TV Recap: ‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 709: “Rock in the Road”

Season 7 of The Walking Dead returned with ZERO deaths. At least deaths of living people. Because a whole lot of walkers died. But we’ll get to that in a minute.

But before we get into the details of this week’s mid-season premiere, let’s quickly recap the first half of the season:

Negan murdered Abraham and Glenn and it was terrible and brutal. He almost made Rick cut off Carl’s arm, but stopped at the last moment like some kind of sadistic Abraham/Isaac test. So Rick was completely broken down and ready to give everything to Negan in order to keep his people alive. They did that. And through a series of individual episodes, we saw that Carol and Morgan found King Ezekiel and the Kingdom and are camped out there. Tara lost Heath, found some weird camp full of only women and children because all the men were killed off by Negan’s Saviors. Darryl was taken prisoner by Negan, and hung out there for awhile until someone helped him escape. Oh, and Maggie and Sasha saved The Hilltop but still haven’t won over Gregory.

All of that happened over the course of about a day and a half and suddenly Rick got his courage back and now they’re ready to fight Negan again. It’s on. Apparently. Okay, maybe it was longer than a day and a half, but it’s impossible to determine exactly how long it’s been because of all the single player episodes.

Which brings us to this week. It starts with Father Gabriel standing watch on the wall at night. He flips through his Bible and then goes and raids the Alexandria supplies. He loads up everything. Food, weapons, even the cooking utensils. He puts it all in a car, fills the car with gas, and then sneaks off in the night.That seems strange from the guy who just told Rosita that they are all going to need to pull together to fight Negan.

And because The Walking Dead has no concept of time, we’re back in the middle of the day with Rick and Company visiting the Hilltop. Maggie takes them to see Gregory and rally the troops against Negan. Gregory says no way. He’s pretty upset that the Saviors aren’t finished off already, as per the previous agreement. He’s not willing to work with Rick anymore, and also refuses to provide Rick any supplies. He says keeping fugitives (Maggie, Sasha and Enid) is payment. Outside, a bunch of Hilltoppers want to help, even if Gregory says no. As Rick et al head out, Jesus says it’s time to meet King Ezekiel.

Jesus wants to leave right away, but Rick is worried about the Saviors showing up. Jesus hands over a long range walkie-talkie that he took from Negan’s people. Now they can listen in when the Saviors are on the way.

Off they go to The Kingdom. They meet Richard, who finally agrees to take them inside. And then they are reunited with Morgan. Three important things happen in this conversation:

  • Morgan learns that Glenn and Abraham died (six months ago).
  • Rick tells Morgan that Alexandria is basically in the same boat as The Kingdom with Negan.
  • Morgan tells Rick and Darryl that he found Carol and she survived, but that she left.

Rick and crew go into the theater to talk with Ezekiel. He hears them out and asks Morgan’s opinion. Even after everything that’s happened, Morgan is all about the non-violence. And also suggests trying to capture Negan instead of killing him. What could go wrong there?

Ezekiel decides he needs time to think things over. His soldiers are ready to go, but he’s not so sure. He invites everyone to stay the night and he’ll let them know in the morning. Good thing they have that radio. But, the next morning, Ezekiel is feeling non-combative and decides not to join forces with Rick. He does, however, offer to let Darryl stay so that Alexandria doesn’t get in trouble for harboring a fugitive. 

A couple of funny moments at The Kingdom:

  • In order to give Carol some screen time, she’s out wandering in the woods and finds Benjamin. She manages to scare him by just giving him some tips on how to stay quiet. Scary Carol is the best Carol.
  • Sasha tries to buddy up to Rosita, but Rosita isn’t having it. “We aren’t friends just because we both had sex with the same dead guy.” Ouch.

The road back to Alexandria ends up being blocked. The Saviors set up a blockade of cars. They move the cars out of the way and discover a whole lot of dynamite and RPGs, rigged to explode. Rosita manages to disarms it, but they have to go through and remove individual explosives. Michonne spots something in the distance that turns out to be a giant herd of walkers heading their way.

Oh, and on the radio, they learn the Saviors have discovered Darryl escaped and they’re on their way to Alexandria. Because there isn’t already enough tension in the scene.

They get the explosives into the back of their SUV and everyone piles in except Rick and Michonne. It’s a little hard to explain, but they basically have a trip wire lined up between two cars and they just drive down the highway and take out the entire herd of walkers in one fell swoop. It’s one of the best mass walker casualties they’ve done.

But then Rick and Michonne still have to get back to the SUV and they almost get killed by walkers. But they make it. And inside the SUV, Michonne says to Rick, “We’re the ones who live.” Raise your hand if you think Michonne just signed her own death warrant.

Rick and Company get back to Alexandria just ahead of the Saviors. Negan is the only character we don’t get to see in this episode, as he has sent Simon to conduct the Darryl manhunt. (Well, Negan and Heath. But no one has said one word about Heath, so…was he ever there at all?)

The Saviors search Alexandria and, of course, find no sign of Darryl. Because he hasn’t been back there at all. But, while they’re searching, they discover the completely empty pantry. Simon asks if they’re hiding their supplies, but Aaron explains that there are a lot of people in Alexandria and everything has run out. For some reason, Simon accepts this explanation and the Saviors leave. But not before Simon tells Rick that if Darryl ever shows back up in Alexandria, Rick is going to need to use his hatchet.

After the Saviors leave, Aaron and Tobin tell Rick that Father Gabriel disappeared during his guard shift the night before and apparently took everything with him. Rosita believes he’s gone back to his wily ways, but Rick says, “He wouldn’t do that.”

It turns out there is one thing Father Gabriel left behind in the pantry. His Bible. With a note scribbled inside that says “BOAT.” And because there can be no other possible explanation, Rick and Aaron decide Father Gabriel somehow knew about the boat where they found supplies. So they decide to go there. If you’re confused about all of this, you’re not alone.

Before Aaron leaves, Eric begs him not to go. And the audience is wondering where Eric has been all this time.

But Aaron goes anyway and the whole standard crew arrive at the dock and see someone wearing a hoodie over his or her head. And then the person has a gun. Suddenly, they find themselves surrounded by a whole bunch of gun toting strangers dressed in various shades of black hoodie. It looks like they’re about to be wiped out, so what does Rick do? He smiles.

What did you think of this mid-season premiere? Will Ezekiel and Gregory change their minds and join forces with Alexandria? And why was Rick smiling?