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The Walking Dead recap: Rick and the gang find some much-needed hope

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Midseason premiere puts things back on track

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The Walking Dead has returned for the last half of its seventh season. This time it's bringing a large dose of hope to help swallow the misery that has been this season.

(Spoilers: This recap will contain spoilers for the midseason return of The Walking Dead.)

With our group finally reunited, it's time to bring together the three neighboring communities to battle Negan and the Saviors: Alexandria, Hilltop and the Kingdom.

None of it goes well, of course.

The episode picks up right where the mid-season finale left off. With help from Jesus, Daryl has escaped from Negan's stronghold, joining Rick and company in a meeting at the Hilltop. The Hilltop is still run by Gregory, unfortunately, and he remains a spineless worm.

The whole scene in the house was oddly comedic as Gregory laid out a series of sarcastic jokes anytime someone spoke up. He even calls Rick “Ricky” in case you forgot how much you hate him.

Gregory isn't on board with sticking his neck out to help fight the saviors, but some folks in the Hilltop are. Enid told them of their plight and about a dozen people pledge to help Maggie, who has more than earned the respect of the townsfolk.

Jesus suggests he introduces everyone to King Ezekiel and the Hilltop. This is a weird sequence for the audience as The Walking Dead has already spent time with The Kingdom, Ezekiel, his tiger and their entire community with the saviors way back in episode two. What should have been an eye-popping moment just felt strange as we watch the rest of our characters react in shock and surprise at Ezekiel's tiger and his odd formal mannerisms.

We do, however, get a Morgan reunion! Morgan tells Rick and Daryl about Carol, though hides the fact that he knows where she is and that she's close by. Our group has to inform Morgan of all the lives that the saviors have taken: Glenn, Abraham, Denise and Spencer.

Rick uses a number of speeches to try and convince Ezekiel to join forces. They agree to stay the night, but all it amounts to is Benjamin (Morgan's new protégé) meeting Carol in the woods and later talking with Ezekiel. While it looks like Ezekiel may have been convinced, he ultimately turns them down, not wanting to jeopardize the tenuous truce he currently has with the saviors (which his people don't even know about).

Ezekiel's right-hand man Richard spends every scene trying to convince him to go to war; he practically jumps for joy when Rick shows up with the call to arms. And he's crushed when his King says no. They know Rick and Alexandria have the drive, but lack the weapons and the people. Without the Kingdom, they'll never the war against Negan.

Daryl is offered asylum in the Kingdom, where Rick hopes he'll “talk to Ezekiel, or stare him into submission.” It's a good move since the Saviors don't actually set foot inside the Kingdom – unlike in Alexandria which they ransack every other episode. Including tonight! Loyal Negan follower Simon shows up later with a merry band looking for Daryl. We know he's not in Alexandria so none of our group is worried, but they do ransack houses and break everything, reminding Rick what they're fighting for.

This episode was heavy on the dialogue and discourse, but we were also treated to a giant herd of walkers. On their way back from the Kingdom (before making it to Alexandria) they find a Savior roadblock — a steel cable tied between two cars, loaded with dynamite. It's a nifty walker trap, but Rick's group knows they need the explosives for the upcoming war.

Thankfully Rosita knows her way around bombs and quickly disarms the device. Our crew gets to work detaching the dynamite while a walker herd approaches. It's a very tense scene. Jesus and Sasha are forced to run back to the Hilltop on foot, while Michonne and Rick try to grab the last of it. They're cut off by the walkers, so they jump in the two cars and race down the road, the steel cable pulled taut between them.

The carnage unleashed by a steel cable traveling at a moderate speed is hilariously effective as they cut down dozens of walkers between them. The physics of the entire thing is a little wonky, but the show has established that walker bodies are super squishy.

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Rick and Michonne drive in perfect tandem down the road until they're finally forced to stop and jump out, running directly through the herd toward the car with the others. Thankfully both of them donned their Plot Armor and make it out, nary a scratch.

After they return to Alexandria and deal with Simon's shakedown they find the pantry empty and Father Gabriel missing. A clue in his bible reveals that it was Father Gabriel whose feet we saw during Aaron and Rick's sojourn in the mid-season finale.

By the way, with Gabriel gone and our group out for most of the episode — who is watching Judith these days? Good child care is hard to come by, even without a zombie apocalypse.

Rick heads out again with a small group, returning to the same zombie-filled moat. This time they follow Gabriel's tracks, only to suddenly be surrounded by dozens of people armed with crude weapons. They form an uncomfortably tight circle around our group.

But Rick smiles. He knows he may have just found what they spent the entire episode searching for: people and weapons. Hopefully this new group will be on board. Third time's a charm.

Winners

Rosita: Rosita has made some terrible decisions in the past, including trying to kill Negan which resulted in the death of Olivia and capture of Eugene. Tonight she got to shine, however, as her military experience lets her disarm the explosives and leave behind the bad ones – which later explode in the zombie herd.

Steel Cable: The whole steel cable sequence was ridiculous, yet awesome. Our characters are resourceful and tactical, and it was a fun chance to kill a ton of walkers. It's too bad they couldn't keep it, but maybe it'll help them think outside the box when it comes to thinning out the herds.

Simon: Steven Ogg (who infamously plays Trevor in GTA V) is infectiously likable whenever he's on screen, which is too rare. I daresay he's more enjoyable than Negan. He has an energy about him that makes you want him to like you. But then he turns on the menace and you go weak. More Simon please!

Music: Did anyone notice how eclectic the music was in this episode? Soft piano when our group visits the Kingdom. Acoustic guitar when they leave. Dramatic synth beats when they're disarming the bombs. Good stuff.

Losers

Gregory: Gregory is always the character you most want to punch in the face, especially with Spencer no longer around. His scene at the beginning was a constant reminder of how loathsome he is in every situation.

Morgan: Damn it Morgan. I want to like you, I really do. But Rick is putting his heart out there with heavy-handed speeches to King Ezekiel and you have to go in and sandbag him with talk of peace and “there has to be another way.” Sometimes you just gotta fight.

Father Gabriel: Our poor heroes never get a rest. They've just returned from steel-cabling zombie herds and playing international diplomacy, only to immediately set out to find Gabriel who neglected to tell anyone what he was doing or why he was doing it. Also he took all the food.