THE WALKING DEAD returns from winter break with an energized Team Rick ready to kick the “Rock in The Road.” The winter finale ended with in a hopeful direction and this episode continued that momentum. We don’t see any of Negan this episode, or what he is doing with Eugene. Negan grabbed Eugene after he admitted to making Rosita’s assassination bullet. Also, there hasn’t been any sign of Heath since he split from Tara on their supply run.
However, we do get to catch up with just about everyone else. They aren’t quite working together yet, but it’s good to see them all in frame again. The episode starts with a Father Gabriel sequence. It’s night and he’s all alone on guard duty but he’s up to some lone wolf plan. We see him check out the goods ledger, then he goes around and gathers up food and tools. He fills a car up with boxes of supplies and fuel, and drives off before the guard change at dawn. Tobin discovers him missing. There isn’t any note and some people think he finked out in the middle of the night. Rick doesn’t accept that suspicion. He doesn’t know why Father Gabriel left, but he finds his bible and a notebook with a message written on one page, “Boat.” Rick and Aaron think the note refers to the last big stash of goods they found on the boat in the middle of the lake. We’ll circle back to this in a minute.
Rick and his A-Team are full of gas to take Negan down but they have few weapons and not enough personnel. “Rock in The Road” is all about Rick’s attempt to build a fighting coalition. He starts with Gregory at Hilltop. Jesus supports to Rick’s plea for alliance, but Gregory is too cowardly. Gregory thinks he best serves his community by maintaining peace with Negan. He isn’t blind to the losses in his community, but he blames them on Rick. Furthermore, he pulls out of their original agreement since Rick did not hold up his end in defeating the saviors. While the team’s plea falls flat in Gregory’s office, Enid manages to gather support from some of the Hilltop community grateful for Maggie and Sasha’s defense against their recent walker attack. Call it a win. It’s great to see a spark in Enid again. Maybe things will turn around for her and Carl.
Jesus leads Rick to The Kingdom to meet with King Ezekiel. This was a great sequence for many reasons. King Ezekiel is no coward, he leans way more towards the genius side. Season seven, more than any other season explores a leadership theme. We see the cowardly, but peace-keeping Gregory administration. There is Tanya’s powerful, aggressive, yet secretive and xenophobic Oceanside administration. Rick’s had his gated, live and let live, Alexandria community. Then, there is King Ezekiel with Shiva, his tiger, and peasants. It’s a benevolent and successful monarchy. He’s less caught up in the power the Gregory enjoys, the anxiety that drives Tanya, the terror that serves Negan, or the stress and guilt baggage that weighs down Rick. Ezekiel sees the possibility of community, building a sustainable republic in a more realistic way that Deanna.
Ezekiel, in his Kingdom, does not jump to conclusions. He listens to Rick’s pitch but wants to take a night to consider it. Richard, The Kingdom’s security force captain, is ready to join Rick’s attack and offer his support when the time comes. Ezekiel decides not to support Rick’s uprising yet, but he does offer sanctuary for Daryl. He has an agreement with Negan, the saviors don’t set foot inside The Kingdom. So far, Negan has kept his word. Rick and Daryl meet up with Morgan and he tells them he found Carol and the doctors at The Kingdom saved her life, but then he lies and said she left. We know she’s just outside the community in her little Carol house.
Rick leaves Daryl behind to try and convince Ezekiel. I have mixed feeling about this. Negan discovers Daryl missing and will most likely make an example out of him for escaping and killing Fat Joey. Daryl stays behind to be safe but I think he’s in more danger now than ever. On the other hand, I wouldn’t count Ezekiel out. The guys has a pet tiger, that takes all kinds of skill.
On the way back to Alexandria, Rick discover a trap left by the Saviors to blow up a walker horde headed their direction. There is a car blockade and huge IED set up. Rick jumps at the chance to scrounge the explosives for use in his future attack. There is a great gag here where Rick and Michonne drive through the horde with a steal cable tied between two vehicles. They leave a few explosives behind so the Saviors will think they all blew up in the ambush, it’s enough to create a visual mushroom cloud.
Rick and Aaron lead a team back to the lake where found the boat, at first they are looking for Father Gabriel, but they find other tracks. Team Rick is surrounded by a new group of armed people, we don’t see who they are, but he seems encouraged by their appearance. This was a great episode to return with. We get to check in with the people we care about, low trauma, but gives us a lot to look forward too.
Season 7, Episode 9 (S07E09)
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9PM on AMC
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Eric Rodriguez | Contributor