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TV Review: The Walking Dead 7.8 “Hearts Still Beating” (Mid-Season Finale)
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The Walking Dead, Season 7 Episode 8 review

The Walking Dead
Episode 7.8 “Hearts Still Beating”
Directed by Michael E. Satrazemis
Written by Matthew Negrete & Channing Powell
Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, Lauren Cohan, Chandler Riggs, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride, Lennie James, Christian Serratos, Sonequa Martin-Green, Josh McDermitt, Khary Payton, Austin Amelio, Tom Payne, Katelyn Nacon, Alanna Masterson
Air Date: Sunday, December 11, 2016

Warning – SPOILERS for AMC’s The Walking Dead…

Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead saw Carl sneak into the Sanctuary and immediately get captured by Negan, who spent the entire time showing the boy how powerful he is. At the end, Negan took Carl back to Alexandria, where he found baby Judith and considered possibly settling down there. At the Sanctuary, captive Daryl got an opportunity for escape. Rick and Aaron took off to scavenge for Negan; Michonne went off on a secret mission of her own; Spencer’s knowledge of Latin came in handy; and Eugene made a single bullet for Rosita.

Episode 7.8 “Hearts Still Beating” marks the mid-Season 7 finale, and it came in a 90-minute installment that saw another show of Negan’s power and another look at Rick’s subservience.

The episode opens with Maggie at Glenn’s grave at the Hilltop Colony. After she climbs up the watchtower, Gregory shows up saying that the residents are grateful to her and Sasha for “saving” them. “Don’t let it go to your head,” he warns her. She realizes that these accolades for her are bothersome to the man, who has been ousted as the colony’s leader. The scene ends with Gregory throwing his fruit up to her after Eduardo guilts him into it by reminding him that Maggie is pregnant. This demonstrates how Maggie is gaining power at Hilltop.

Later, Sasha brings Maggie and Enid an apple pie, a thank you gift from one of the Hilltop residents, whose daughter said that Maggie should run for office. “Maggie for President,” Enid says, another foreshowing of Maggie’s impending leadership. When Maggie goes out to get some milk, Enid confronts Sasha about Jesus, saying that people in the community say he’s a “runner” — that basically he doesn’t put down roots, he runs when things get hard. Sasha thinks he’ll be back, though, but lied to Maggie about when he left — she said he left that morning, but it was really the day before. Sasha says she’s keeping Maggie in the dark for her own good, because she’ll want to join her on her mission (to beat Negan) and will endanger herself. Enid says Sasha isn’t the only one. “Sure does look like it,” Sasha replies.

Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl escapes his cell. He makes his way to what appears to be his jailor Dwight’s room — there’s the carved figurines he makes. He eats some peanut butter and changes clothes, then knocks over the figurine table on his way out. We know he’s going to make it out — and he does. At the motorcycle lot, he encounters Fat Joey, who pleads for his life, saying he was just trying to “get by,” but Daryl bashes him to death with a pipe just as Jesus arrives. Daryl takes Joey’s gun and says, “It ain’t just about getting by here, it’s about getting it all.” Daryl says he’s got the key, so they can leave the Sanctuary, and off they go!

Meanwhile, Negan is making himself at home in Alexandria at Rick’s house with Carl and Judith. Negan makes some dinner for them, and wants Carl to set a place for Rick, who’s still not back from scavenging for him. Tara brings the can of lemonade for Olivia, and offers to take over for her, but Olivia won’t relinquish her responsibility of taking care of Judith.

In the chapel, Rosita holds her single bullet. Father Gabriel asks her if the bullet is meant for her or for Negan. It’s for Negan, she says. She says that she’s all right with dying as long as she gets to kill Negan first. Gabriel asks her why it must be her who dies? She rattles off reasons why the others are important: there are those, like Michonne, Carl, and Daryl, who are strong or can fight; others have loved ones, like Aaron; and people like Eugene are smart. “And Sasha?,” Gabriel asks, referring to the woman who Abraham dumped her for. When Rosita remains silent, the priest says that they will win, but that they have to do it together. “Don’t do this,” he tells her, “we need you.”

Near the gate, Spencer brings the goods he found (after following the note written in Latin) to the Saviors there. A Savior named Laura flirts with him, as Eugene looks on. Pissed off, she asks Eugene, “You like to watch?” He immediately answers “Yes,” before stuttering “No,” but we know he actually does like to watch. (He used to watch Rosita and Abraham get it on.) She then tells him to get the hell out of there.

When Spencer returns home, he finds it ransacked by Negan’s people. He straightens up, grabs a bottle of whiskey, and then practices saying “Hi” in the mirror. He then walks past Rosita’s place, where she’s sitting on the porch. She asks him if he’s on his way to a hot date. He confesses that he’s planning to get close to Negan to gain his trust, and then maybe he can do something, even if it’s years from now. He then asks Rosita why she ended things with him. She admits that she was just using him to get her mind off of things, and apologizes. He then invites her to dinner later, no strings attached, and she accepts.

Out on their scavenging trip, Rick and Aaron seemed to have found a place, but it’s guarded by waters filled with walkers. They eventually make their way through it, although Aaron falls into the water and nearly dies, but don’t worry, he’s “Okay!” While going through the supplies, they find a note from the place’s presumably deceased owner: “Congrats for winning but you still lose.” Outside the place, someone walks into the frame, but we only see the feet, so we don’t know who it is.

Over near The Kingdom, we see Carol in her new house. She still wants nothing to do with The Kingdom and its leader Ezekiel, as well as her old friend Morgan, who stops by to leave her fruit. While he’s there, one of Ezekiel’s main men, Richard, arrives to implore them both to join him in an effort to fight Negan and the Saviors, and to help him convince Ezekiel. Richard previously had a run in with the Saviors, who terrorized him just because he didn’t smile, so he knows that even striking a deal with these people doesn’t mean you’re actually safe. Morgan would rather not disturb the peace and still doesn’t want to kill anyone, while Carol just outright wants nothing to do with anyone or anything. She just wants to be left alone. Before he leaves, Richard warns Carol and Morgan that when people start dying, the blood will be on their hands. Later, we see him go off into the woods behind a “no camping” sign into a camper. Inside, he’s visibly upset; he picks up an empty bottle and smashes it.

When we last saw Michonne, she had hijacked one of the Saviors and was getting her to drive her to Negan. Now, they are still in the car, but the woman won’t answer any of Michonne’s questions about how long she’s been with Negan and why she was out there alone. It’s clear to us that she was trying to escape the Sanctuary, but Michonne doesn’t know how things are there. “I’m not gonna kill him today,” Michonne tells her about Negan. “I’m gonna find a way to win. I’m gonna change how this ends for me. That’s why I’m out here alone.” But the woman warns her that she won’t succeed in what she’s trying to do, as she shows her the road that leads to the Sanctuary. “We’re all Negan,” she says, which is the mantra the people at the satellite station used as well. The woman then tells Michonne she should go home, then burn the car and roll it into a lake. She also reveals that there’s a silencer for the gun in the glove compartment. We then see the outside of the car; a gunshot goes off, and then the car turns around. It appears that Michonne has killed the woman and is going home with the knowledge of where Negan lives.

But Negan is back at Alexandria talking about how he’s going to make the place his vacation home. Spencer shows up with alcohol to schmooze Negan, and it seems to be working. The two play a game of pool as Spencer explains that his mother was the original leader of Alexandria and that things were good there for a long time until Rick showed up and destroyed their way of life. He talks about how he dislikes Rick and how he should be the true leader of the community, especially because he says Rick will not comply with Negan. This is when things start going south for Spencer, who overestimates his ass-kissing powers. Negan explains that even though Rick hates him, he’s still out there scavenging for him. “He is swallowing his hate and getting shit done,” Negan says of Rick, “that takes guts.” Meanwhile, Negan says, Spencer waited for Rick to be away so he could sneak over to him to talk to him. Negan wonders why Spencer doesn’t just kill Rick himself and take over. “It’s because you have no guts,” Negan says to Spencer just before he stabs him and his guts spill onto the floor. In true Negan fashion, he starts going on about how Spencer apparently DOES have guts because look, there they are. The Alexandrians and Saviors all see this happening. That’s when Rosita pulls out her gun and shoots that one bullet she had Eugene make for her!!!

Over at the gate, Rick and Aaron have returned and the Saviors are going through their haul. Inside one of the boxes is the “Congrats for winning but you still lose” note, and the Saviors are offended by it. They beat on Aaron to punish him, and tell Rick to go to Negan at his house, but Rick wants to stay to help Aaron. When the Saviors finish the beating, they allow Rick to carry his friend into the community, where they see what Negan has done to Spencer.

It turns out, Rosita’s bullet got lodged into Lucille, Negan’s beloved barbed wire-wrapped bat — the one he uses to bash people’s skulls in, which means she missed Negan, who was shocked at what just happened. He immediately recognizes that the bullet was homemade and demands to know who made it. Rosita swears it was her, but he doesn’t believe her, so he tells one of his bodyguards, Arat, to cut her face until she gives up the person. Rosita again tries to take credit for the bullet, so Negan gives Arat the go-head to shoot someone. She turns towards Rick’s house and shoots Oliva in the head, killing her. Before Arat can inflict the next wound on Rosita’s face, Tara comes forward to say it was her. But Eugene, surprisingly, will not let anyone else take the blame; he steps up that it was him, and even starts explaining how he did it.

“We had an agreement,” Rick shouts to Negan, as he doesn’t know about Carl’s attack on the Sanctuary, or how Spencer was trying to undermine and eliminate him. Negan says Rick should thank him, because not only did he bring Carl home and make him spaghetti after he killed two of his men, but he also eliminated Spencer, who was huge threat to him. Rick tells him to just take the scavenged goods and go. Negan warns that this offering is now not enough after what just happened, and says, “I’m reliving you of your bullet maker, Rick” as he takes Eugene and starts to leave with the Saviors, as Rosita yells, “No, just take me!” When the Saviors leave, Spencer’s corpse turns, and Rick has to put him down.

Later, Rick sits on the floor of Alexandria’s makeshift prison cell, when Michonne arrives. They hug, and Michonne reveals that while she did find what she was looking for, she realizes that she doesn’t wanted it to be “her way,” but their way — hers and Rick’s. There’s more Saviors out there than they originally suspected; they are definitely outnumbered. But that fact doesn’t change how she feels — she still wants to fight somehow. They’ve been through a lot and have survived. She reminds him, “‘We’re the ones that get things done,’ you said that, ‘we’re the ones who live.'” They are still standing, and they’re going to keep standing. They’re going to fight for Judith, for Carl, for Alexandria, for Hilltop, for all of them. “WE can find a way to beat them,” she says, “we can do this, but only if WE do this.” “Yeah, I know that now,” Rick replies, “I know that now.” And they kiss. YAY!!!!!!!!!!

The end of the episode sees Maggie back at Glenn’s grave, and then back atop the watchtower, where she sees Rick, Tara, Michonne, Rosita, and Carl approaching!!! From inside Hilltop, Sasha and Enid come out, and then so does Daryl and Jesus!!! “You were right from the start,” Rick tells Maggie, “you told us to get ready to fight and I didn’t listen and I couldn’t. I can now.” Everyone then hugs and cries to see one another in one of the most glorious reunions ever! Rosita and Sasha nod at each other — bygones will be bygones for the ladies. Especially heartwarming was Daryl and Rick’s brotherly embrace (tears!!!!!!!), which ends with Daryl returning to Rick his revolver. Everyone smiles to be back with each other and on the same page — they then walk together into the Hilltop’s main building.

Post-credits we see Alexandria at night, where a hooded figure is watching the place through binoculars. The person jumps down from their perch and we see that they are wearing the boots of the person who had been spying on Rick and Aaron during their scavenging trip. They then walk off. Obviously, the person followed Rick and Aaron back, although how or why is not known.

The preview for the season’s February return showed Jesus planning to introduce Rick to King Ezekiel and The Kingdom, so that the three communities — Alexandria, Hilltop, and The Kingdom — can join forces against Negan. They do mention that there are people living at the Sanctuary who are not part of Negan’s crew, but who are victims, too, so perhaps that means that they can be spared and recruited. Also, it’s time for Tara to fess up about the Oceanside colony. Could the hooded figure be Cyndie, the granddaughter of Oceanside’s leader who helped Tara escape? Let’s hope! Rick and company will need everyone they can to defeat not just Negan — because as is obvious, someone else would just step into his shoes if he were killed — but the entire Saviors crew.

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