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“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!

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