Rosita has a gun. Not sure what good one will do, but one is better than none. Not everything is swell around town, not even mattresses to sleep on. Rick and Michonne are at odds over this new defeated way of living. For the first time in so long he talks about Shane, and the beginning of the zombie apocalypse, how Lori got together with Shane, the whole story. He admits: “I know Judith isn‘t mine. I know it.” Although he loves her like his own. He hopes to teach her to survive. Mostly, he talks of having to accept so many things out of his reach. It’s either take this life now, or nothing at all. But for how long?
Back in that field Michonne goes. Up on the rusty truck. On the horizon she sees smoke. In the road are their mattresses, burning. All for the Saviors to have fun with, not for sleeping.
More importantly, Rosita remembers something crucial with no bullets in her gun: Eugene knows how to make ammo.
Lots of good stuff setting up here. Great dialogue and tension between Rick and Negan, as well as the fact we get more Rosita, which is unusual yet welcome, and the other characters aren’t being left behind.
Next up is “Go Getters” and I’m hoping the tune changes from this episode. Really good one, just felt that by the end the Negan-speak was getting on my nerves. I dig the dialogue, the whole smug personality irks me after a while.
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 3: “The Cell”
Directed by Alrick Riley
Written by Angela Kang
* For a review of the previous episode, “The Well” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Service” – click here
This week, we’re back with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and his captive, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus). Will we see a confrontation? Doubtful. I worry mostly for Daryl because he cares too much. Seeing as how, technically, he’s the reason Glenn took a barbed wire bat to the dome – over and over until his brains were mush – I feel as if Daryl’s going to take that on heavily, and psychologically he might never be the same again. It’ll be most interesting because Daryl’s not a comic book character, so his reaction to and involvement with Glenn dying comes totally from the writers here on the series. Let’s hope they do him right.
With Daryl in the clutches of Negan’s Saviors he witnesses how they live, which involves alcohol, lots of fresh food, even watching old tapes of Who’s the Boss? or at least that’s how it is for Dwight (Austin Amelio). Not everyone is so privileged. The Saviors have free run of everything within their grasp. Everyone in sight kneels for Negan, though. What a sad, sorry lot. Dwight pillages food to make himself a sandwich, as Daryl gets fed dog food between two buns. He’s already been down to eating dog chow. Stuck in a dark hole he’ll take what he can get. No less humiliating.
Poor Daryl, he has to listen to awful music, tortured how they liked to do in Guantanamo. He’s fed dog food, woken up constantly by the same song. No idea how much time is passing. They’re trying to break him down. The want to make him a Savior, from what I can tell. At one point he’s brought – wearing a sweatshirt bearing a large orange A – to a room where Dr. Carson (Tim Parati) checks him out. They run into Sherry (Christine Evangelista), who’s recently tested negative for pregnancy. Hmm, interesting. Does she belong to Negan? Or are she and Dwight an item? Hard to tell. But you can be sure women are probably closet to second class citizens in this type of society. The doctor has nothing for Daryl other than: “Negan will take care of you.” They run into the man himself. He wants to chat with Dwight. The saddest is seeing Daryl stare at a real room, one with a bed, a chair, books, so on.
Meanwhile, he’s brought outside where a ton of walkers are behind a chain link fence. Other men with sweatshirts, numbers spray painted on them, are in the pen. Dwight threatens Daryl, as if he’s not aware of the danger around him already. Then he gets tossed back in the dark little room to rot. “I ain‘t ever gonna kneel,” Daryl tells his captor. If he doesn’t though, what exactly will happen? Dwight seems to think he’ll kneel. Sooner or later. And the music starts all over again. Enough to drive any normal person totally insane. Negan’s happy with the progress, all said. We get a bit of saucy talk from the leader, mentioning “you know who” – I assume that’s Sherry. I can see somewhere down the line somebody will take inspiration from the coming rebellion against Negan, and one of his own men is someday going to be part of his downfall. That’s my take. One thing’s for sure: Negan has Dwight wrapped around his fist, not even just a finger.
Daryl gets himself out of the dark closet and makes it down one of the equally dark hallways nearby. At the same time, Dwight is on the road headed somewhere, trying to move through a crowd of zombies left splattered along the highway. Parts are caked with guts, and then Dwight is nearly taken out once a walker comes flying down off the overpass. Whoa.
In the hallways Sherry finds Daryl. She warns him: “There‘s always more. You won‘t get away. And when you‘re back, it‘ll be worse.” Negan and his boys find him, too. They crowd around our hero. “Who are you?” Negan asks the guys around him: “Negan,” they all reply in creepy cult fashion. “I am everywhere,” he explains to Daryl. He makes clear that there is no way forward, alive, except to follow him. He even throws back to the bat, about to smash another head. Daryl flinches not even an inch. That doesn’t impress Lucille, though it does Negan. He’s one sick bastard, this guy. The Saviors beat Daryl down on their own like a bunch of bitches. Once he’s put back in the hole, Sherry comes to talk. About the last time she saw Daryl, when they stole his bike. And she admits to being sorry, finally.
On his way home Dwight looks rough. He happens across a man being attacked by a walker, he tackles him. It’s a stray from the flock. He doesn’t want to be a part of what Negan has going on there, not anymore. We discover that Dwight had a wife – Sherry – and that Negan did something bad, to them both; did he claim Sherry as his own? I think so. Either way, being on Negan’s side doesn’t always guarantee safety. Not fully. That’s what we’re coming to understand gradually. Isn’t that the general rule for cults? Because make no mistake: his commune is a cult. This man isn’t allowed to walk away, though. Dwight makes sure of it.
More dog food sandwiches for Daryl, more mental abuse. He’s left with one of those Polaroids, y’know, the ones we saw Glenn looking at near the end of last season when they came upon The Saviors’ lair. Sadly, this one is of Glenn’s smashed brains. Daryl gets left in the dark with having to see what he, accidentally, caused for his friend. It is horrific, and breaks his heart into pieces. Plus, more music to drive him mad (Roy Orbison’s “Crying” I believe).
Note: a silently amazing performance in this episode out of Reedus; an actor’s actor right now.
Later, Daryl’s brought to see Negan in that nice room the former stared into earlier. The fearful leader tells the tale of Dwight, his former wife, her ill sister. Seems that Negan wanted to make her his wife, then Dwight ran off with the ladies and stolen medication. We further discover Lucille had to take a victim. Then Sherry agreed to marry Negan, in order to save her husband. Dwight still had to take his punishment, all the same. Yikes, what a fucking horrorshow.
He finally asks Daryl: “Who are you?” No reply.
Will he break?
He asks once again and the nearly broken man replies: “Daryl.” So into the hole, more torture. They won’t kill him. Yet. But before Dwight leaves him alone, Daryl appeals to any bit of humanity left inside the guy. He makes clear that it isn’t only about him. He can’t give up. Not for Negan; not for anybody. I can see a glimmer of hope left deep in Dwight, I’d like to think he can change. However, it’s unclear if that can ever happen. If he could ever live through it. What’s interesting is he wears the old biker cut Daryl wore, wings and all. Sort of speaks hope in itself.
I am loving Season 7! They are stepping up, in big ways. Lot of different avenues for storytelling and different plots from various characters, many angles. Negan allows for plenty of that, as does the opening up of communities in the zombie apocalypse.
Next episode is titled “Service” and I believe we’ll begin to see the communities interact more. Will we see Rick Grimes and the crew, as well?
AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 2: “The Well”
Directed by Greg Nicotero
Written by Matthew Negrete
* For a review of the Season 7 premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “The Cell” – click here
Morgan (Lennie James) and Carol (Melissa McBride) are being led to safety by a couple men in body armour, the ones they last met in the end of Season 6. On the road they’re overrun by walkers. Injured Carol is toppled off a cart they were carrying her on, though in her usual style she doesn’t stay down long, stumbling off through the nearby woods. Where the fuck are you going, Carol? She sees a woman in a window calling her. Only it’s not a woman, it’s a zombie. Luckily more people on horses show up to clear out the walkers. However, Carol’s only able to see them as people. Oh, man. Her apocalypse has been an absolute nightmare compared to that of others. Morgan keeps marking their way, so that there’s a possibility of heading back. Although I don’t see that happening any time soon.
Finally Morgan and Carol get to take a rest, in a real place again. She lies recuperating in an actual bed. Wind chimes in the window. A sort of surreal moment. Plus, she’s been sleeping a couple days. Only natural. They’ve been brought to a true community, with a bunch of crops, what looks like a schoolhouse, and clearly a clinic of sorts. They’re in the Kingdom, as the locals call it.
Then Carol gets to meet the leader of this place, King Ezekiel (Khary Payton). He’s got a nice pet tiger, too. Named Shiva.
Shit’s about to get real, mama.
Ezekiel talks like he’s in a Renaissance Fair, referring to their home as “the realm” and y’know, having a tiger around on a big chain, sitting on a throne. He’s definitely a bit much to take in at first. Definitely quite the character, in all sense of the word. No bullshit Carol tells him “I don‘t know what‘s going on in the most wonderful way.” The King lays it out that everyone does their part to earn their keep, and anything the Kingdom reaps is theirs to enjoy. This episode’s title comes from Ezekiel’s analogy of having to take from the well and also replenish the well. For the time being Carol plays into the whole medieval nonsense this guy has going on. I can’t help but wonder, as a man with his own mental illness duo: is this guy okay? Morgan wants to believe, so god damn bad that he’s willing to follow along. Of course we know Carol has no time to deal with this kind of shit, even before she makes it known.
A few of the Kingdom’s members rally together some pigs that went running lose. Side note: lot of great zombie makeup effects that could easily go unnoticed, if you take a second and pause there’s magnificent work to appreciate. On their outing Morgan proves to be a friend of the Kingdom, helping out a younger man surprised by a walker. Ezekiel enjoys Morgan’s skills with the staff; real recognises real and bad motherfuckers know one when they see one. He even gets Morgan to agree to train the kid he helped out, Ben.
Yes, the Kingdom is a place to behold. A local choir group sings a rendition of Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice It’s All Right.” Carol has a look around, nabbing herself a knife on the sly and pretending to be a good little citizen, excited over “cobbler” and other yummy foods compared to possum and the nasty shit they survived on. She’s tricky, man. Dig it. Snags a set of clothes, as well. Looking forward to her getaway.
Some of the Kingdom’s secrets are revealed to Morgan, as we see they hand over their well-fed pigs – full with walker guts – to whom I can only assume are The Saviors.
Morgan eventually finds Carol gone in the wind. She runs into Ezekiel, though. They end up having a private conversation, as he talks a little straight with her. He knows her game. They speak of the Saviors, about her survival tactics. I love how straight shooting Carol is, not afraid to call Ezekiel a straight up “joke” to his face. She questions his motives for acting like a King, let alone all the semi-medieval speak (he’s just talking fancy he isn’t even talking Middle English or anything). But finally he drops the whole thing, levelling with Carol about how people simply want someone to follow. It’s all a cult of personality. But what if that cult of personality served a good purpose, such as the Kingdom? Sure, he has his ass kissed like Carol calls him out, although they’ve built themselves a community. “I faked it ‘till I made it,” he admits. We find out that Shiva had a near fatal injury. Ezekiel saved her life, which bonded them together eternally. There’s also the fact Ezekiel once did community theatre, so he has them acting chops. At first I thought he was a bit of a nob. Now I actually really like him.
So will Carol stay, or will she (should she) go?
She’s decided to leave, it seems. More effective and happier on her own. Morgan rides with her out onto a nearby road. They say their goodbyes and she heads up to a house where she’d seen the woman earlier. She buries her in the front lawn then makes a fire inside. At the door comes knocking Ezekiel, apple in hand. I have a feeling these two are going to become better friends. Maybe he’ll convince her to come back to the Kingdom. I hope so.
This was a solid episode. Nothing crazy, just bringing us into the world of the Kingdom.
Excited for next week. Following episode is titled “The Cell” and I’m wondering who the focus will be on this time.
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
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 won‘t 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: “I‘m 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?
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: “That‘s 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.
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.
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.
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!