AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell
* For a review of the previous episode, “Sing Me a Song” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Rock in the Road” – click here
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is still reeling from the death of her husband, obviously. You can’t expect she’ll get over that quick, if ever. Especially not in this new post-zombie apocalypse world. At the Hilltop community, she’s getting by, as well as expected. Gregory (Xander Berkeley) is being a real dick, though. He doesn’t like anybody else looking like the big dog around his backyard, y’know.
Back at Alexandria, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) taunts Carl (Chandler Riggs) and baby Judith, then cooks a bit of pasta and suace for dinner. Most interesting is at the Savior’s compound, where Daryl (Norman Reedus) is more and more on the verge of getting himself free; hopefully.
Nobody in Alexandria is happy, not with Negan around. Olivia (Ann Mahoney) tries her best to keep it together with a bit of help from Tara (Alanna Masterson). But Olivia’s the one who has to sit down to dinner with Negan. Pretending like they’re a happy family. She only does it to keep a promise to Rick (Andrew Lincoln), that she’d look after the baby.
We keep seeing that Morse code in Rick’s place, as well. You think that means something? I do. But we’ll see.
Of course Rick is still out and about with Aaron (Ross Marquand), attempting to get out to the boat on the lake where the place is probably loaded with supplies. At home, Rick’s son has to “pass the rolls” to the man who smashed Abraham and Glenn into bloody chunks. Because “Lucille is hungry” and so is Negan.
Possibly the most sinister opening to any episode yet, honestly. Loved it.
Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Spencer (Austin Nichols), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) bring their latest finds to the Saviors. One of whom, a lady, hits on Spencer: “Maybe I‘ll buy you a sandwich.” He plays along, for the time being.
We can’t forget about Carol (Melissa McBride), in her house just outside the Kingdom. And Morgan (Lennie James), he leaves a little something on her doorstep – fruits from the garden. She likes to be on her own, she’s got plenty. Ezekiel keeps on bringing her fresh produce. But she’d rather be alone. Then Richard (Karl Makinen) shows up, too. He has something the three of them need to discuss.
Morgan: “I think you‘re goin‘ soft.”
Carol: “I think you‘re going.”
Out on the lake Aaron and Rick come into trouble, though they fight off the water zombies to get to a canoe in good shape. Only more walkers swarm, and Aaron’s hauled into the water. Dead? No, sir. He’s just a damn good swimmer. They both make it to the boat, in one piece. Barely. They find lots of guns. As usual, not much ammo. Rick and Aaron talk about the deal with Negan – Aaron understands, he was present for the brutality of the man. “What we‘re doing is gonna keep people living. We get to do that. Doesn‘t matter what happens to us.” The title of the episode comes from Aaron’s talk about keeping people alive, taking what they can. Across the lake, someone watches them both.
At the Saviors’ compound, Daryl runs through the dark halls and ends up in somebody’s bedroom. He searches for a way out, getting some peanut butter on the way and a new shirt. Please, Daryl: get the fuck out of there. He sits first, listening to nearby voices, and then gets on the move.
Enid (Katelyn Nacon), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), and Maggie hang out together, talk it up. Maggie’s pregnant stomach keeps her eating constantly. Everyone in Hilltop, aside from Gregory, is a fan of her, as well as the other two. But while the expectant mother leaves, Enid confronts Sasha about a lie concerning Jesus (Tom Payne). It’s because Sasha wants to get Negan. And Enid wants in. They just want to keep Maggie out of the equation because she’s too headstrong, even with a baby growing inside her. Yet Sasha tells Enid she has to keep Maggie safe.
Back with Richard, he tells Morgan and Carol about when he came to the Kingdom, about the terrible threat of the Saviors. He wants Carol and Morgan to help him convince Ezekiel they need to take action against Negan, because “things will go bad; and when they do, the Kingdom will fall.” Thing is, he’s come across Carol at a point in time where she wants to let go of everything – the killing, the people, all of it: “I don‘t want anything to do with your lives, or your deaths.” Interesting to see someone like her, and particularly Morgan, turned away from violence now being forced to maybe turn back; the never ending plague of this new world.
Oh, Spencer – will you die tonight? He gets back to his once nice, well kept home, to find it in complete disarray. Negan and his crew have tossed the place. He cleans the place up, he cleans up, practises his best introduction and leaves with a bottle of liquor. Will he actually dare try something against Negan on his own? Yikes.
In Savior territory, Daryl makes it to the motorcycle lot where a guy finds him. He agrees to let Daryl go. Rather than go on, Daryl beats the man to death, as Jesus shows up just in time. Now they’ve got themselves a gun to boot.
“We‘re all Negan”
With Michonne (Danai Gurira) still holding one woman at gunpoint, she finds where she’s headed. Furthermore, we see how people are willing to die rather than go back to Negan, as the woman essentially asks to be put down. And Michonne obliges the request.
In Alexandria, Rick and Aaron get back with supplies. Over on the porch Spencer shares a glass of liquor with Negan. Something bad’s brewing in their little town. When one of the Saviors gets rough with Aaron, this leaves Rick helpless, watching on. Spencer gets a pool table into the street for him and Negan, then brings up the dissent with his leader in Alexandria. Great editing takes us from the pool balls knocking together over to Aaron’s beating, as Rick must stand there, doing nothing. Such an amazing build, between editing, dialogue, action, score. “You should know Rick Grimes has a history of not working well with others.” This takes Spencer into talking about how he believes Rick brought their town down, his family now dead. Then he offers to lead Alexandria.
Does Negan take the bait? Well, he isn’t exactly impressed that Spencer’s not out gathering things, like Rick, who’s “swallowing his hate and gettin‘ shit done.” As he says, that “takes guts.” Oh, is that the cue? If so, pitch perfect line.
What follows is straight from the comics: Negan plays on the word guts again, then plunges a knife deep into his stomach, letting those guts fall right out, horrifying everyone watching on. Another vulgar display of power. Out of nowhere, Rosita fires a bullet at Negan and it digs right into Lucille. HOLY FUCKING SHIT, ROSITA! YOU BAD ASS MOTHERFUCKER. Wow. Did not expect that. Neither did the man himself. Plus, now he’s discovered their homemade bullets. Uh oh. “You may be stupid, darlin‘, but you showed some real ingenuity here.” It’s either give up the secret of the bullets, or get a new carved up face. Rather than carve her up when she refuses to give it up, Negan has Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) shoot somebody at random: Olivia. Fuck, man.
None of that sits well with Rick. Except Negan wants a thank you, for not killing Carl, for taking Spencer down when he was crying mutiny. All for you, Sheriff Grimes. And Negan isn’t leaving until he figures out who mad the bullets. Eugene doesn’t let anyone else take the fall this time, he confesses. Bad news for him: he’s now Savior property. Alexandria is left devastated, without another couple members, and “in the hole” with Negan worse than ever.
As always, Rick blames himself. For everything. Like he asked to be the leader of their group, to be the one to make all the tough decisions. He never asked for that, it was heaped upon him. Then everyone blames him when things go sideways. He doesn’t always make the best or right decisions, yet he always does the best he can.
When Michonne gets back, she tells Rick that she doesn’t want to go it alone. She wants them to go it together, to fight alongside one another. And she won’t give up hope.
At Hilltop, Maggie gets one nice gift: she gets her friends back. Rick embraces her, glad to see her again, and he gets to see she’s safe, healthy. Rick is ready to fight. He’s ready to do what’s necessary. Oh, and Daryl is at Hilltop, too. The whole gang reunited. A heartwarming scene after so much devastation and blood and hurt. One fantastic mid-season finale. Rick even gets his gun back, a figurative recharging of his will to live and to fight for a better life.
I’m so pumped for the back half of Season 7! I don’t care what anyone says, I’ve enjoyed all these episodes. Lots of fun and the show is picking up steam from a few lacklustre moves over the course of the past couple seasons. Great to see them pushing ahead.