Synopsis of 7×09: Coming back from the midseason break, The Walking Dead delivers an episode of rallying and re-grouping as audiences get to check in with almost everyone (Eugene, are you still alive?!).
Unfortunately, Gregory refuses to help Rick, though Enid does manage to rally a few of them to their cause. It’s Jesus who suggests they might find their numbers with another settlement, the Kingdom, and takes them to meet with King Ezekiel.
Richard meets them at the outskirts of the Kingdom and there’s a tense moment where he has them all line up, almost an echo of what Negan forced them to do in the season opener, but it goes in a much more civil fashion this time around – with fewer guns being handed over and Rick’s group peaceably following him to Ezekiel.
Before they make it to him, there are sweeping shots of the Kingdom as Rick’s group realizes they may actually have the numbers and the supplies here to mount an offensive against the Saviors. They meet back up with Morgan, who explains that Carol is safe and gone, and then go on to try to convince Ezekiel to back their play.
Rick is momentarily surprised by Shiva, but tries to convince Ezekiel to fight with an old story his mother used to tell him about a rock in the road. Ultimately, when the rock was moved, the woman who made the effort was rewarded. After Morgan fails to support Rick’s plan to attack, Ezekiel tells them he will make a decision the next day and they’re welcome to stay the night. The plan is pretty much identical to the one that already failed – attack them before they attack us – but Rick thinks things will change with the numbers on their side.
Benjamin, who was witness to the exchange, later goes out into the woods and runs into Carol. When he returns and reports to Ezekiel, he gives his own motivating speech about being the hero when it’s offered and Ezekiel thanks him for his counsel.
In the morning, Ezekiel decrees that they will not join the fight, but that they’ll give Daryl safety because the Saviors do not enter the Kingdom. It’s not much, but Rick tells Daryl to stay and “stare him into submission” in an effort to convince them. Richard offers to go with them, but it’s not enough men to go after even one outpost unfortunately.
A voice-over from Negan, in the form of Jesus monitoring the Saviors’ radio traffic, mourns the loss of Fat Joey in way only Negan could as Rick’s group runs into one of their blockades. They move cars out of the way and come across a line of explosives that’s mean for herds. Rosita disarms the set-up and the group goes about tensely collecting the sticks of dynamite and RPGs. Time is cut short when they hear Negan order a search of Alexandria for Daryl and a herd begins moving towards them.
After they collect as many explosives as possible, Rick and Michonne each get into a car and drive towards the herd, with the metal cable still attached between their vehicles. In what will probably be the shot of the season, they mow through a large portion of the herd, cutting them in half with the wire, before re-uniting with the rest of the group in the SUV.
Making it back to Alexandria just before the Saviors show up, Rick and the rest of Alexandria are forced to watch as Simon and his men ransack houses in search of Daryl. They don’t find him (obviously), but they do see that food is in short supply and leave a warning that there are no statute of limitations on punishment should they harbor Daryl in the future.
Once the Saviors leave it’s realized that Gabriel must have run off with the food and weapons, as we saw in the episode opener, but to what ends no one knows. They gather a group to go looking for him and end up walking right into a trap as women come streaming out of the bushes and surround them. It is most likely the Oceanside group, who will also probably be recruited to join the cause against Negan, though whether they’ll be interested remains to be seen.
This episode was full of losses – Carol is lost to Rick’s group, the Hilltop turns them down, as does the Kingdom – but also full of wins – they reunite with Morgan, Daryl finds a safe space to lay low and the opportunity to further convince Ezekiel, Rick’s group may have stumbled upon another group to join their cause – and more importantly, it was tense, funny, emotional, and pushed the plot of the show forward. A solid start to the second half of the season and exactly what viewers needed to re-build some of the hope that was missing from the first half of the season.