“You know, Richard, I’ve never seen you smile. I think that’s going to change today,” says Jesus (Tom Payne) to Richard (Karl Makinen) as he escorts Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Carl (Chandler Riggs), and a handful of other Alexandrians to see King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) in hopes of getting the Kingdom to fight the Saviors in AMC’s horror/drama series, The Walking Dead.
As season seven episode nine begins, Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) is at his guard post while the town of Alexandria sleeps. Leaving the post, Gabriel enters the storeroom and takes all the canned goods, along with knives and axes, and loads them into the trunk of a car. After gassing up, he drives off into the night unseen and unheard. But who is the second person whose shadow pops up inside the car as Father Gabriel drives away?
Over at the Hilltop enclosure, Rick, Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carl, and the others are trying to convince Gregory (Xander Berkeley) to allow his Hilltop people to join the fight. Gregory wants no part of it, closing the meeting by saying, “I wanna thank you all for not being here today,” instructing them to leave the back way. On their way out, they’re met by a small group of citizens from Hilltop who tell Rick they heard from Enid (Katelyn Nacon) that he plans to fight the Saviors and they want in. Carl looks at Enid and smiles and she just shrugs her shoulders. Rick and the rest are quick to realize that even with the help of some of the Hilltop residents, it won’t be enough to beat the Saviors. This is when Jesus says he thinks it’s time he introduced them to King Ezekiel.
They arrive at The Kingdom and after Jesus vouches for them, the Alexandrians are escorted in by Richard. Tara (Alanna Masterson) spots Morgan (Lennie James) and then the rest of Rick’s group see their old friend, hugging him and asking about Carol (Melissa McBride). Morgan brings Rick and Daryl up to speed about what they went through and how Morgan had to kill a Savior to protect her. He tells Rick and Daryl that she was shot and doctors at The Kingdom fixed her up. She left after healing, but Morgan doesn’t tell Rick and Daryl that she’s living in a house right on the outskirts of town. (Seems Morgan has learned to respect Carol’s decision to be a hermit, at least for now.)
Rick and his group are granted an audience with King Ezekiel who’s a bit upset with Jesus about telling Rick and his group about the deal he made with the Saviors. Ezekiel reveals that most of his people don’t know about it. In trying to convince Ezekiel to team up and fight the Saviors, Rick and Tara say that they’ve lost good people of their own at the hands of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and Morgan, surprised, asks who. They tell him about Abraham and Glenn being beaten to death by Negan. Richard speaks up and tells Ezekiel they should join Rick, declaring the time to fight is now. Ezekiel turns to Morgan and asks what he thinks and being the pacifist he is, Morgan points out that many will die in the fight on both sides and perhaps there could be another way. He suggests trying to capture Negan. Ezekiel invites Rick and his friends to supper and to stay the night. He tells them he will give them his decision in the morning.
Out in the nearby woods, Benjamin (Logan Miller) comes across Carol while he’s practicing to be a hunter. He offers Carol some extra food and water he always carries with him in case someone needs it. She asks why. “There aren’t many of us left. We should help each other,” replies the young man. (NOTE: Benjamin is decent and kind, and usually a character with those attributes doesn’t live long in this show.) As he turns to leave, Carol tells him to heel-toe it from now on because she heard him coming a mile away.
Later that evening, King Ezekiel asks Benjamin why he missed supper and he tells him he saw Carol in the woods. Ezekiel asks if she looked well and he says she does. Benjamin tells Ezekiel they should join Rick and fight, saying that he could see it in their eyes that Rick and his people will fight regardless and probably won’t win without their help. If Rick does win, they will be free from the Saviors and have done nothing to have earned it. Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his opinion and says good night.
The next morning, King Ezekiel informs Rick and his people that originally he wanted to expand The Kingdom and make more towns like it but it came at a heavy price and he won’t put his people into harm’s way unless there is no other option. He tells them he will honor the peace he has created with The Saviors, but he will let Daryl stay with them and he can use The Kingdom as a sanctuary from the Saviors. “They do not enter here,” says the King. “How long do you think that’s going to last?” answers back a disgusted Daryl.
Frustrated but seeing this as just the first step in a negotiation, Rick tells Daryl he needs to stay for his own and Alexandria’s safety. He also suggests Daryl work on trying to bring Ezekiel around. “Stare him down if you need to,” says Rick, which actually produces a smile from Daryl.
Back on the road, the gang come across a roadblock of cars and once past it they discover a steel cable hooked up with TNT and other explosives. Realizing they will need the explosives in their upcoming fight with Negan, Rosita (Christian Serratos) manages to defuse the main trigger. The rest of the group work to free the explosives from the wire without them going off. Jesus has one of the Savior’s walkie talkies and they hear that Negan has discovered Fat Joey is dead and Daryl is missing. Negan tells his people to go to Alexandria to see if Daryl is there, which means Rick and his group need to return to Alexandria as quickly as possible. But that’s not the only urgent matter needing Rick’s group’s attention. A huge herd of walkers are headed their way. No doubt this is the herd the explosive trap was set to take out originally.
Rick and Michonne use the steel cable to cut down a good portion of oncoming zombies by stretching it between two cars and driving fast toward and through part of the herd. Tara, Rosita, and company finish gathering the explosives, move the cars back in place, and race over to pick up Rick and Michonne who are almost overtaken by the remainder of the herd. As they race back to Alexandria, Michonne whispers to Rick, “We’re the ones who’ll live.”
Rick and company make it back to Alexandria just ahead of Simon (Steven Ogg) and his group of Saviors. When Simon asks about Daryl, they pretend not to know he escaped and claim he isn’t hiding out in Alexandria. Simon and his group look all over Alexandria, unnecessarily destroying rooms but they don’t find Daryl who is, thankfully, hiding out at The Kingdom. Simon tells Rick he appreciates the cooperation and to remember if Daryl comes back in two days or two years there is no statute of limitations to his death sentence. During the search, the Alexandrians discover all of their supplies are missing. They find Gabriel’s Bible on the floor of the supply room, and Rick’s informed Gabriel left during the night and must have taken the supplies with him. Tara and Rosita are upset, believing Gabriel stole and ran out on them but Rick suspects something else.
Glancing through the supply log, Rick discovers Gabriel wrote the word “Boat” on the back page. He thinks Father Gabriel took the supplies to the houseboat he and Aaron (Ross Marquand) came across days before. Rick, Michonne, Tara, Rosita, and Aaron head out to track Gabriel to the boat, but on their way there they’re caught by surprise by a new group of survivors. This well-armed group surrounds Rick and his people, holding them at gunpoint. Rick looks at them and smiles.
The Walking Dead season 7 episode 9 review:
The Walking Dead returned from its winter break with a suspenseful, engaging episode titled ‘Rock in the Road.’ Episode nine brought the apocalyptic series back with new energy and purpose, focusing on Rick and his crew trying to create alliances with the other communities in order to take on and hopefully defeat Negan and his thugs.
The highlight of the episode was without a doubt the scene where Rick and his small group come across the roadblock. The slow build of tension as they try to take the explosives off the steel cable while the large herd of walkers approach while realizing they need to beat the Saviors back to Alexandria is superbly done and had this critic on the edge of his seat. Bravo!
With Daryl safe for the moment at The Kingdom and Rick and his group now held captive by a new community, here’s hoping that both Daryl and Rick can get The Kingdom and this new group to join them in their upcoming battle against Negan and his Saviors.