Beta grapples with his identity after discovering Alpha's now dead.
Michonne takes Virgil to his island but discovers it's not what she expected.
Al's captured by a mysterious woman
Glenn & Maggie are broken out of Woodbury. But these troubles are only the beginning of the heartache for Rick & his crew.
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.
Eugene finds out what it's like to be on Negan & Lucille's good side. While Dwight falls further into despair.
On their search for Father Gabriel, Rick and the Alexandria crew stumble onto a group of people unlike any they've encountered on the road of the zombie apocalypse so far.
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.