THE WALKING DEAD 7.08 ‘Hearts Still Beating’ Review

THE WALKING DEAD Season 7 Episode 8

Episode Title: “Hearts Still Beating”

Writers: Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell

Director: Michael E. Satrazemis

Previously on The Walking Dead:

Episode 7.07: “Sing Me a Song

There are spoilers ahead for last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, but don’t pretend that you didn’t know that!

Hopefully you’ve all been waiting for the cast of The Walking Dead to hug it out for half a season, because that’s pretty much what we got. Here’s something that you should know about the original story from the comic which inspired these episodes: Rick was always playing for time while plotting against Negan. There were a few issues where Rick’s group lost faith in him because he didn’t let them in on the secret, but he eventually did. Whereas on the show, it not only took Rick eight episodes to get where we always knew he was going to go, it also demonstrated that he was truly broken by Negan instead of pretending to bend the knee. In theory, the series was trying to create a character arc for Rick, but spineless Rick became one of the more frustrating aspects of the season to date.

Frustration really is the word for these eight episodes. At this point, we have to wonder if the reason that the cast was so divided across the first half of the season was simply to hide the identity of the two murder victims in the season premiere. If so, that hasn’t exactly worked out to the show’s benefit. It’s not as if this show hasn’t creatively stalled out before. Remember the entire second season at tHershel’s farm? The long stretches of nothing in season 4? When The Walking Dead is on its game, its legitimately one of the best series on TV. But that seems like ages ago, and it hasn’t been that show for a while.

Perhaps the most hopeful thing in the entire extended episode is that this was one of the first times in a long time that all of the major characters appeared in a single episode, even if only for a few minutes. The simple act of giving the audience more than one story to focus on did a lot to keep any of the subplots from getting boring. Although the Negan plot came close to wearing out its welcome. Admittedly, it was darkly funny to see Negan usurp Rick’s home and use his razor before eating a “family” dinner with Carl, Olivia, and Judith. Moments like that are when Jeffrey Dean Morgan is at his most effective. He was also quite good during the obvious build up to Spencer’s murder. However, Negan’s overall spiel is starting to wear thin… which is too bad, because we’re in for at least another season-and-a-half of it.

Related: ‘Fear The Walking Dead’ Season 2 Deleted Scene

There probably isn’t anyone who was too broken up about Negan killing Spencer, since Spencer was practically inviting his demise by antagonizing Rick since his arrival in Alexandria. This was pretty close to Spencer’s fate in the comic as well, although the guts spilling out of Spencer was a rare occasion in which the show outdid the source material. In the comic, there wasn’t a crowd for Spencer’s attempt to betray Rick and his own subsequent murder. The assassination attempt by Rosita was a completely new addition for the story…and yet it was also one of the weaker moments as well. Rosita’s a great shot with a gun…and she only hit Negan’s baseball bat from a just a few feet away? That was ridiculous. Obviously, Negan was never going to die there. But would it have really changed anything if Rostia had at least hit Negan in the arm?

There were some positives in this episode. Daryl’s escape from the Sanctuary was well staged, while Rick and Aaron’s adventures with the river walkers was one of the more unique zombie moments that the show has had this season. That said, it was total BS for Aaron to be alive after the walkers dragged him under the water, and it was also quite stupid for Aaron to forget to remove the insulting note on the supplies that he and Rick left for the Saviors. The Saviors’ attack on Aaron was simply an excuse to keep Rick away from his home long enough for Spencer to get himself killed. That’s also an example of very sloppy writing.

In a similar way, the brief aside with Carol and Morgan outside the Kingdom largely existed to remind the audience that they are still alive, and set up the best joke in the episode: Richard’s assumption that Carol wasn’t familiar with the violence of the new world. Considering that this was only the second appearance of Morgan and Carol this season, it seems like this show has really lost track of two of its best characters. Neither of them seem to be in a hurry to get back to Alexandria (and Carol doesn’t even want to go), while no one in Alexandria is even asking “what happened to Carol and Morgan?!”

At the end of the first half of this season, the show is essentially promising that everything is gonna turn out alright. Daryl’s back, Rick’s out of his funk, and Negan’s gonna go down…eventually. Great. Now The Walking Dead just needs to reestablish some trust with its audience and avoid the narrative dead weight. How about no more solo episodes for Tara? Or simply no more solo episodes, period. It’s not as if the creative team doesn’t have a roadmap for the story from Robert Kirkman’s comic book series. But the critical steps of that journey are more like suggestions at this point.

What did you think of the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead? Let us know in the comment section below!

Photo Credits: AMC

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