Picking after most of the major players reuniting at the Hilltop in the midseason finale, Rick and company journey to the Kingdom with Jesus to attempt to get Ezekiel to align with them against the Saviors. The visit doesn’t exactly go as planned, though the group does pick up a few allies along the way.

Enid rallies the troops

Before even heading to the Kingdom, the group gets the cold splash of water that is Gregory at the Hilltop. He’s not willing to even admit he knows them if the Saviors come calling and doesn’t want his people involved in the fight.

Lucky for Rick and company, Enid has already been chatting up Hilltop residents.

As the group prepares to leave, Enid reveals that there are plenty of Hilltoppers who want to be trained by Maggie and Sasha to aid in the fight. It’s a small group of people that tell Maggie they believe in her as long as she thinks they can really beat the Saviors. That small group is a spark of hope for a group who has repeatedly beaten down. Groups like that are what they need to find a way to take out Negan’s hold on the area.

Rick and company see the Kingdom

As you might expect, the group’s introduction to Ezekiel and Shiva is a little strange. None of them are prepared for someone who calls himself the king or an actual tiger, let alone to be reunited with Morgan in this new community.

As Rick speaks to Ezekiel, it’s obvious that his patience with the king wears thin very quickly. It’ll be interesting to see their interactions going forward, especially since Ezekiel denies participating in the alliance.

Daryl is offered asylum in the Kingdom since he has a target on his back. Daryl has no intention of staying in a place where their leader won’t fight back, but Rick assures him it’s the smarter play.

I can’t wait to see Daryl wear Ezekiel, or his people for that matter, down when it comes to Negan. I also can’t wait for when he and Carol eventually reunite. She’s not living that far from the Kingdom, after all.

‘Rock in the Road’

In an effort to convince Ezekiel to join the fight, Rick tells the story of people who left a Rock in the Road that messed up carriages, causes people to trip, impedes horses, etc, that no one ever removes from the road.

It takes one girl whose family loses everything as a result of that rock tipping their supplies into the road to finally dig up that rock, only to find it hiding gold put there by the king to see who was motivated to help those who came after them.

Despite this being one of my favorite stories Rick has ever told, Ezekiel isn’t moved. When Negan is the rock in the road though, how long can Ezekiel really ignore it? I’m betting not long.

Rick and Michonne clothesline walkers

When leaving the Kingdom and scoping out the road towards the Sanctuary, the group comes upon a line of cars on the highway, a steel wire armed with dynamite, and a herd of Walkers in the distance. To give themselves an edge, the group agrees that they need those explosives.

With Rosita taking the lead, they disarm them and grab as many as they can, but the horde closes in. In an amazing sequence, Rick and Michonne use the steel cable to clothesline the horde and reunite the group. The effect is astounding! Great work all around.

Father Gabriel flies the coop

The episode leads off with Father Gabriel wiping the pantry clean and stealing a car from Alexandria. We never find out just what he’s up to in this episode, though the running theory from Alexandria residents is that he’s abandoned them. There’s got to be something else going on, even if Gabriel has never proven himself as the best strategist. What’s his plan? In going after him, Rick’s group comes upon a surprise.

They’re surrounded by a group of women after tracking a set of footprints. These look like the same women that Tara visited earlier this season. Could they wind up allies?

The verdict and what’s next

I loved “Rock in the Road” for hitting all of the major communities and giving us so much amazing tension!

4 out of 5 stars.