The Walking Dead S07E09 “Rock in the Road”
Essential Plot Points:
- Previously on The Walking Dead… let’s…you know what, let’s not talk about it.
- We open with Father Gabriel on the wall at Alexandria. He reads the bible a little, gets some comfort from it and goes for a walk. He goes to the stores, empties an entire shelf and, checking a list, moves on. Knives, shovels, spades, anything with an edge.
- Gabriel packs a car full of supplies, gases it up and leaves.
- So, this is going well already.
- At Hilltop, Gregory is DONE. Unsurprisingly, Rick’s, “Let’s go to war!” pitch is met with “..ARE YOU KIDDING ME?” The group do their best to persuade him and utterly fail.
- They regroup outside and are met by Enid who shows them the Hilltop residents who want to volunteer to fight.
- There are less than 10 of them.
- It’s a start.
- As they leave, Jesus reveals he lifted a walkie talkie from the Saviours. They don’t have to run and hide. They’ll hear the Saviours coming. Smiling, Jesus suggests it’s time they were introduced to King Ezekiel…
- Jesus takes them to the Kingdom where, brilliantly, they are immediately met by two Knights, one of whom breaks into the “WHO DARES TRESPASS UPON THE LAND?!” script the moment he sees Jesus. They request an audience and are told they’ll have to hand over their weapons. They reluctantly agree.
- The Kingdom is still deeply, amazingly lovely. They’re delighted to find Morgan in situ and he fills them in on what happened. Morgan confesses that he killed the Saviour who was about to murder Carol to Rick and Daryl who absolve him in a supremely manly way.
- Ezekiel and Jerry and Jesus in the same scene! It’s like a cheerful singularity!
- Rick makes his pitch. He levels with them and in doing so offhandedly mentions to a complete stranger that four people Morgan knew very well have been murdered.
- Morgan takes it better than he should given the method of communication. Especially when Rosita gives him attitude for the fact he was basically right, for no reason at all.
- Ezekiel asks Morgan’s counsel. He suggests any other way besides war. Rick tells a long, involved story about helping out where you can and the rewards you may get for it and Ezekiel invites them all to stay the night. His decree will be delivered in the morn.
- Benjamin is hunting in the woods when he sees someone holding him at gunpoint. It’s Carol. Who grumps at him.
- Benjamin is adorable. Carol is a grumpy bringer of doom who likes him JUUUUUST a little bit more than she is prepared to let on.
- Back at the Kingdom, Ezekiel is reciting MLK speeches to Ben’s younger brother. Ben returns and they chat about how he’s pushing himself. Ben mentions he saw Carol and Ezekiel just about manages to look chill. He uses the reasoning behind the Knights carrying food and water for others to persuade Ezekiel to help Rick. Ezekiel thanks him for his counsel and tells him how proud of him he is. Which is both adorable and, we’re pretty sure, puts Ben on an “eight weeks or less before death” countdown.
- The following day, Team Alexandria returns to hear the decree. They meet by an archery class, largely full of people who’ve lost limbs in the service of the Kingdom. Ezekiel argues that he has to worry about his people and Daryl confronts him. Ezekiel explains that the price of the Kingdom was lives, limbs. He won’t grant them the aid they need. But he’s sympathetic and offers Daryl asylum. Daryl wants none of it, and he and the other Alexandrians leave in disgust. As, interestingly, does Morgan…
- Sasha tries to bond with Rosita who shuts her down with, “We both had sex with the same dead guy. Doesn’t make us friends.” Which is both completely out of left field and puts her right next to Benjamin on the “dead by the end of the season” list.
- Simon falls into line with them and explains that he’s with them. They have to fight because the longer they give to the Saviours the stronger they’ll be. Rick tells Daryl to stay and, super reluctantly, he agrees.
- The following day, they hear Negan eulogising Fat Joey over the walkie talkie. Because obviously the show needs a little fat shaming even if it murdered all the fat characters last half-season.
- Team Alexandria finds a Saviour-constructed roadblock. They carefully move the cars out of the way, then move them back to ensure the Saviours don’t know they’ve been through. Which just seems… anyway.
- Michonne spots something: a tripwire rigged with dynamite to take down a herd. Carl heard them talking about this during Operation Murder Negan. Rosita starts defusing the explosives, right around the time Negan finally notices Daryl has gone missing and launches a search party. Team Alexandria starts carefully, and frantically, taking the explosive barricade apart knowing full well the Saviours could be heading their way any second.
- The herd appears in the distance. They keep working.
- Rick splits the team between explosive harvesting and putting the cars back in place.The plan is simple; use the Saviours’ own herd-moving tactics, perhaps, against them.
- MUCH MUCH more of the Herd appears. Rick sends Sasha and Jesus back to Hilltop.
- The Herd is right on top of them at this point. Rick and Michonne hotwire a pair of cars as the Herd swarms Team Alexandria’s vehicles and…
- With the cable between them, they accelerate down parallel lanes of the motorway tearing an easy hundred or so Walkers in half.
- They fight their way through to the vehicle everyone else is in and make their escape.
- As they do, a single set of dynamite, that Rosita did not like the look of at ALL, detonates and rips the Herd apart.
- Rick teeters on the edge, realizing just how much he pushed their luck and Michonne tells him that they CAN make it.
- They’re barely back at Alexandria before the Saviours roll up. Well, it’s minute 41 of the episode so we were about due a Saviours Power Dynamic Montage.
- They show up. The break everything they somehow hadn’t already broken or stolen.
- They steal more things. They don’t find Daryl. That’s pretty much it.
- The second the Saviours leave, Rick asks what’s up with the pantry. Spencer explains that Gabriel and a car have vanished with everything in the Pantry. Everyone else writes it off as theft. Rick refuses to believe them.
- They find Gabriel’s bible on the floor. Rosita is convinced he’s a thief, but Rick isn’t having it. He finds a single word written in the back of a notebook: “Boat”. Somehow, Gabriel knew they were out there.
- Brace yourself: the show remembered Spencer is gay.
- In a genuinely very sweet moment, his boyfriend gives him a wide variety of very understandable reasons to not go after Gabriel. When Aaron asks if he wants to leave he responds, “I want us. Both. Alive.” No easy answers, no right answers, just two smart, capable people on different sides of an equation.
- At the houseboat from last season, Rick finds tracks. They follow them beyond the lake to a junkyard of caravans and broken down cars.
- And then they’re surrounded. Out of nowhere an army of almost a hundred people just appear, all carrying weapons, all ready for war.
- And Rick Grimes smiles..
On the one hand this is pretty much exactly the episode you’d expect it to be. Rick and Team Alexandria try to raise an army, it doesn’t go well, they check in with everyone and out we go. That aspect of it is certainly there and while it’s fun it’s not much more than that. Ezekiel refusing to join them makes sense to the point of predictability; Gregory refusing to join them makes sense and is HILARIOUS.
And neither of them matter. We know Ezekiel is going to change sides and we’re guessing it’ll be over Benjamin’s newly-mutilated corpse. We know Gregory is probably going to change sides or Carol and Jesus will just take Hilltop away from him. This element of the plot isn’t about the individual episode, it’s about the arc. If we’d had them both go, “Yeah, sure, okay!” this episode…? No tension. As it stands we get very little with them turning Rick and co down but it’s at least understandable. If not actually that engrossing.
The joy of the episode lies, oddly, in not viewing it as anything beyond the first chapter of the season. Stop looking for short term validation and there’s a BUNCH of stuff going on here. Rick and co meet Ezekiel, they make a surprising, and welcome, ammunition discovery and there’s an action sequence which is just gloriously over-the-top. Even better, the show’s putting plenty of lines in the water. The mysterious new group, Gabriel’s possible allegiance with them and the welcome geography lesson all serve to give us an idea of not only how big the world is but how small it is too.
It’s not all successful, of course. Rosita’s attitude change comes completely out of left field with almost no context and the Saviours’ scene is exactly the same as every single other one so far. Plus it’s not that satisfying as a one-off. But as the start of a half-season? It’s a good chapter one, and promises much more to come. It’s just a shame that, right now, the show seems happy sacrificing individual episode structure for long-term payoffs. That’s a risky gamble, and one that, if we get another six weeks of people slowly deciding to join Alexandria, is going to be hard to sit through in the extreme. But, right now, Rick and co have our attention
- “TRY to talk to Ezekiel. Or stare him into submission, whatever it takes.”
“We’re here. You can smile. We made it. We can make it. WE CAN.”
“You know Richard, I’ve never seen you smile. I think that’s gonna change today.”
“Let me stop you there before you break into song.” EPIC Gregory sass for the win
- The Knight dropping script with, “Oh hey, Jesus!” is hilarious.
- Rick and Daryl visibly and silently going “…THE HELL?!” at the tiger is brilliant.
- Morgan holding the line despite EVERYTHING is difficult and brave and people are going to hate it, but it is great. Likewise his clear white lie about not knowing where Carol is.
- PARALLEL WALKER CAR FATALITY STORM! That was completely ridiculous and brilliant. Top marks all round.
- Rick believing in Gabriel despite the evidence. After the relentless bagging on him over the last season and a bit that’s a welcome change.
- Daryl reacting badly to being told to line up is a lovely little grace note after his time in captivity.
- Aaron’s boyfriend! Getting lines! And none of them being that stereotypical!
- The fact Negan’s guest appearance was audio only. Smartly done.
- This week the Saviours show up, steal things, break things and leave. This is literally the only thing they ever do. This scene could have been swapped out for every previous Saviour scene and it would still fit. For the love of God, let’s give them the context the Saviour-centric episodes did last season because right now? Outside their own compound they’re BORING.
- Morgan finding out that Abraham, Glenn, Spencer and Olivia were killed in an offhand way is ridiculous.
- What’s crawled up Rosita’s arse and died? The attitude she cops with Morgan and Sasha is completely out of leftfield.
- The fact that Negan’s guest appearance was almost literally him going. “HA! FAT JOEY WAS FAT! HA HA!” The fat-shaming last season was horrific. Having it this season makes me:
a) Very angry.
b) Worry for Jerry.
c) Hope that Jerry drives his axe through Negan’s skull yelling something about how it’s not just fat, IT’S POWER.
And the Random:
- So the cars strung with dynamite were… to… blow up the herd? We’re guessing? It did seem very elaborate, perhaps needlessly so, but hey it got us a cool moment.
Review by Alasdair Stuart