Thankfully, “The Walking Dead” Season 7, Episode 9 began on the same hopeful note as it had ended in the mid-season finale two months earlier. Rick and his crew, reunited now with Daryl who escaped the Savior’s captivity, are ready to rise up against their “Rock in the Road,” Negan, and set about finding allies for the battles ahead.
For this viewer, the feeling of hope pervaded the episode, despite the disappointments and obstacles yet in the group’s way to achieving their goal of getting out from under the thumb of Negan and his cronies. Join Rick and his group as they attempt to forge new alliances. Spoilers ahead.
We’re reminded that Father Gabriel is being watched from a distance as he stands watch at Alexandria’s gate. Gabriel reads from his Bible and suddenly takes action, leaving his post and gathering the remaining food supplies from the storeroom. He packs the food, gases up the compound’s car and drives away.
Rick, Michonne, Daryl, Maggie, Jesus and the others appeal to Gregory to join them in their resistance against Negan and the Saviors. True to form, Gregory goes into plausible deniability mode, explaining that while the Hilltop and the Alexandrites may be trade partners and friends – on the QT – they don’t know each other as far as the Saviors know.
Gregory wants no part of any plan to take down the oppressors and, in fact, doesn’t want to know of such a plan.
Disgusted but not surprised at Gregory’s attitude, the group walks outside where a number of Hilltop residents share with Maggie and the Alexandria group that they are prepared to take part in an effort to be rid of the Saviors.
Jesus shows the group that he has one of the Saviors’ long-range radios, allowing the group to stay apprised of what’s going on at the Sanctuary. With nothing more to be gained from trying to talk to Gregory, Jesus tells Rick that it’s time for him and the others to meet Ezekiel.
Rick and others pile into an SUV and follow Jesus’ directions to the Kingdom. They find themselves parked in what appears to be a vacant area, when two men on horseback come riding up to ask the group why they are trespassing on the Kingdom.
Richard, one of the two on horseback, reacts favorably even if somewhat skeptically when Jesus explains why he has brought Rick and the others to the Kingdom. Rick explains the group desires an audience with Ezekiel, something that Richard is unsure will happen.
After turning the group’s only two guns over to Richard and leaving the SUV behind, Rick and company follow Richard to the Kingdom. They are reunited with Morgan, who explains that Carol had been at the Kingdom while she was healing from her wounds, but she has since left, wishing to be left alone.
Richard announces that the king will see Rick and the others. Rick explains to Ezekiel that the two groups can work together to fight the Saviors.
Ezekiel reminds Jesus that the people of the Kingdom don’t know about the arrangement that group has with the Saviors and reminds Jesus it was something told to him in confidence.
Richard, who himself has strong feelings about defeating the Saviors before they already uneasy alliance between the Kingdom and the Saviors turns to total oppression, endorses Rick’s plan. Morgan, however, when asked by Ezekiel for his opinion, wants to avoid more deaths and suggests that there is an alternative to all-out war with the Saviors by capturing just Negan.
Daryl and Rick are frustrated with this turn of events, with Rick relating a parable about the “Rock in the Road” his mother told him as a child.
Ezekiel invites the group to stay for dinner and spend the night. When Rick explains the group needs to return to Alexandria, Ezekiel says he will render his decision in the morning. Rick and the group decide to stay for the night.
The “Rock in the Road” Parable
In the middle of a busy roadway, a rock embedded in the earth makes the journey difficult for all who pass there. A little girl wonders why the rock is still there – why no one has taken the time and effort to get rid of the rock that remained there to cause suffering to others. The little girl digs and digs with her fingers until she is able to loosen and move the rock. To her surprise, the rock is filled with gold. The king who had put the rock in the road placed the gold in the rock as a reward to whoever made the effort to remove the impediment.
Outside the Kingdom
In the woods outside her home, Carol encounters Benjamin at gunpoint. When she asks what he’s doing, Benjamin explains he is trying to sharpen his skills as a warrior. Carol advises Benjamin to return to the Kingdom as it will soon be dark and it is dangerous to be alone in the woods. Benjamin offers Carol some extra bottled water he has and inquires as to how she is doing. Carol is bemused by Benjamin, and urges him to walk “heel to toe, heel to toe,” on his way back out of the woods, and to walk with bent knees because he made a lot of noise in his trek to her home.
Benjamin tells Ezekiel that he saw Carol and recounts their encounter. We are reminded of Ezekiel’s paternal feelings for Benjamin and his younger brother as Benjamin tells the king that he agrees with Rick, that the Kingdom should fight the Saviors along with the people of Alexandria.
Benjamin explains to Ezekiel that his father had once told him that if anyone asks you to be a hero, you should do it. Ezekiel thanks Benjamin for his sage advice.
In the morning, Ezekiel meets with Rick and the group to explain he has decided not to join in the uprising against the Saviors because, for now, the Kingdom enjoys an uneasy peace with the Saviors. Ezekiel, however, offers ongoing asylum for Daryl from the Saviors who are looking for him since his escape from the Sanctuary.
As Rick and the group prepare to leave the Kingdom, Rick talks Daryl into remaining there for his safety and the opportunity to continue to talk to Ezekiel about joining in the uprising. Daryl reluctantly agrees. Morgan, too, remains at the Kingdom.
The Ride Back to Alexandria
Over the radio, Rick and the group hear Negan talking about the death of Fat Joey and that it will be avenged.
The road back to Alexandria is blocked by rows of cars. As the group begins to move the cars, which they intend then to put back into place so the Saviors won’t know they had been there, they find a cable stretched across the road with explosives attached to it. The recognize the set-up as one intended to kill a herd of walkers.
Rick and the others see this as an opportunity to gather the explosives for themselves, under the direction of Rosita.
As they cautiously remove the explosives from the cable, the group hears Negan on the radio again, this time giving orders to the Saviors to get to Alexandria and turn the place upside down to find Daryl.
At the same time, the group notices a herd of walkers coming their way.
The group knows they need to get to Alexandria before the Saviors get there, but also want the explosives and have yet to put the roadblock back together. With the walkers fast approaching, it’s determined Sasha will walk back to the Hilltop and Rick and the others will return to Alexandria.
The last of the explosives the group is taking is now in their possession, but the walkers have arrived. As the herd of the walking dead swarm the group’s SUV, Rick and Michonne hot wire a car on each side of the cable. In some anxiety-provoking moments, the two finally get the cars started and they drive in tandem down their respective side of the road, taking down most of the walkers as they go, with the cable cutting the walkers into pieces.
After the narrow escape from the walkers, the group quickly returns the cars to re-form the roadblock and head toward Alexandria.
Rick and the group have returned to Alexandria with the Saviors nearly on their heels. Rick appears perplexed as to why the Saviors are there. Simon explains they haven’t come for a tribute, but to find Daryl who has escaped from the Sanctuary.
Rick feigns surprise that Daryl has escaped and tells Simon Daryl is not in Alexandria. Simon says he and the others will look for themselves whether Daryl is there and that Rick and the others need to prepare to get everyone in Alexandria together to watch him kill Daryl if he is found.
As the Saviors look for Daryl, Simon finds the storeroom of food supplies empty. When he asks Rick if the group is hiding food from the Saviors, Aaron answers that no, it’s just that there are many people there to feed and the food supply is low because they have been working to find Negan what he wants.
As the Saviors get ready to leave Alexandria, Simon explains to Rick that there is no statute of limitations on finding Daryl, or Daryl’s eventual death.
After the Saviors leave, Aaron explains to Rick and the others about Gabriel taking the food and car without saying a word to anyone. They go to Gabriel’s house, looking for any indications as to what caused his behavior. Rick finds that Father Gabriel has left his Bible behind and a note that says only, “BOAT.”
Rick, Michonne, Tara, Rosita and Aaron go in search of Gabriel. They begin to follow footprints they’ve found in the woods and find themselves in an open lot. Suddenly, they are surrounded by women, each with a weapon in hand. The episode ends on that note, with a look on Rick’s face that changes from puzzled to a smile – and is that a twinkle in his eyes?
Image Credit: The featured image is the original work of @Enigmu on Twitter, used with his written permission.
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