The Walking Dead “Heart Still Beating” Review (Season 7 Episode 8)

The Walking Dead wrapped up the first half of the seventh season this week with “Heart Still Beating.” After getting off to a bloody, emotionally devastating start, the show wrapped up the first half on a hopeful, yet still bloody note. As with last week’s episode, the writers covered a wide cross section of characters across different locations. We also got a long overdue check-in with Morgan and Carol.

Leave Carol Alone
At Carol’s house of solitude, we found Morgan trying to drop off a package of supplies and food undetected. Carol called him in to remind him that she wants to be left alone and to see how he is doing. Richard stops by briefly and tries to get the pair to help him convince Ezekiel that a more aggressive approach is needed with the Saviors.

After not seeing Carol and Morgan since episode 2, it was a little frustrating to go through the same paces with the two characters. We get it. They don’t want to kill. Carol wants to be left alone. The message has been delivered repeatedly by the writers and I’ve had my fill. That aside, Melissa McBride and Lennie James are really great together and I like the friendship between Morgan and Carol. I also got a good chuckle at Richard mistakenly assuming that Carol was not a fighter and Morgan setting him straight, acknowledging that she was probably the strongest fighter in the room.

In a season where the show has repeatedly done extended episodes, it is really frustrating that we have only seen Carol and Morgan once. Granted, if all the writers are inclined to do is have the two continue to discuss their reluctance to kill, I’m glad they were used sparingly. I hope that the next time we see Carol and Morgan it involves them learning about and reacting to what happened to Abe and Glenn at the hands of the Saviors. The writers have repeatedly deprived us of those moments, which is fine because I don’t think it is necessary to see how the Alexandrians take the news or how Tara reacts to it. However, given Carol and Morgan’s reluctance to kill, I think their reactions are important and I want to see it play out on screen.

Spaghetti Night with Negan
Most of the episode’s action took place in Alexandria where Negan continued to make himself at home with a nice shave and spaghetti dinner. With Rick still out on the scavenging run with Aaron, Spencer decided to make his move towards building bridges with Negan. As we saw, that did not go so well for Spencer, whose death marks the end of the Monroe family on The Walking Dead.

Things escalated after Negan looked for Spencer’s guts and Rick returned to discover the unexpected visitors. After nearly losing his life to the lake of zombies, Aaron found himself on the receiving end of a Savior beat down thanks to the signs he and Rick brought back with them from the lake. The scene felt a little clumsy, as I could not understand why they even brought the signs back with them. It felt like the writers seizing an opportunity to display the brutality of the Saviors. I’ve had my fill of that as well, so I could have gone without it – particularly in light of what happened with Spencer and Olivia. We get it. The Saviors are awful and abusive. Carol and Morgan don’t want to kill anymore. Rinse and repeat.

I was also frustrated with some of the writing choices for Rosita. The scene with Rosita and Father Gabriel at the church was great. Although I wish Rosita would have referenced the last conversation with Denise because this was precisely what Denise was trying to address before she received a bolt through the eye. I don’t understand, however, why the writers had Rosita suddenly forget what she knows about Negan and how he operates and what Eugene told her about Negan in last week’s episode. Of course Rosita taking a shot at Negan meant someone else would pay the price. Rosita should know this better than most, as she watched Glenn pay the price for Daryl’s outburst when Negan taunted her with Lucille. I understand the need for revenge, but what little we know about Rosita seems to indicate that she would understand the potential consequences of her actions. Unsurprisingly, Olivia’s horrible day with Negan came to a tragic end, as she was punished for Rosita’s actions. And poor Eugene is now a captive of Negan’s and will probably be forced to make bullets 24/7.

Once Negan finally wraps up his monologues and heads back to the Sanctuary, we find Rick in the jail cell Morgan built. Michonne, back from her field trip to the Sanctuary, comforts Rick and tells him that they have to fight and she wants it to be their plan, not just hers. Understandably frustrated with Negan and the Saviors, Rick agrees and is ready to fight.

At Last . . .
With the core Alexandria fighters ready to battle, the group heads over to the Hilltop where Maggie has been feasting on all things apple. I loved the reunion scene, which was only sweetened by the addition of Daryl and the return of Rick’s python. The final scene was very reminiscent of the season 4 finale in which Rick told the group that the Terminus people were screwing with the wrong people. I appreciated the sense of hope and resolve to fight that viewers were left with at the end “Heart Still Beating.” However, the writers have made it clear that the Saviors are not going down as easily as the Termites. If the writers work out some of the pacing issues that plagued the first half of this season, this could be a really fun stretch of episodes to watch.

Final Thoughts and Observations
– I didn’t love the subplot with Michonne. As we head into the second half of the season, I hope we’re done with characters taking secret trips and quietly plotting alone. It should be very apparent to everyone that this is not a fight you take on alone.

– Related to that point, the exchange between Sasha and Enid was a bit confusing. I thought Sasha’s rationale for not telling Maggie about the reconnaissance mission she sent Jesus on at the Sanctuary made sense. After Sasha told Enid that she was willing to go it alone in her fight against Negan, I did not understand why the writers would have Enid keep Carl’s trip to the Sanctuary a secret. I suppose Enid might have been trying to save Sasha from going in pursuit of Carl? I don’t know. It was just an odd exchange and telling Sasha she is not alone in the fight seems like a pretty important detail to share.

– Also, as much as I love Maggie taking on the leadership role at the Hilltop, I find it a bit confusing why she is viewed as the natural leader and not Sasha. I think this is the result of us simply not seeing enough about what goes on at the Hilltop. We heard Maggie needing supplies for the kids, which would suggest she might be teaching them. However, everything we’ve seen at the Hilltop would make either Sasha or Maggie a great leader. This feels like the writers taking a few shortcuts for plot purposes. Based on what we know about Sasha, I think she’d be a great counterpart for Jesus when he goes on runs, but I’d like to see more of that develop on screen.

– I am SO glad that Daryl is back with the family and I’m curious to see how his whereabouts will be kept a secret. What would stop Negan from going to each community and searching every nook and cranny until Daryl is found?

– On a similar note, I guess we are to assume that Maggie does not know that the Alexandrians told Negan that she died. This also assumes that Enid did not know of the plan to deceive Negan as well. However, when the Saviors last visited the Hilltop Maggie and Sasha hid from them because they did not want the Saviors to know about the Hilltop/Alexandria alliance. I say all that to say – is it really a good idea for Maggie to be keeping watch for the Hilltop, thus making her one of the first faces someone would see as they approached? I appreciate that Maggie was wearing a hat, but it’s still extremely risky.

– I still haven’t seen anything yet that warrants an extended episode. I hope this is a trend that does not carry into the second half of the season. I also hope the writers will continue the trend of featuring multiple characters and locations in an episode.

– My questions about the weather on this show persist. Is it that Michonne is a really warm person or is everyone else overdressed and hot or is it cold? Negan is wearing leather, most of the other characters are wearing long sleeve shirts with no jacket and Michonne is sleeveless. I am confused.

– Also on my wish list for the second half of Season 7 – a chat between Daryl and Maggie.

– I have no idea what is going on with the mystery person. I’ve read the comics and I’m still clueless.

– The hug between Daryl and Rick was everything! It’s amazing how much Reedus and Lincoln can say in a moment without uttering a single word. Such a refreshing break from the Negan monologues.

Until . . . February!
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