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Best of 2017: Entertainment

As the sun sets on 2017, we can’t help but sit back and reflect on what a year it’s been for the entertainment world: Stranger Things 2 turned our worlds upside down; Game of Thrones season 7 left us speechless and the new Star Wars movie hit our screens last week. Here we take a closer look at some of the most iconic moments of 2017.

 

Movies

 

DC Movies

Let’s kick things off with this Amazon warrior princess that took the box offices by storm: the one and only, Wonder Woman. 2004 being the last time we saw a female superhero lead (Catwoman), it was refreshing to see such a badass woman front and centre. Raking in almost 822 million USD, it beat Justice League (635) by a mile, another 2017 DC release, where Wonder Woman was joined by an entourage of fellow DC superheroes.  Whilst this didn’t receive the greatest of reviews, we could never not enjoy so many iconic characters on one screen! We have loads of DC merch for you to check out!

 

Photo credit: leonardmaltin.com

 

 

Thor: Ragnarok

Wonder Woman wasn’t the only hero to have a solo film: 2017 saw the release of Thor: Ragnarok, which was by far the funniest Marvel film there has been. His newly discovered super power – humour – had us gripped by the get go. For someone new to our world, Thor’s comic timing is on point!

 

Photo credit: wingsoffire.wikia.com

 

 

Despicable Me 3

But perhaps it would be more impressive to make people laugh when you’re speaking a foreign language? That’s where the Minions come in! This year, they were back on our screens in Despicable me 3 and funny as ever. Gru found out about his twin brother (who looked more like a cross between Richard Branson and Donald Trump) and returned to the dark side one last time… what could go wrong? Turns out a lot! But the staple moment of the movie was when Agnes found out that unicorns are actually FLUFFY! (Don’t die please). We have Fluffy the unicorn and lots more Minion merch perfect for any kind of fan!

 

Photo credit: pinterest.co.uk

 

 

Star Wars

We also saw great things from Disney this year with the release of Star Wars last week. One thing that is undeniable about this movie is the way it has brought generations together; you just had to look around the cinema to see children with their grandparents, groups of friends, people there for the first time and people by themselves feeling comfortable in their Star Wars family. Whatever your opinion, there isn’t any other franchise of films that could unite times quite like Star Wars does.

 

Photo credit: geekmom.com

 

 

Beauty and the Beast

Beauty and the Beast was also released by Disney this year which didn’t disappoint! Whilst I couldn’t quite shake the feeling that Hermoine felt slightly out of place in it, it was a fantastic rendition of an Oscar winning timeless classic. The special effects were remarkable allowing us to connect with Lumière and Mrs Pots just as well as we did (eventually) with the Beast. Disney’s live action remakes don’t stop here with Cruella and Peter Pan due to be released in 2018.

 

Photo credit: pinterest.co.uk

 

TV Series

 

Stranger Things 2

2017 has also been a phenomenal year for TV series. We saw the release of Stranger Things 2 which definitely lived up to expectations. I was so pleased to have the gang back and be a part of their shenanigans again. The series didn’t come without its surprises (and I’m not just talking about Dustin’s hair at prom) but mainly by how much I liked Steve by the end of it! His transformation was nearly as drastic as Dart’s: from high school heart throb who’s a bit of a d**k to the secret hero of the whole series, taking on the Upside Down right at the source. I can’t help but think that their make shift solution will come back to haunt them though… cue series 3! Check out our range of Stranger Things Funko Pops!

 

Photo credit: dorkly.com

 

 

Rick and Morty

Rick and Morty has taken Netflix by storm this year with the release of the third season. More dark and ambitious than the previous 2 series, this series took the characters on even wilder adventures to more outrageous places and introduced us to even more bizarre characters like Cornvelious Daniel, Jaguar and Logic, to name a few. We can’t wait to see what season 4 will hold (in like, a really long time).

 

Photo credit: imgflip.com

 

 

Game of Thrones

I don’t know if you heard, I mean, it was kept on the DL and not many people were talking about it but this thing called Game of Thrones season 7 was out this year? Na, I hadn’t heard either. This was the first series without the influence of a book by George R. R. Martin and fans were very sceptical about this development. But it was still as gripping as ever leaving us with many questions on our lips but the main one being how are we going to wait till 2019 for season 8!?

 


Photo credit: me.me

 

2017 was a cracking year for entertainment and also hosted some interesting announcements like Tom Hardy as Marvel Comic character Venom and Tarantino potentially making a Star Trek movie (what?). We can’t wait to see what 2018 holds! But whilst we are waiting, check out our range of Entertainment merch – there’s something for everyone!

 

Special

The top 10 Star Wars themed merch to buy right now

Unless you have been stuck in the swamps of the Dagobah system, you will know the new Star Wars installment The Last Jedi came out last week. We thought this would be the perfect time to highlight some of our favourite pieces of merch for you to check out. Whether you’re a fan of the prequels, original trilogy or the current saga, EMP has all the Star Wars merchandise you need to keep yourself surrounded by the Force!

Jedi Bathrobe

This Jedi bathrobe is your only hope to replicate the look that Obi Wan Kenobi has in the first Star Wars outing A New Hope. With a belt and sewn in tunic the only thing you need to complete the look is a handy lightsabre! Given the time of year, this would be the perfect addition to the back of anyone’s bedroom door.

 

Ewok Mini Rucksack

 

The Ewoks were a much controversial addition to the third movie, Return of the Jedi, but undoubtedly make a good design for our mini rucksack. But don’t worry, no Ewok’s were harmed in the making of this backpack! With adjustable shoulder straps this pint sized handbag alternative is big on comfort and ginormous on fluffyness.

The Last Jedi – Her Universe – Rey cardigan

Strong, bold and brave, Rey is undoubtedly the breakout star of the new trilogy, and you can mold yourself in the saga’s new hero’s image with this Rey cardigan; pairing fashion and Star Wars has never looked so good!

BB-8 Funko Pop!

Get yourself the next best thing to a real droid, with this BB-8 Funko Pop! As the cutest new robot in the saga he (or she?) has been a welcomed new entry to our family of loved Star Wars characters.

Rey Perfume

Fill your senses with this Star Wars perfume: a light floral and citrusy smell, designed to mimic the qualities of Rey with a sleek, androgynous finish. The rose gold bottle making it awesomely stylish as well as boasting an outer space vibe.

Jedi Slippers

Want to be comfortable and a follower of the Good Side of the Force? We’ve got you (and you’re feet) covered! No Jedi is complete without this pair of Jedi Slippers. Pair these with the Jedi dressing gown and you’re ready for a Star Wars marathon!

 

The Last Jedi T- Shirt

Seen the new movie or just dying of anticipation? Well there’s no better way to let the world know that than with our Last Jedi t-shirt. Picturing Rey accepting her destiny and holding up her lightsabre – the perfect addition to any Star Wars fans wardrobe.

 

Porg Skirt

 

This stylish piece pays tribute to perhaps the cutest character Star Wars has ever seen!

 

Cantina Band On Tour T-Shirt

It’s one of our bestselling products, so no Star Wars merch list would be complete without our Star Wars Cantina band shirt. Relive one of the most iconic scenes of the series with this Mos Eisley t shirt.

Porg Funko Pop!

Just when you thought they couldn’t get any cuter, Porgs have been made into a Funko Pop! – a must have for your Funko Pop! collection.

Like what you see? Take a look at our full Star Wars range for more goodies from a galaxy far far away!

Music

Marilyn Manson – “Heaven Upside Down” Reviewed

Everyone’s favourite shock-rocker is back, with a clutch of new songs that will neither surprise nor disappoint long-term fans. Marilyn Manson’s latest album, Heaven Upside Down, was originally scheduled for release on Valentine’s Day earlier this year, so it’s been a long wait for those of us hungry for a new slice of industrially-tinged sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.

After close to three decades of shocking parents and teachers, Marilyn (real name Brian Warner) shows no signs of settling down with a pair of slippers and a cup of tea quite yet. With his usual smudged eyeliner and oiled-back hair firmly in place, Manson snarls and hisses with the same mixture of sneering detachment and distaste for the mainstream throughout the ten new tracks. The good (or bad) news, depending on how you see it, is that not much has changed here. Manson still combines whispers, harsh and clean vocals more seamlessly than the countless copycats he’s spawned during his reign. The subject matter still encompasses sex, drugs, murder and anti-conventionalism, and the music still pulses with the bassline of an underground club and the riffs of a band that know how to meld metal and electronic music in their sleep.

None of that’s to say that things are getting boring, though. If you’re a Manson fan, there’s plenty to get your teeth into. ‘Say 10’ (the original title of the album) channels Nine Inch Nails for a whispery industrial track that creeps along at a slow and menacing pace towards a typically irreverent chorus that riffs off his image as a kind of tongue-in-cheek antichrist for the modern era. ‘Revelation 12’ brings in some faster and more aggressive guitars that leave you wondering whether to dance or smash things, whilst Manson’s trademark drawl receives a distorted overlay that threatens to bring the tune into EBM territory. My personal pick from the album.

As fans of classic Manson know, the band does danceable grooves just as well as it does buzzing, distorted riffs, as evidenced more than satisfactorily by ‘Tattooed in Reverse’ and the melodic yet creepy ‘Kill4Me’, slower yet no less catchy. Some of these songs will be stuck in your head by the time you’ve finished listening, just to warn you.

In his own words, Manson intended the album to ‘f*** sh** up’ rather than change the world, and this is pretty much the effect he has achieved. Over a long career, Manson has already said everything he needs to say, kicked over as many cultural icons as he possibly can and shocked everyone who needs to be shocked. Now it’s time not to sit back and relax but to bring together all the best bits of the band’s sound and enjoy the madness. A lot of the swearing, subversion and Satanic imagery are still there, but they’re more like a part of the scenery for one really f***ed up party. Marilyn Manson won’t ever go back to the heady heights of Antichrist Superstar or Mechanical Animals, but that’s no reason not to crank this one up and enjoy!

Marilyn Manson are supporting the album with an extensive Europe-wide tour, ending up in the UK in December despite Manson’s close encounter with a gun-shaped prop in a recent show, which he is said to be recovering well from.Check out the album, pick up some merch and we’ll see you at one of his shows in the near future!

TV

Looking Back at “The Walking Dead” Season Seven

Season 7’s done and we’re feeling pretty low about it. Let’s reflect on an epic series and assess the post-S7 landscape…

First of all: WOW! Last night’s episode was intense! In the afterglow of an epic finale, I’ve been reading and hearing various opinions about the season, in particular its deliberately drawn-out buildup to the much-anticipated battle between Rick and his group and Negan and the Saviours.

It seems that two schools of thought currently divide TWD fandom. Firstly, there are those that loved the season and appreciated the build-up to the battle shown in “The First Day of the Rest of Your Life”, loving the emotional path the group went thought in the process to RISE UP against Negan once and for all.

Then there are those unhappy with the long wait and the ‘slow’ episodes, who think that the first battle of this ‘new’ war against Negan and the Saviours could have been stretched out over two episodes – they stretched the preamble to fifteen after all!

rick-grimes-meme-going-to-war

Which side are you on? Those that loved the slow buildup, or those that wanted Rick and his comrades to hurry up and take the fight to the Saviours?

Take two The Walking Dead fans, one in camp A and one in camp B, however, and you can guarantee that they’re sure to have one thing in common – love for NEGAN!

Even if we all resent him for killing Glenn and Abraham (I do! Glenn has been my favourite character ever since he called Rick ‘dumbass’ on the tank’s radio 😂) we love his character ‘cause it’s brought so much charisma, humour, charm and entertainment to the table! Let’s face it, Negan is (for now) the new star of the show, dethroning Rick and even Daryl; viewers can’t wait to see him in action, even if they know it probably means that one of their favourite characters is going to die brutally.

when-i-think-about-negan-meme-emp

“The First Day of the Rest of Your Life” kept us guessing ‘til the very last minute. My thoughts were jumping from “Yeah, they’re going to make it this time!” to “Oh no, they’re all going to die…” to “HELL YEAH, kill them all, big fluffy cat!”

shiva-eaten-emp

Rick and Negan’s exchange as Negan threatened to kill Carl with Lucille left me breathless. Andrew Lincoln’s performance was flawless; check out the rage in his eyes below! As much as it has built up to an all-out war between the Saviours and Rick’s group, the season has also built up to Rick and Negan going nose-to-nose and I think it was worth the wait! rick-negan-already-dead-emp

The final scenes of the episode, with Maggie talking about how they all got there thanks to Glenn saving Rick at the very start, got me pretty bad. RIP Glenn 🙁 glenn-started-it-all-emp

BUT enough with the sentimentality, it’s time to go to war!

I personally liked this season and appreciated the ‘slow’ build. Without it, we couldn’t have enjoyed all of the emotional scenes that led each character to join the battle. Daryl and Carol, all Morgan’s crazy stuff, Daryl and Maggie, Sasha and Rosita, Sasha and Eugene, Rick and Michonne…their combined histories and emotional baggage leading them all to declare war on the Saviours is what made the last episode so intense and moving for me. Sasha’s sacrifice and Glenn and Abraham’s tribute were just the perfect way to close that big chapter of emotions and grieving that accompanied season seven; now let’s get ready to kick some ass in season eight!

Negan and the Saviours retreated thanks to the combined intervention of King Ezekiel (plus his tiger) and the Kingdom and Maggie and the Hilltop. But they’re not certainly defeated and they’re sure to come back stronger – but how soon into the next season will it happen?

What are your expectations for season eight? Is Eugene going to find some courage and do something to help the others? Is Dwight really going to help Rick and Daryl in taking Negan (and all the other ‘Negans’) down?

Comment below with your opinions on season seven overall and the season finale, and let us know your wishlist and predictions for the next season – in a few months we can see who was closest 😉

Elena x

Season seven may be over, but we’ll never stop bringing you the very best The Walking Dead merchandise! In our range, you’ll find Glenn resurrected in Funko Pop! form, exclusive TWD t-shirts and dresses and plenty more – check it out!

Salva

Music

Mastodon – “Emperor of Sand” Reviewed

Mastodon’s long-awaited seventh studio album is now available on CD and vinyl. But what did we think of “Emperor of Sand”?

mastodon-emperor-of-sand-cover

Despite the hype that surrounded Mastodon around the time of the release of their second album, the epic concept piece Leviathan (available today from EMP on CD), it took me quite a while to jump on the bandwagon. The band’s sound in the early days still tended towards a heavy and discordant edge, which lacks the catchiness and melody that they discovered later on. However, everything changed when Crack the Skye (CD | CD & DVD | limited edition coloured vinyl) finally came along. I now consider Crack the Skye to be one of the finest metal albums ever produced, with a merciless sophistication to the songs from start to finish, without one single moment that fails to overawe the listener.

Fellow fans of the Crack the Skye era are in for a real treat with Mastodon’s latest release; Emperor of Sand might just be the Atlanta troupe’s finest creation since.

Whilst their previous two albums, The Hunter (CD | vinyl) and Once More ‘Round the Sun (CD | vinyl) played on the catchy and groovy side to the band that goes down extremely well at festivals, Emperor of Sand has delved back into the past and resurrected some of the more interesting parts of Crack the Skye and even Leviathan for our listening pleasure. I’d already venture to say that this is going to be one of the top albums of 2017 – it absolutely rocks from start to finish, bringing a spectacular maturity and polish to their style, which seamlessly combines grooves with heavy segments and gloriously catchy chorus structures.

The album opens as it means to continue with the first single “Sultan’s Curse”, which immediately sounds like something from Crack the Skye, with meticulously-crafted riffs which blend seamlessly into the doomy chorus. As usual, the variety of vocal styles here (each of the band members contributes their own unique vocals to the mix), turn this into something special, creating a mystical atmosphere, which is set to reappear at intervals throughout the LP. The upcoming second single “Show Yourself” doesn’t mess about either, with pretty much no foreplay before hitting you in the face with melodic vocals and groovy riffs. The clean(ish) melodic vocals feature heavily across the album, which may not sit so well with fans of the heavier early style, although generally speaking the album isn’t quite as radio-friendly rock-ish as parts of Once More ‘Round the Sun. Genuine, Leviathan-esque discordance reappears with a vengeance on “Andromeda”, reinforcing the band’s heavy credentials for those who tend towards seeing infectious catchiness as a failing, rather than a triumph. Nonetheless, the songs have gotten shorter and more self-contained. You’re not going to see any 12-minute conceptual epics here. Each song is its own perfectly-formed musical unit, which you can either see as evidence of selling out, or simply strap in and enjoy the ride. I recommend you do the latter.

Mastodon have returned to semi-conceptual territory here, with the album’s protagonist cast out into the desert, paving the way for a lot of sand-related metaphors for the passage of time. It’s also been noted by many that a series of personal tragedies in the band members’ lives form a backdrop to the album, lending weight and depth to the exploration of the theme of life and death. The inclusion of slower, darker and sludgier tracks like “Steambreather” to some extent counterbalances the faster and even poppier tracks like the much-maligned “Show Yourself”, which seems to have hit a sore spot with some traditionalists. However, heavier moments do lurk on tracks like “Roots Remain” and “Scorpion Breath” – albeit often so cleverly woven in with energetic rock and funky riffs that if you pause too long to admire the high-octane choruses you might miss them. It’s a sound that Mastodon have been crafting for years, which was perhaps over-refined on Once More ‘Round the Sun, but has found a real balance on Emperor of Sand. The band may have lost the more far-out progressive element and the harder side, but they’ve essentially perfected their formula for combining heavy metal, prog, stoner, doom and radio-friendly rock in a way that brings all the disparate elements together into something that sounds so cohesive you just can’t imagine it being any other way. I personally don’t think there are many bands out there right now who quite so noticeably at the top of their game. Give this one a spin, you won’t regret it.

Emperor of Sand is available to purchase now from EMP on CD and vinyl. Also available is a 61×91.5cm poster and a t-shirt of the album’s striking cover artwork – see our Mastodon merchandise and albums page for the full range!

Salva

Music

Reviewed: Gojira @ London Kentish Town Forum, 12/3/2017

Last Sunday, French death metallers Gojira kicked off their Magma Tour UK at the Kentish Town Forum in London. What did we think?

#Repost @peterageofficial ・・・ SOLD OUT The Forum in London, England! #gojira #tourlife

A post shared by Gojira Official (@gojiraofficial) on


It’s always kind of a shame when a gig is on a school night, as you end up rationing your drinks and keeping half an eye on the clock so you can catch the last Northern line train home. But it certainly didn’t stop the crowd getting into the moshpit spirit on Sunday night when Gojira took over the Kentish Town Forum.

The show was opened by New York mathcore thugs Car Bomb with an immediate blast of aggression that made it clear it was not going to be one of those quiet Sunday nights. Their discordant and extremely heavy style with a progressive edge is reminiscent of the godfathers of extreme djent (is that a genre? It should be!), Meshuggah. In fact, whilst I was musing on how much they obviously wanted to be Meshuggah, I noticed their guitarist wearing one of the Swedish band’s t-shirts. Case closed.

The punchy start was followed up in style by Code Orange – a Pittsburgh-based hardcore/metalcore troupe who came with a mission to destroy the venue. I hadn’t heard them before, but I can say for sure they picked up a legion of new fans throughout their tightly-coiled performance. A vein of serious groove ran through their set, despite the very hard edges to their sound. Whilst punk is ostensibly at the root of their sound, and shows in the rawness of the vocals, there’s something more sinister lying underneath the in-your-face punch of their aggressively bass-fuelled music. The aural assault was backed up by astounding energy on-stage, as their charismatic bassist high-kicked his way through proceedings. If other bands are metal, these guys were adamantium. One to watch.

It’s around my 4th time seeing Bayonne metallers Gojira, but it seems that in the time I’ve been following them they’ve exploded from being one of those great niche bands that opens the smaller stage at Sonisphere, to being genuine heavy-hitters in their own right – and rarely has a band deserved that as much as these guys. Fresh from releasing their latest LP, Magma, they’ve subtly evolved their sound in a direction that’s lost a tiny amount of the aggression, but gained a razor-sharp edge that’s bumped them up into the big-league of technical metallers. Whilst ‘L’Enfant Sauvage’ was good, ‘Magma’ was truly great – a career-defining album that runs like a perfectly-oiled piece of machinery. Which is lucky really, as the band drew heavily on their new baby in their set, playing almost all of the 8 full-length tracks. ‘Only Pain’ kicked things off, but for me it was the arrival of the monumental ‘The Heaviest Matter of the Universe’ that really signaled the start of the evening. This aural juggernaut, one of my all-time favourites, is a guaranteed pit-starter, and the ensuing circle pit did not disappoint. Unless you were hoping to get out of there without having your feet stamped on and some guy’s elbow in your eye. In fact, there’s often a pit just a few rows back from the front, but here it expanded like an oil spill, engulfing the reticent along with the hardcore stompers. Which is quite a good explanation for how Gojira’s music works live – their maelstrom of rhythms pulls you in and turns the audience from a group of people into one unified organism.

The L’Enfant Sauvage and Magma hits-parade was popular, but for me it’s all about the classic behemoths from ‘From Mars to Sirius’ and the genre-defining ‘Way of All Flesh’. No Gojira show is complete without a hefty dose of space and whales, delivered with aplomb in the form of the musical leviathan, ‘Flying Whales’. Whilst other bands cling to the same old tired themes: love, death, drugs; Gojira have never shied away from writing a few songs about ocean-dwelling mammals. One of the many reasons I love them. ‘Backbone’ is always another guaranteed hit, with a riff that just calls for you to start throwing yourself into the nearest person. It’s these inherently moshable grooves that have allowed the band to carve their place as a festival legend, and the atmosphere carries over even in a smaller and stuffier indoor venue.

No evening would be complete, though, without a good ol’ drum solo. Sometimes bands throw these in as a bit of a filler, but in Gojira’s case, drummer Mario is approximately half of the band – his ear for unique syncopated rhythms is one of the undoubted cornerstones of their sound, and sometimes the ‘je ne sais quoi’ that elevates their best songs from great heavy metal to something almost stratospheric. No surprise then, that the crowd went wild to his playful 5 minutes of fame. It was also a clever way to segue into the tectonic ‘Toxic Garbage Island’, which opens with drums that speak for themselves. By the end, a whirlpool of sweaty humans was screaming together about the injustice of plastic bags in the sea. My kind of moment.

But all good things must come to an end. Although they’d saved some of the best for last, with a serious hard-hitter to close, in the form of ‘Vacuity’. They seem to play this live much less often than the other big tracks from ‘The Way of All Flesh’, although it’s a raw powerhouse of a song. Vacuity bottles the intensity of the human instinct to survive, and had me punching the air and screaming every word. Inspiring stuff.

Gojira fan? Check out EMP’s range of Gojira merchandise, CDs and vinyl today!

Salva

TV

“The Walking Dead” Recap – Season Seven, Episode Nine: “Rock in the Road”

AMC’s The Walking Dead has finally returned after its loooong mid-season break – and boy, has it given us a lot to talk about!

We left the series in December with Rick and Daryl reuniting - just the boost the group needed to take on the Saviors. But how long would it be before they were seperated again? ©AMC

We left the series in December with Rick and Daryl reuniting – just the boost the group needed to take on the Saviors. But how long would it be before they were seperated again? ©AMC

On December 16th we left Rick Grimes and the others in the process of finally waking up from the spell of terror they were under, realising that it’s time to fight once and for all against Negan (cover star of the EMP spring 2017 catalogue) and the Saviors. If, like me, you watched the series from day one and feel like you know each character inside out, you’ll know how hard and frustrating it’s been to see Rick acting like a ghost – so powerless against Negan’s strength, strategies and favourable numbers. But no more! Daryl Dixon (my favourite character together with Glenn – yes, I don’t want to admit that Glenn’s gone…damn you Lucille!) is finally free and back to his group, Michonne and Carl are as badass as they’ve ever been and Rick is starting to lean forward and we all know what that means: “shit’s about to get real”!

It most certainly is.

It most certainly is.

Yesterday, when I finally sat down to watch the new episode, “Rock in the Road”, I was bouncing around with anticipation.  So what went down?

SPOILER ALERT – if you haven’t seen The Walking Dead season 7, episode 9 – “Rock in the Road” yet, turn away now! Why not head to our The Walking Dead merchandise section, stock up on goodies and come back once you’ve seen the ep?

All that time ago, at the end of the last episode, we left Father Gabriel on his night watch atop Alexandria’s walls, as someone with some fancy boots watched on. The new episode opens with Gabriel again on the watch, then suddenly loading a car with all the food and weapons left in Alexandria and riding away. Traitor?! Perhaps not – a second figure joins Gabriel in the car, and the pair drive away…

The scene suddenly jumps to the Hilltop where Rick and Maggie, finally reunited with Daryl, are trying to convince Gregory, questionable ‘leader’ of the colony, to join them in war against the Saviors. Attempt failed… no-one wants to mess with Negan and Lucille.

Next hope for Rick and company is King Ezekiel and the Kingdom! Guided by Jesus, the group visit his realm to speak with the King (and his cool tiger) and ask his community to join the fight.

After heavy consideration, King Ezekiel decides that, even if the Kingdom’s situation with the Saviors is precarious and not ideal, it’s still better than war, denying Rick the help he’s looking for.

After his escape from the Saviors, Daryl has a target on his head, so King Ezekiel offers him protection in the Kingdom. Rick talks Daryl into staying for his own good and gives him the duty of convincing Ezekiel to join them in the fight. It’s so disappointing to see the group dividing again and my heart broke a little to see Daryl’s sad face as he was left behind AGAIN…looks like Daryl actor Norman Reedus wasn’t happy either:

WHY THE F YOU ALWAYS LEAVING ME BEHIND !!!!!! 😡

A post shared by norman reedus (@bigbaldhead) on

But where is Negan in all this? We’ve all kind of built a love/hate relationship with the character; we hate him for caving our heroes’ heads in with Lucille, then makes us laugh out loud with jibes about spaghetti. It’s confusing!

Negan in a good mood, cracking some jokes. Somebody must have told him he'd made the cover of the EMP catalogue.

Negan in a good mood, cracking some jokes. Somebody must have told him he’d made the cover of the EMP catalogue.

Alas, Negan doesn’t appear during “Rock in the Road”; during the episode we only hear his voice on the radio Jesus stole, talking to his group when he realizes that Fat Joe is dead and Daryl is missing.

Rick and the rest of the group rush back to Alexandria, as they know the Saviors are on their way to look for the fugitive. On the way back they come across an anti-zombie dynamite trap set up by the Saviors. Thanks to Rosita’s skills the group manage to steal the dynamite – their first real weapon after the Saviors took everything they had! Rick and Michonne then drive two cars connected by the metal cable the dynamite hung from on either side of the horde, slicing hundreds of zombies in two. Nice.

Rick’s group arrive at Alexandria, closely followed by the Saviors, who arrive and turn the place upside down in their search for Daryl. It’s just in this moment that Rick finds out about Father Gabriel’s ‘betrayal’. Rick being the trusting soul that he is, he doesn’t believe it, and so he searches for clues and find a hidden note left by Gabriel: ‘BOAT’, referring to the place where Rick had discovered supplies earlier.

The group decide to go and look for Gabriel. While following some footprints (I think they’ll probably belong to Gabriel’s fancy-booted companion, don’t you?) they find themselves surrounded by a big group of people armed with an incredible number of weapons, all pointed at their heads… and what does Rick do, in a classic moment of bad-assery? He smiles! ‘Cause he’s probably already sussed how to get this mysterious group to fight with them and get rid of Negan once and for all!

It’s great to have The Walking Dead back, isn’t it? This episode managed to maintain the quality that we were given with the first half of the series. I was disappointed not to see Negan in this episode, but the character’s spectre looms large over everything that happens when he’s not on screen, which may be an equally effective way of using him. Selfishly, however, I wanted to see him; despite how evil Negan is, how much pain he’s caused through his unnecessarily violent demonstrative killings (RIP Glenn and Abraham, gone too soon) I can’t deny how damn entertaining he is! His game-changing presence has set season 7 apart from its predecessors and proved that there’s plenty of mileage in the series yet. And now, I get the sense that the game is about to change yet again – Rick, Michonne, Carl, Daryl and the others are (almost) ready to take their lives back! And it’s going to be epic!

What did you think of “Rock in the Road”? Let us know in the comments below or on the EMP Facebook page, and check out our range of The Walking Dead merchandise – you can’t buy your very own Lucille (probably for the best), but we do have a cool Negan Funko Pop! figure and Negan and Lucille tops for women and t-shirts for men, amongst a horde of other great merch. Arm yourselves!

Salva