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TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.9 “Rock In The Road” (Mid-Season Premiere)
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The Walking Dead, Season 7 Episode 9 review

The Walking Dead
Episode 7.9 “Rock in the Road”
Directed by Angela Kang
Written by Greg Nicotero
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Christian Serratos, Sonequa Martin-Green, Josh McDermitt, Khary Payton, Austin Amelio, Tom Payne, Katelyn Nacon, Alanna Masterson
AMC
Air Date: Sunday, February 12, 2017

Warning – SPOILERS for AMC’s The Walking Dead…

The first part of Season 7 of The Walking Dead was a tough one to get through, as it began with the brutal death of two main characters, including one who was extremely popular with fans. All of this was at the hands of the new bad guy in town, Negan, who proved in eight episodes that he was bigger and badder than any other villain that Rick and the gang have come up against before. Week after week, we watched as Rick yielded to Negan’s sadistic will and his group at Alexandria became subjugated to The Saviors.

The 90-minute mid-season 7 finale, Episode 7.8 “Hearts Still Beating,” which aired back in December, finally brought us hope that Rick and his crew might be able to rise above once more. Daryl escaped his dark cell at Negan’s Sanctuary compound, and he and Jesus make it to the Hilltop Colony, where Maggie, Sasha and Enid were holed up. At the episode’s end, we see the aforementioned characters greet Rick and his crew — Tara, Michonne, Rosita, and Carl — who have arrived to make a plan to stop Negan, which will include a possible team-up with King Ezekiel and The Kingdom, and perhaps even with the women of the Oceanside colony.

But in a post-credits scene, we see a hooded figure at nighttime watching Alexandria who is wearing the same boots as the mystery person who was trailing Rick and Aaron on their recent scavenging trip. The figure is seen walking away from the community.

Episode 7.9 “Rock in the Road” marks the mid-Season 7 premiere, and it opens to what appears to be that same nighttime scene at Alexandria, where Father Gabriel is on watch. He’s thumbing through his Bible, but then starts looking around. He eventually makes his way to the Pantry and Armory, where he ransacks everything and drives off with everything, leaving behind his Bible. What is he doing and where is he going?

Over at the Hilltop, Rick and his group are trying to convince Gregory to join them to fight the Saviors. It’s obvious that Gregory has no interest in an uprising and is complacent with his arrangement with Negan. But it turns out not everyone at the Hilltop feels that way. Enid had told some of the citizens that Rick wants to fight and they ask if they can really win against the Saviors. Yes, we can, says Maggie, and they believe her.

So what is the plan to combat Negan and the Saviors? They don’t want to bomb the place, because there are innocent workers living at the Sanctuary, too. No, what they need are people and weapons, which is why Jesus takes them all to meet King Ezekiel at The Kingdom.

Once they arrive at the Kingdom, they are met by Ezekiel’s right-hand man, Richard, who we’ve learned already hates the Saviors and wants to fight them. Jesus explains that Rick and his group are a “like-minded community,” they want a peaceful coexistence. They enter the Kingdom and see how the people live – farming and training to fight, which gives Rick hope. Here, they are also reunited with Morgan, who explains what happened with Carol, though he negates the part about how she’s living nearby in self-imposed exile. He also admits that he had to kill someone to save Carol.

Rick and crew are brought in to meet King Ezekiel and his court, which includes the massive tiger Shiva. Rick explains that the three communities — Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom — are all under the forces of the Saviors. It’s here where Morgan learns that Negan brutally killed Glenn and Abraham, and that the Saviors also killed Spencer and Olivia, and captured Eugene and Daryl, although Daryl escaped (he’s with them there) and has a target on him. Rick explains that they need to unite against the Saviors because although his group is strong, there’s not enough of them and they don’t have weapons. Rick goes on to tell the story of “the rock in the road,” an item that hurts travelers, yet none of them want to take on the task of removing the rock. Until one day a little girl does because she can’t understand why anyone would leave something harmful behind for others to be hurt by. Beneath the rock she finds a bag of gold, because the king who placed it there wanted to reward the person who took on this task. Ezekiel says he will give his answer in the morning.

Nearby, young Benjamin is out in the woods training when he comes upon Carol. She’s nice to him, yet berates him, too. It’s clear she still wants to be left alone, but Benjamin says Ezekiel won’t stop looking after her because that’s what he does for people he cares about. Benjamin also reveals that he always carries extra food and water – which he offers to Carol – in case he comes upon someone in need.

Later, Benjamin tells Ezekiel about his encounter with Carol and urges him to join Rick’s fight against the Saviors. He says if they don’t help, Rick will lose. If Rick manages to win, he’ll have saved them all while the Kingdom did nothing to help. He says his father always told him that if he has a chance to be a hero, then be a hero.

The next morning, Ezekiel makes his decision: He’s not going to join the fight. Most of his people do not know about the arrangement with the Saviors, and he must do everything to protect them. But, he offers to grant Daryl asylum there, which Rick accepts. Ezekiel says that the Saviors do not come inside the Kingdom walls, but Daryl says for how long? We know it won’t be long.

Rick and his crew head out back to Alexandria. Sasha tells Rosita she’s pissed at Ezekiel’s decision, even though she knew that’s what he’d do. Rosita, however, has no desire to bond with the woman who Abraham left her for. “What are you telling me for?” Rosita asks her. “We both had sex with the same dead guy, it doesn’t make us friends.” Damn, Rosita! We all thought (and Sasha too obviously) that the women had bonded over Abraham’s death, but Rosita is not having it.

On the way back to Alexandria, Rick and company listen in on one of Negan’s walkie talkies that Jesus had stolen. They hear Negan giving a eulogy for Fat Joey, who Daryl killed during his escape from the Sanctuary. This is when they come upon a roadblock ahead, and to the side they can see the compound in the distance. They decide to remove the cars, with the plan to return them to their places after they pass. But then Michonne sees that in the road there’s a steel cable filled with explosives! This can be valuable weapons for them, so they go about carefully dismantling the explosives. But a nearby Walker herd is approaching, while on the walkie they hear Negan gathering men to go out to look for Daryl back at Alexandria, so they really have to hurry now. But time is running out! Rick tells Sasha and Jesus to head back to Hilltop on foot, while Carl, Rosita, and Tara get to the vans. Michone and Rick then hotwire two cars and clothesline most of the herd in an epic sequence! But it doesn’t end there. They hop out and make their way through the remaining walkers to get to the van. As they drive away, they see the walkers trip up the explosives that were left behind. That was close!!! “We made it, we can make it, we can,” Michonne tells Rick, “We’re the ones who live.”

Rick and crew make it back to Alexandria with mere minutes to spare before the Saviors show up and search the grounds looking for Daryl, trashing the place as they go. They notice that the pantry is bare, and Aaron is there to make a quick excuse that they have a lot of people to feed and they now spend their time scavenging for Negan. As they leave, Rick is warned that there’s no statute of limitations on the hunt for Daryl. Once the Saviors are outside the gates, Rick gets the scoop on what happened with the pantry: It appears that Father Gabriel, who was on watch the night before, took everything and left, which is hard for Rick to believe. He finds the priest’s Bible, and concludes that he would never leave without it without a good reason. He looks through the pantry inventory notebook – at the back is the word “Boat,” which Rick concludes is a reference to Aaron and Rick’s recent scavenging trip.

As Aaron prepares to leave to help Rick find Gabriel, his husband comes in to ask him not to go. He has figured out that Rick once again wants to fight the Saviors. “I want us alive, both of us,” he tells Aaron, but Aaron must go.

The last scene is Rick, Aaron, Michonne, Tara, and Rosita heading back to where the boat was. They find footprints and follow them, but are soon surrounded by people with guns and shovels. As the episode ends, Rick smiles. But why? These people look dangerous. Perhaps it’s because he’s trying to raise an army with weapons and look what we have here!

It would appear that Father Gabriel teamed up with the person who was watching Alexandria, who is likely the same person who tailed Rick and Aaron on their trip. And now the priest is leading Rick to their new allies.

Image Gallery

Video

The Walking Dead Ep. 709 Official Mid-Season Premiere Sneak Peek: ‘Roadblock’


Rick is ready, but the Saviors do not want to be easily found.

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