A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 8: “Hearts Still Beating”

From bottle episodes to multiple plots, it’s time for The Walking Dead to end the first half of its seventh season, and if anything, it solidifies in Rick’s mind by episode’s end that things need to change and fast.  This is “Hearts Still Beating.”

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The episode begins at the Hilltop with Maggie sitting at Abraham and Glenn’s graves.  She later climbs the walls when Gregory tells her that people are saying nice things about her, Sasha, and how they saved the community.

Gregory doesn’t want it going to her head, but Maggie wonders if this bothers Gregory, who is about to eat an apple.  Then another Hilltop member, Eduardo, mentions that Maggie is pregnant, so goodbye Gregory’s apple and hello Maggie’s apple.

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We then cut to Alexandria, where Negan puts the finishing touches on a clean shave while Carl and Judith watch.  He then gets to work cooking up a storm.

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Outside, Tara gives Olivia some lemonade that’s intended for Negan.  Tara offers to take over, but Olivia refuses since she promised Rick that she would watch Judith.  She tells Tara to leave.

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Over at the Sanctuary, Daryl makes his escape from his cell.

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Meanwhile, Aaron and Rick find a boat riddled with bullet holes.  Rick wants Aaron to stay back, but Aaron refuses, saying that he’s seeing this through. Instead, he gets some wood to use as paddles and the two then set out on the water.

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As Carl sets the dinner table, Negan tells him to get another setting, but he soon gets tired of waiting for Rick.  Lucille, though, is hungry, so Negan orders Carl to pass the rolls.  At least he said please.  Lucille doesn’t have a pussy, but she apparently has a mouth.

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As Eugene enters the Safe Zone, the Saviors make good of Spencer’s supplies and are glad that he got messy for them.  One of the Saviors, Laura, played by Lindsley Register, tells Spencer that if he plays his cards right, they may show him where she lives.  Laura then tells an eavesdropping Eugene to fuck off and mind his own business.

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Back by the Kingdom, Carol reads from a book when she spots a package from Morgan on her doorstep.  Carol calls out to Morgan and tells him that the package of fresh food is unnecessary because Ezekiel is keeping her well-stocked.  Morgan promises to leave Carol alone, but she did call him over in the first place to ask how he’s doing.

Morgan is good, so now he can go.  He tells Carol that she may be going soft.  Morgan won’t be going anywhere, as he and Carol receive an unexpected visit from Richard, who wants to talk to the two about something important.

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On the water, Rick and Aaron continue their trek and take out as many walkers that are drawing close to their boat, which is taking on water.  They manage to reach another boat, but a walker has already made it her territory.  And then another walker grabs Aaron and drags him into the water.  After a bit of time passes, he resurfaces unharmed.  Sorry, Bob.

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However, Aaron and Rick come up short, as they find food and tons of guns, but no ammunition. Just a less-than-pleasant note from the owner.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Daryl sneaks into another room where he feasts on peanut butter and changes into a new set of clothes.

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As the two pack, Rick tells Aaron that he didn’t mean to imply that Aaron couldn’t help out.  It’s just that people don’t agree with Rick scavenging for the Saviors, so Rick wouldn’t blame Aaron if he backed out.  Aaron reminds Rick that he was with him on the road.  What they’re doing is going to keep people alive.  It doesn’t matter what happens to them, even if Michonne doesn’t see this as living.

After Alexandria lived free, it’s hard to give up what you have, but either your heart’s beating or it isn’t.  Same for your loved ones.  You take what’s given to you so you can live.

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Michonne is still on the road with Isabelle, who is continuing her drive presumably towards the Sanctuary.  Michonne asks how long she’s been with Negan and why she was out there alone, but gets no response.  Whether Isabelle believes that talking won’t change how this ends for her remains to be seen, but for now, Michonne won’t kill Negan today. She just wants to find a way to win and change how this ends for her.

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Back at the Hilltop, Sasha and Maggie get an apple pie as a gift for their work in saving the Hilltop.  Enid asks if Maggie is President yet, but she isn’t.  Also, Jesus hasn’t returned yet.  Enid knows that Sasha is lying to Maggie about Jesus, given that he left yesterday, not today, as Sasha said.  Sasha says this is for Maggie’s own good.  Enid knows that Sasha wants to kill Negan.

If Sasha had help, she wouldn’t have to keep this from Maggie.  But Sasha doesn’t want Enid helping or talking, even though this effort to take down Negan goes well beyond Sasha.

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Richard speaks with Carol and Morgan about communities that once banded together, but are now gone.  He lost hope in people until he found the Kingdom and met Ezekiel.  But now the Kingdom is under threat by the Saviors.  A few months back, some Saviors met Ezekiel and, recognizing his capabilities, cut a deal.  In exchange for food and supplies, , the Saviors wouldn’t hurt anyone or enter the Kingdom.

And since Ezekiel both trusts Morgan and likes Carol, Richard needs them to help convince Ezekiel to fight the Saviors.  There’s peace with the Saviors now, but Richard fears that something will go wrong or the Saviors will just stop honoring the deal.  Once that happens, the Kingdom will fall.  Richard lost his family to this world and he’s afraid that if nothing happens now, more will die.

He knows what the Saviors can do and does not trust them.  In essence, Richard wants Morgan and Carol to convince Ezekiel to launch a preemptive strike against the Saviors.

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Over at Alexandria’s church, Rosita admires her handcrafted bullet when Gabriel asks if it’s for her or Negan.  She’s not worried about dying so long as Negan is killed in the process.  Gabriel agrees, but he doesn’t see why does Rosita has to die.  And there’s no need to lie if this is their last conversation.

Rosita believes that Abraham was still alive, they could fight.  If Glenn lived, Maggie’s child would have a father.  Michonne and Carl have Rick, Aaron has Eric, Eugene knows things, and Daryl is strong.  Gabriel mentions Sasha as well and tells Rosita that it shouldn’t have been her or anyone else.

He is convinced that they will win, but they need to wait for or create the right moment together.  Rosita is a part of that, so she shouldn’t do this because everyone needs her.

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Richard knows that the Saviors outnumber the Kingdom, so they need to attack first while they have the advantage and, hopefully, the element of surprise.  Though a capable fighter, Carol wants no part of this and would still prefer to be left alone.

Morgan knows people will die, and he only killed to save Carol.  In Richard’s mind, there’s no difference between that and killing other Saviors to protect everyone else.  Richard tells While Morgan would rather build on the peace that exists now, Richard tells him that he’ll have to choose to kill one day because things aren’t going to get easier. He should choose now before losing someone close to him.

But Richard knows that there’s no reasoning with the Saviors.  He believes that the Saviors will turn on the Kingdom, and when blood is shed, it will be on Morgan and Carol’s hands.  With that, he leaves.  Carol tells Morgan that she doesn’t want anyone else knowing where she is, but he never meant for anyone to see her.

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Spencer enters his home and finds it turned upside down, but it’s soon cleaned up as he gets himself nice and ready for a confrontation.

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Back in the woods, Richard enters a hidden home and collapses to the floor as he eyes his supplies.

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Rosita then asks Spencer if he’s on for a date, but he just wants to get close to Negan, as he figures that he’s got good momentum with the Saviors.  Spencer asks why Rosita ended or even started what the two of them had, given that he felt they had something good.

Truth is that Rosita was trying not to think about shit. finds Spencer sweet, sure, but she admits that she just used him.  At the very least, she does agree to dinner with Spencer, no strings attached.

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Daryl again manages to find a motorcycle when he’s confronted by Fat Joseph, who surrenders and offers to let Daryl leave right now.  He tells Daryl that he’s just trying to get by, but Daryl just beats him to death just as Jesus finds him.  Daryl retorts that it’s not about getting by, but getting it all.  Before the two leave, Jesus pockets one of the walkie-talkies.

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After being refused entry by Arat, Spencer is eventually allowed to pass and officially introduces himself to Negan.

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Michonne and Isabelle companion are still on the road when they come to a stop. Isabelle tells Michonne that Negan is up ahead.   You know, because they’re all Negan. She says that whatever Michonne is planning won’t work, but she still has some choices. As her final move, Isabelle informs Michonne that there’s a silencer in the glove compartment…

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Meanwhile, Rick and Aaron return to Alexandria, when they learn that Negan is waiting for Rick.  The Saviors then check the truck for supplies, among them the note that Rick and Aaron found on the boat.  Why the hell do they still have that?  Anyway, the Saviors think that the disparaging note is meant for them, so they start beating the shit out of Aaron and stop Rick from interfering.

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Negan is overjoyed about Spencer’s housewarming gift, but the only thing missing is a pool table.  Luckily, the house across the street has one, but Negan has a better idea.

With the pool table set, Spencer tells Negan that he understands what Negan is trying to build with this network.  It makes sense, but Rick has a history of not working well with others.  More than that, Rick wasn’t the original leader and wasn’t as good as Deanna.  Negan finds that a sad story, but lucky for him, Rick isn’t in charge.  Even still, Spencer knows that Rick’s out-of-control ego will lead to him trying to screw things up.

With the Alexandria residents now gathered at the pool table, Negan asks what Spencer is proposing, and Spencer offers to be the leader that Negan needs.

But Negan has been thinking about how Rick, despite hating him, is out gathering things to make sure no one else is hurt.  He’s swallowing his hate to get shit done, and that takes guts.  Then there’s Spencer, who waited for Rick to leave so he could get Negan to do his dirty work.  After all, if Spencer really wants to be in charge, why doesn’t he just kill Rick himself?

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Negan says it’s because Spencer has no guts.  And with that, he plunges a knife straight into Spencer’s stomach and guts spill out everywhere.  Negan is beyond embarrassed, as Spencer did have guts after all- they were inside him all along.  The residents are left shocked, but Negan orders someone to get this mess cleaned.  He asks if anyone wants to finish the pool game, but no takers.  Rosita pulls out her gun and fires.

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The other Saviors finally let up on beating Aaron and Rick is allowed to help him.  They hear a gunshot ring out and it turns out that Lucille ended up taking a hit from Rosita’s bullet.  Negan demands to know about the bullet that he correctly guesses is homemade.

Since Lucille’s beautiful surface won’t look the same, Negan figures that Rosita’s shouldn’t either…unless she tells him who made the bullet.  Arat then places a blade to Rosita’s face.

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Rosita says that she made it, but Negan figures that she’s lying.  Negan orders Arat to kill someone, so with fucking perfect aim, she turns around and kills Olivia.  And this is where Rick and Aaron arrive just in time for Negan to ask for a thank you.  Even though this relationship started off tense, he just showed how reasonable how he was.  After all, Carl gunned down two Saviors, but Negan brought him home and fed him.

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Not to mention Spencer plotting behind Rick’s back, but now he’s dead.  Again, thanks to Negan.  And Rosita shot Lucille, so now there’s one less mouth to feed in Olivia’s death.  Negan wouldn’t have killed her- that’s all Arat’s doing.  Rick tells Negan that his shit is waiting for him at the gate, so he can leave.  However, Negan still wants to know who made the bullet.

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Eugene admits that he was the one who made the bullet, and Negan believes him.  Negan orders Lucille to give him strength and Negan will now relieve Rick of Eugene.  Whatever Rick scavenged is no good because after today, he’s in deep shit. Also, Negan loves Rick’s kitchen.  With that, the Saviors depart.  Spencer soon reanimates just as Rick puts him down.

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He later sits in the cell that Morgan built as he looks over a note when Michonne joins him.  The two embrace because, let’s face it, they’ve had one hell of a day.  Michonne confirms that she found what she was looking for, as she had to go her way instead of joining Rick and Aaron.  But when she found it, she realized that she didn’t want it to be her way, but theirs.

There are more Saviors than anticipated, but that doesn’t change how Michonne how feels or how things are.  There’s so much that they’ve lived through when they should have died and they will keep standing, so now they’re left wondering how they make that mean something.  After all, Rick once said that they’re the ones who live.  That’s why they have to fight: not for themselves, but for everyone.  They can find a way to beat the Saviors.

And Rick now knows that.

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Back at the Hilltop, Maggie again climbs the walls when she calls out to Sasha and Enid.  Turns out that Rick, Michonne, Tara, Carl, and Rosita have arrived at the Hilltop.  Rick tells Maggie that she was right from the beginning, as they need to get ready to fight.  Rick couldn’t have listened back then, but now he can.

Oh, also, Daryl and Jesus are at the Hilltop and he returns Rick’s colt.  Now reunited, the group heads towards the mansion as the first half of The Walking Dead’s seventh season comes to a close.

But wait, there’s more!  In a stinger at the end, Gabriel takes his post atop the Alexandria walls while the same individual who spied on Rick and Aaron watches him from a distance.

Well, that’s it for the first half of Season Seven and the wheels are in motion with the communities heading towards taking on Negan and the Saviors.  “Hearts Still Beating” is a very good episode and finisher for the first half that balances different storylines and communities very well.  It was all well-paced.  We’re at Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Sanctuary, or the Kingdom long enough to get the gist of what’s going happening.

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While I haven’t had a big issue with the episodes dealing with one community, it makes sense, given the situation, that things are ramping up, so of course we’d head back to multiple plots and catch up not just on how the communities are doing, but how they’re planning on dealing with Negan.

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And a big part of that has to do with being unified, as Michonne concludes when on the road and as she tells Rick in a very good speech about working together.  Making the most of this situation with the Saviors doesn’t work if everyone isn’t banded together.  Hell, even Gabriel tells Rosita that creating the right moment comes from working as one as opposed to going at it alone.  Hopefully Sasha and Jesus have let Maggie in on their plan.

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But a team won’t function as well without its leader, and it looks as if Rick has finally come around to fighting back as opposed to biding his time.  And that’s through a combination of the people who have either suffered or been killed up through this point, watching Aaron be beaten, Michonne’s speech to him, and how his own son went right to Negan’s stronghold, killed a few Saviors, and could’ve gotten himself killed.  Again.

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Rick had been brought down, but he’s not out.  And while Maggie instantly wanted to fight, it took him more time to come around.  Now that he’s ready for war and has reunited with the others at the Hilltop, now it’s just a matter of formulating a successful attack that won’t lead to more deaths, impossible as that sounds.  Instead of just taking the fight to Negan ahead of time, he needs a better strategy.

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He also needs to be more trusting of his new allies, as it was unnecessary for him to suggest that Aaron sit out the boat mission, even though he didn’t mean it.  Despite the tense, first encounter, Aaron has proven himself loyal and willing to help when necessary.  He was there when Glenn and Abraham died, so he knows the cost, but damn the consequences, he’s proving to Rick why he’s a vital member of this coalition.

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Over at the Kingdom, Richard is falling into the same trap that Rick did with his plan of a preemptive strike against the Saviors.  He knows that the Saviors can’t be trusted and he wants to take the fight to them ahead of time, but if he was aware of what happened with Rick, chances are he would be more cautious about wanting to get a potential early advantage against the Saviors.

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By the way, what’s going on with Carol?  Seems like she’s still in her funk about not wanting to kill or be involved with this conflict at all.  That’s fine, but for her to say that she doesn’t want anyone to know where she is and that she’d rather be left alone isn’t helpful at this point.  I doubt this is long term.  Maybe once she learns what happened to the others, she’ll go back to killer Mama Bear Carol.

At the very least, the seed has been planted in Morgan and Carol’s minds about the Kingdom playing a part in an offensive against Negan.  And as Richard said, Morgan will have to kill again eventually to protect the people in his life.  Once Rick arrives at the Kingdom, I wager he’ll do a better job of persuading the community to fight than either Carol or Morgan.

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Now let’s get to Spencer’s death, another comic moment come to life in a beautiful, bloody way.  The moment played out, note-for-note, like you remember it from the comics and it really showed what Negan sees in Rick.  For all his hatred for Negan, Rick, as far as Negan knows, isn’t a schemer.  He’s swallowing his pride and working for Negan in order to protect Alexandria.

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By contrast, Spencer would take the coward’s way out and, like Gregory, suck up to the opposition in order to get in their good graces.  Problem is that Negan gets off on and likes when people fight against him.  What Spencer’s doing requires very little thought because there’s no guarantee that Negan would accept him with open arms.  As broken as Rick has been this season, Negan at least knows that he has a spine.

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Oh, but Spencer’s not the only one making stupid decisions.  Rosita took a prime opportunity to kill Negan and had a perfect shot, and not only did she almost get herself killed- and she seemed ready to die- but she got Olivia killed in the process.  Why now?

Daryl punched Negan in the face, which led to Glenn getting killed. Rosita took a shot and missed, but despite that, her actions got someone killed.  Clearly Rosita never watched The Wire or she would have remembered Omar’s words: you come at the king, you best not miss.

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Perhaps it was impulsive thinking, but what made her believe she could pull off what amounts to a suicide mission?  She didn’t even land her target, and now not only is Olivia dead, but Eugene has been taken captive.

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That’s another thing: why does Negan decide to take Eugene?  Aside from the knowledge of how to make bullets, what could Negan get from him?  Wouldn’t it make more sense to take Rosita?  He took Daryl hostage and said that he had guts.  Take the woman who almost killed you instead of the guy whose skill is making bullets.  Or, hell, just take them both.  Rick wasn’t about to stop Negan.

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Credit where it’s due, that was a fantastic shot on Arat’s part.  The woman didn’t even give it much of a thought- she just spun around and killed Olivia on the first try.  It’s more impressive given how far away Olivia was when Arat could have just killed anyone in the crowd around her.  By the way, I love Arat.  Or rather, the intensity of Elizabeth Ludlow’s performance.  Like Daryl, she’s not a comic character, but is enjoyable all the same.

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The reunion at the end felt very earned, especially seeing Rick and Daryl reunite after Negan refused to let the two so much as talk or look at each other.  I would assume that Daryl and Maggie are on good terms as well.  Our group is down, but they’re not out.

And with most of our survivors back together, the time has come for the communities to combine their resources and slowly build a strong coalition capable of taking on their common enemy in Negan and the Saviors.  Will everyone answer the call? Will there be any holdouts?  And who the hell is spying on Alexandria?

“Hearts Still Beating” was a very strong outing for the first half of the season.  It balanced multiple communities very well and was both fun- mostly through Negan’s actions- and suspenseful to watch at the same time.  As we head towards war, I am very excited to see how things go in the second half of Season Seven.  See you then.

A Look at The Walking Dead #161- “The Whisperer War: Part 5 of 6”

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It’s funny if you think about it: we’re at part five of the Whisperer War, yet by issue’s end, the war seems all but over…for at least one community.  The bulk of this issue dealt with the battle between the Whisperer and their roamer herd versus the Hilltop community, and damn it was an amazing sight to read.

This issue showcased just how much of a fight the Hilltop can put up when they band together, helped cement why Maggie is the true leader of this group, and left the community in a precarious position by issue’s end.

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Speaking of cementing, this issue set in stone that Lydia has rejected the Whisperers for good.  She’s switched sides and now sees herself as one of the survivors that we’ve followed.  I mean, she blew one of the Whisperers straight to hell at the end of issue #160, so there’s no question about her allegiance, but it’s so satisfying that she’s ended up here, given what she’s endured.

We know that Alpha let random Whisperers rape Lydia, in addition to any other sort of trauma or abuse she endured while a Whisperer, and that alone was an incentive to get out.  If I had to guess, I think that there could be potential friction from neighboring communities if they learn that Lydia has chosen to stay with the Hilltop folks.

Hell, part of the reason Rick and Andrea had Lydia leave Alexandria was for her own safety, so hopefully feelings have cooled and people outside of the Hilltop are more receptive to Lydia.

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Something else I liked about the Hilltop attack was Carl, against Maggie’s wishes, going to alert other residents during the fire instead of escaping while Maggie, as leader, informed the others.  Carl tells Maggie not to argue with him and that she’s more important.  Even though Carl is still a kid and can be pretty ruthless at times, when the time calls for it, he’ll rise to the occasion and help during a crisis.

And this shows just how much he respects not merely as a friend, but as a leader.  And he’s right, in this moment, Maggie is more important.  What good is saving everyone else and protecting the Hilltop if the leader ends up dying in the process when they could have avoided that fate?  It’d be like if Rick died during “All Out War” for some careless error.

But here, Carl acknowledges that getting Maggie outside and to safety is the priority. Even though she’s more than capable of saving the residents, she needs to be outside and on the front lines in battle.  But Carl has also endured his fair share of trials during this and past conflicts, so he’s more than willing to risk his life as well if it means saving or informing other Hilltop residents.

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For a second there, I thought Carl was going to…maybe not die, but come close to it. That fire got pretty damn close to him and were it not for Aaron also putting himself at risk to save Carl, things might have gone down different for him.

Outside of that, this was a damn impressive battle with some great artwork from Charlie Adlard that shows the scope of this clash and felt very similar to “No Way Out.”  Here, have a look.

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And this.  This, just wow.  Now this is a badass moment not just for Maggie, but for any character period.  It’s the kind of image that feels good enough to be blown up as a poster. Just the visual of this worn out, exhausted Maggie standing triumphant, Hershel at her side, the Hilltop residents standing tired, but triumphant, while their home burns in the background is a strong image.

They’re victorious, but they’ve now lost their home.  And not only are there still both roamers and Whisperers still out there roaming, as seen when Beta indicates that this is far from over, but they have to find a new location.  Given how many people are at the Hilltop, coupled with long-distance travel, moving from the Hilltop to a new residency will be challenging, more so if the group travels at night.

But then, what choice do they have right now?  They can’t just stay at the Hilltop not just because it’s burned, but they would leave themselves open to another assault if the remaining Whisperers try to launch another attack.  Either way, it’s great to see the Hilltop residents band together and force the Whisperers into retreat.  Their home is now lost as a result, but this is still a major win for the survivors.  For now.

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Moving along to the other survivors, it looks like Connie was bitten off-panel.  Sucks, but hopefully Magna was able to sever the hand in time.  Like the Hilltop, it’s another case of a group having what looks like a success against the Whisperers, but not without a loss.

You’ve also got Dwight chastising Negan for losing Lucille, but can you really blame Negan for mourning his loss?  We’re talking about a fucking baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, but she has a special place in all of our hearts and some of our skulls.  It was a bit meta, I think, for Negan to tell Dwight that he didn’t understand how he felt, but us readers do, given the ongoing “Here’s Negan” backstory we’ve been getting.

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We’ve got Eugene making his way in the middle of the night with his ammunition, saying that this is the good he can do.  It’s an interesting contrast to where Eugene is in the television series right now, where you’ve got Rosita saying that he’s a coward.  Here, he’s willingly putting himself in harm’s way by traveling at night instead of waiting until day because these bullets are what he contributes to the battle.

So here’s hoping Eugene doesn’t run into any trouble on the road.  I mean, if that happens, he does have a bunch of bullets he could use, but given how much can go wrong when traveling at night, he better watch his ass.

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Same with Rick and Andrea, who are all but ready for some normalcy in their lives.  I hope that Kirkman isn’t setting one of them up to be axed off because their conversations have been very warm, and there’s always the calm before the storm when it comes to Kirkman. We’ve had a fair share of big deaths and I hope that these two make it through, so maybe I’m just looking too deep into this.

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But at least they’re alert of the looming situation because we’re seeing that the war is not only far from over as far as the Whisperers are concerned, but Sherry is plotting a comeback for the Saviors.  Rick and company are fighting for their lives against the Whisperers.  Their resources are divided in several places and the Hilltop is now lost.

Soon, as Sherry points out, battling the Whisperers will leave the other communities tired and exhausted.  Never mind that there may be other Whisperers out there, but the Saviors would be in a prime position to attack once the Whisperers have drained the survivors of their fight.  Not that they’d be unable to fight against another attack, but they wouldn’t be at full strength.

And that’s the advantage in Sherry’s plan: why attack Rick now when his people are ready for anything?  Even though they already know about the Saviors’ plans, their priority is dealing with the Whisperers.  Sherry knows that Rick will triumph in the end.  Hell, that’s what she wants.  But if she’s leading the Saviors to a resurrection or to pick up where Negan left off, she’s in a prime position to do so.

And so that is the fifth part of the Whisperer War.  The Hilltop has won the battle, but not the war as their community is now in flames, so now they must seek new shelter. Meanwhile, the Kingdom is set to enter the battle, so keep an eye on them as well.  Hell, maybe they can provide support for the Hilltop folks now that they’re without a home.

The Whisperers have faced a setback, but with Beta still lurking and the Saviors planning a comeback, this battle is far from over.

A Look at The Walking Dead- Season 7, Episode 7: “Sing Me a Song”

So after that slight detour to check in on Heath and Tara, it’s time to return to some multiple plots and see just what happens when Carl pays Negan a surprise visit at the Sanctuary. The comic fan in me cannot wait for this one.  Welcome to “Sing Me a Song.”

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The episode begins with Michonne on the road as she again comes across the burned mattresses.  Doing her best impression of Omar from The Wire, she whistles “The Farmer and the Dell,” and soon puts down two approaching walkers.  Setting down the radio and her katana, she begins dragging one of the walkers away.

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Elsewhere, Rick and Aaron awaken just past 5:30.  Rick contemplates radioing into Michonne, but doesn’t.  As the two prepare to head out, they make a new discovery.

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On another part of the road, some Saviors talk of how something is still going, but it might be the end of them.  At least Negan is smart enough to not let that mess anywhere near them.  Fat Joey also apparently rigged the herdway.

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When the Saviors finally depart, they are unaware that Carl and Jesus are also on this truck.  While the drive continues, Jesus pours syrup onto the road in order to leave a trail, thinking that they’re close.  Jesus wants to bail and follow the rest of the way.  The trucks are slow enough, so he and Carl will be in the blind spot and can race behind the other cars.

However, only Jesus jumps out and is left on the road as Carl continues towards the Sanctuary.  As the truck approaches, Carl loads up one of the machine guns and overhears Negan’s voice.  One of the Saviors tells Negan that the redirect has been screwed up.  They’re on it now, but there’s still a mess.

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As the Saviors check the truck, Carl opens fire and manages to gun down a few of the Saviors.  He demands that the rest lower their weapons, saying that he only wants Negan. Negan indeed presents himself, calling Carl adorable, even though he scares the shit out of him.

Dwight tackles Carl and confiscates his knife, but Negan orders him to back off.  After all, it’s no way to treat a guest.  Negan is all ready to give Carl a tour of the place, and Carl eventually relents and takes Carl’s hand.  Negan tells Carl that, like Daryl, he’s lucky, as both of their lives and jobs would be tougher with just one hand or arm.

As Dwight takes Daryl instead, Negan laments that he’ll maybe have time to screw just one of his wives today.  As for what’s in store for Carl, two things: Carl can’t shatter the badass image that Negan has of him, so Carl can’t show any fear.  Second, Negan sure as shit isn’t about to ruin the surprise..

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Negan brings Carl inside the Sanctuary, where he greets a waiting crowd of Saviors.  He tells his followers that they have gone out into the world, fought the dead, and come back with some good shit.  That shit can be theirs if they work hard and play by the rules.  As such, everyone, regardless of points, gets fresh vegetables at dinner.  Negan tells Carl that this is a sign of respect, as the people are still kneeling.

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Back in Alexandria, Rosita and Eugene have the first of many arguments this episode, this one over whether to gather supplies for the Saviors or ways to fight back.  Spencer, though, believes the three should travel together, but Rosita says that she’s fine with Eugene.

Spencer can grovel to the Saviors all he wants, but he still believes this is all Rick’s fault. Even if Spencer can do better, Rosita isn’t so confident that he’s capable.  If Spencer wants to provide for the Saviors, he can, but he’ll do so alone.

You know, Spencer certainly has a way with women.  Those that don’t end up in harm’s way can’t get far enough away from him.

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Negan pops by his harem and tells Carl that the women won’t mind if he stares at their tits.  He shares a drink with Sherry and wants to know what happened with Amber and Mark, but Sherry says that’s none of Negan’s business.  Fair enough, but Negan wants to know if it’s true that Mark skipped out on redirect duty to be with Amber.  After all, there are rules for a reason and nothing matters if you’re dead.

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Sherry is with Negan because she gets that.  She admits that Amber made a mistake and wants Negan to go easy on her, but Negan reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of the women.  True, but Sherry knows that there’s worse to Negan.  This tale is to be continued.

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Negan then goes to Amber, played by Autumn Dial, and tells her that he doesn’t want anyone in his harem that doesn’t want to be there.  If Amber wants to go back to Mark, she can, but what she can’t do is cheat on Negan.  There are other women who would love to take Amber’s place.  If Amber wants to return to Mark and her mother, Negan can put all three of them on the same job.

Though Negan accepts Amber’s apology, but Negan reminds Amber that she knows what’s coming next.  It’s all going to work out fine for Amber, though.  Negan then tells Sherry to go fetch Carson.  Negan knows that he’s an asshole, but Sherry still likes him anyway.

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Then Dwight and Daryl just as Negan is kissing Sherry.  Daryl, as the help, brings in a plate of food, which is sad to see, I will admit.  He demands to know why Carl is here, but that’s none of his business.  If Daryl isn’t careful, a toothpick will go through Carl’s good eye.  Negan then tells Dwight to fire up the furnace.  It’s time for a little déjà vu.

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Back on the road, Rick and Aaron approach a gate with only a day to find supplies.  They climb the gate, which warns approaching people that the only thing beyond the gate is trouble, and head off to find supplies.  You’d think that, based on Terminus, Rick would be more wary of areas with signs.

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Elsewhere, Spencer asks Gabriel if hating someone is a sin, and it’s not since it’s a thought.  Actions matter more in the end.  Spencer admits that he hates Rick.  He was a cop, but shouldn’t be in charge.  Deanna, though, served in Congress and brought out the good in people.  However, Rick did the same for Gabriel through his inspiration.  More than that, Rick, despite not being perfect, kept people together and alive.

And neither Deanna nor Reg’s deaths were Rick’s fault.  Before Spencer contemplates what would have happened if things went differently, Gabriel only looks towards the future. No point in speculating on ‘What ifs.’  But Spencer sees no future as long as Rick is in charge.  The only good thing that could happen is if Rick doesn’t make it back to Alexandria.  Gabriel then orders Spencer to stop the car.

He tells Spencer that what he’s saying doesn’t make him a sinner, but a tremendous shit.  For now.  It doesn’t have to be terminal, though.  Fuck yeah, Father Gabriel.  Anyway, Gabriel then gets out of the car and decides to walk back.  Spencer soon also exits the car and heads into the woods.  He soon finds a walker up in a tree with a compound bow nearby.

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Back at the Sanctuary, Negan brings Carl to his quarters and confirms that yes, all of those women are his wives.  After all, why settle for just one?  Negan wants to get to know Carl better, as he’s fascinated by this kid.  He figured a kid like Carl would mope around and cry about missing things like prom, but Carl instead went on a mission and killed two Saviors.  And Carl is smart enough to know that Negan won’t let this slide.

Negan then orders Carl to take off his bandage.  Carl refuses, but Negan reminds Carl that two of his men are dead.  This is punishment, and Carl probably doesn’t want to piss off Negan right now.

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Carl soon relents and removes his bandage, revealing the socket where his eye used to be.  It is indeed disgusting as shit, but Negan finds it glamorous, even if won’t get Carl a girlfriend anytime soon.  An impressed Negan wants to touch it, but Carl soon gets very upset by this.

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Negan pulls back and apologizes for hurting Carl’s feelings.  He was just fucking around.  Soon, there’s a knock at the door.  Fat Joseph returns Lucille to Negan, as he left her by the truck, which never happens.  Negan reclaims Lucille from Fat Joseph and asks if he treated Lucille kindly like a proper lady.

And that includes if he patted Lucille’s pussy like a lady, but Negan is just fucking with Fat Joseph.  After all, a baseball bat doesn’t have a pussy.  That’s just Anatomy 101.  This is what Rick should be teaching Carl.  Negan then asks Carl to sing him a song.  Carl can’t think of any, so Negan asks Carl what his parents used to sing or play for him.

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Eventually, Carl begins singing “You Are My Sunshine” while Negan takes random swings.  Negan loves it, as does Lucille- the one thing she loves more than bashing in brains.  When asked about his mother, Carl doesn’t answer, so Negan puts two and two together.  More than that, Carl admits that he was the one to put her down.  Negan then orders Carl to get up because the iron should be ready.

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Negan tells his Saviors that what’s about to happen is hard to watch.  He can’t ignore the rules and let it slide because, as the Saviors say, the rules keep us alive.  The Saviors provide security and bring civilization to the world, but they can’t do that without rules because the rules make it all work.  Negan knows that it’s not easy, but there’s always a cost.  Here, if you try to cut corners, then it’s the iron for you.

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Negan heads down and receives the red-hot iron from Dwight.  He apologizes in advance for what’s about to happen to Mark, played by Griffin Freeman, but it is what it is.  With that, he presses the iron to Mark’s face as Mark lets out a horrible scream.  When Negan removes the iron, Mark passes out from the extreme heat.  With the ritual done, Negan orders Daryl to clean up the mess and tells Dr. Carson to get to work.

But everything is cool.  Mark’s face should be a daily reminder to everyone that the rules matter.  Plus, Negan doesn’t want to do this again.  He then leaves with Carl in order to figure out what to do with him.

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In the woods, Spencer manages to secure a rope to the platform the walker is situated on and gets it loose enough for the compound bow to drop.  He retrieves it just as the walker drops, losing its arms in the process.  Spencer pick-pockets the walker and, among the items he finds, comes across a note.

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Eugene and Rosita arrive at the munitions factory, though Eugene has no desire to be here.  He refuses to help, even though he did initially agree to do so.  Since then, Eugene has considered other options and is wondering whether this option even makes sense.  He’s not trying to stop Rosita so much as slow her roll.  And Eugene is seeing clearly.  As Abraham said, the Saviors have numbers and a single bullet won’t do it.

Someone has to pay the price, and even if Rosita is willing, it’s still an uphill battle.  Rosita reminds Eugene that she owes both him and Abraham.  If there’s a price, she’ll pay it. She lashes out at Eugene, calling him a weak coward and saying that he’s only alive because people feel sorry for him.  So for once, he needs to do something useful and make her a goddamn bullet.

Rosita, you’re being a real cunt right now.

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We return to the Sanctuary where Dwight and Sherry again have a smoke.  Dwight tells Sherry not to beat herself up, as he figures that she sold out Mark and Amber.  Sherry says that isn’t what happened, but Dwight sees through her lie.

Sherry says that this deal with Negan was only meant to affect them, but Dwight believes that Sherry is just standing on someone else’s back.  The two could be spotted, but Dwight isn’t worried since they’re not doing anything.  Sherry agrees with that much.

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Negan still won’t let Carl wrap up his face because Negan isn’t done with him.  Carl demands to know why Negan hasn’t killed him, Rick, or Daryl yet.  Negan has plays for Daryl, saying that he’ll make a good soldier.  Rick is already gathering for Negan, but as for Carl, that remains to be seen.  It’s better and more fun for Negan to break him.  So Negan asks Carl what he should do with him, since he can’t release him.

He could do a number of terrible things, but Carl suggests that Negan jump out the window to save him the trouble of killing him.  If Negan was going to do anything, he would have done it.  Carl doesn’t even believe that Negan would kill him, and maybe Carl is right.  As Negan gathers Lucille, he tells Carl that they’re going for a ride.

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As the trucks leave the Sanctuary, Negan is unaware that Jesus is atop his truck.  Negan tells Daryl that he’s taking Carl home and orders Dwight to take Daryl back to his box.  Back to Easy Street it is.

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So while Daryl stews in his cell, he gets a key under his door and a note that tells him it’s time to go.

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On the road, a lone Savior happens upon a roadblock of corpses when she’s soon approached by Michonne, who orders her to lower her gun and knife.  She orders the woman to take her to Negan.

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And just where is Negan?  Well, he’s back in Alexandria with Carl as he pays Olivia a surprise visit.  He wants to speak with Rick, but he’s out scavenging and might not be back today, so Negan will wait.  Olivia tells Negan that Alexandria is low on supplies, particularly with food, but Negan takes one look at Olivia and figures can’t be the case for everyone.  This makes Olivia cry.  A dick comment, but it’s Negan, so I’ll allow it.

Negan apologizes for being rude and offers instead to fuck Olivia’s brains out if she agrees, and that gets Negan a slap in the face instead.  That just gets Negan 50 percent more into Olivia.  He orders Olivia to make him a drink.

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So Carl gives Negan the grand tour of the house as we get a montage.  He even gets to meet and picks up Judith.

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Rick and Aaron- you remember them, right?- happen upon a sign telling them about an armed person who has supplies and ammunition.  The only way for someone to have reached this point is that the person who wrote the sign must apparently be dead.  Indeed, Rick and Aaron find what looks a houseboat.

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Rosita thanks Eugene for her bullet and apologizes for what she said, though Eugene rejects it because he knows Rosita meant what she said.  As the two make their way back, they happen upon Spencer, who found a list of caches from a dead man with a plan.  However, Rick is going to do more than just hand this over to the Saviors..

Well, Spencer won’t have to wait long to deliver the goods, as he, Eugene, and Rosita find that Negan is already at Alexandria.

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In fact, Negan, Carl, and Judith sit on one of the porches and unwind.  Negan likes it so much that he’d like to stay, and knows that it’s probably stupid to leave Carl and Rick alive.  Maybe he should just bury kill and later bury them in the flower beds.  He says this while holding Judith, which is creepy as fuck.

Now I’m no professional or a doctor, Jim, but I’ll just come right out and say it: I fucking loved this episode.  The Walking Dead has been going through a tough period right now with the ratings.  Perhaps people are tired, maybe the bottle episodes have gotten on their nerves, maybe the entertainment factor has dried up for some.  I don’t know.

I’ll admit that the bottle episodes have been somewhat slower, but at the same time, they’ve allowed for some very good world building and character development.  Plus, when done well, like the excellent “Clear.”  I wouldn’t personally say any of the bottle episodes we’ve gotten have been as good as that, but I’ve enjoyed them nonetheless.  But I can understand some criticisms when people say they’d prefer multiple storylines.

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We sort of get that here, to a point, but I dug this episode not just for its fun factor, but as a fan of the comic book, this felt like a treat as we got to see a lot of comic moments come to life.  And we didn’t even spend the entire episode at the Sanctuary, so those wanting several plots to play out at once hopefully got what they wanted.

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As for me, having comic moments on screen was the real joy of this episode to me.  We got the iron ritual, we saw Negan’s harem, and Negan bonding with Carl.

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Actually, let’s start there, because some of the stuff with Carl was a bit weak.  I don’t blame the acting because I do think Chandler Riggs did a good job, but I have to wonder how these scenes would have played out if this Carl was as young as his comic counterpart was at this moment.

I sympathize with Carl because of the position he’s put himself into, but it didn’t feel as uncomfortable as it was originally because Carl, though a badass in both interpretations, was just a kid.  Here, he’s already been hardened through things like putting down his own mother.  If anything, I just wish that we had more scenes that allowed Carl to show his vulnerable side.

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Having said that, I’m not really complaining.  I like how Carl, despite crying in front of Negan, maintained his composure, not to maintain a front, but because he’s not intimidated by Negan.  Hell, he went as far as telling Negan to jump out of a window and questioned whether Negan would even follow through on killing him.  Carl is tempting fate, but I think he knows that Negan wouldn’t kill him at this moment if he hadn’t already.

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But as Negan indicated, it’s more fun to try and break him.  And given the shit that Carl saw this episode, I would agree.  Even though this is the second tour us viewers have had of the Sanctuary, there’s something different about seeing it with Carl as opposed to spending most of the time in Daryl’s cell.  Here, we saw more of the Saviors and their devotion to Negan.

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As he tells his followers, there are rules.  Break them and you get the iron, which was a pretty disturbing scene.  I had hoped that the show wouldn’t cut away when the iron made impact, but we did eventually see it, so I’m not angry.  It showed how strict a stickler is for the rules, but also the lengths he’ll go to make sure his disciples stay in line because, as he told them, he didn’t want to have to do this again.

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The strange thing is, as evil of a man that he is, we see that Negan has standards.  He reminds Sherry that he’s never hit any of his women.  He previously offered Dwight a chance to bed any woman as long as she said yes.  And he’s not forcing any of the women to stay with him, even though their lives are far better living with him than scavenging for points.

And we see his softer side not just with Carl, but in Alexandria.  He tried to apologize to Olivia after making fun of her weight, and though he got slapped for his troubles, we’ve seen how much Negan gets off on people fighting against him.

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Though I maintain that seeing him hold Judith while talking about how he would kill Rick and Carl is one of Negan’s creepier moments.  Hell, just seeing Negan hold Judith was still creepy as shit.  He’s like the demented dad who loves fucking with you, but there’s some small part of him that still cares about your feelings.

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Negan’s a guy you should hate, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s performance makes him as eccentric and likable as he is in the comic, even though you’re also rooting for his death at the same time as laughing with him.

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But enough about Negan, because I could talk about him all day.  There were plenty of other great character moments this episode.  I loved Gabriel calling out Spencer on his shit.  Not only was he right, but this shows how far Gabriel has come since his introduction and some of his time in Alexandria.  This is the same man who warned Deanna that Rick and his group are dangerous people.

Now, even though he’s maintaining his faith, he’s not afraid to call someone a tremendous shit.  He’s witnessed Rick’s ability as a leader and even though Rick has made some bad decisions, he’s also shown why he deserves to lead Alexandria.  Deanna was a good leader, sure, but she saw something in Rick, and Spencer should realize that.

But he still doesn’t acknowledge Rick’s leadership, so chances are he’s going to do or say something that could lead to disaster.  I say that not just as a fan of the comic book, but the fact that he thinks things would be better if Rick didn’t return to Alexandria shows that he’s plotting.

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Not sure what to make of what Michonne’s doing.  Like Sasha and Rosita, she wants her revenge against Negan and perhaps she’s heading right to him, but I assume this will play out more in the mid-season finale.  And at the same time, she’s being proactive in her mission, and she’s better at this than trying to be Alexandria’s resident sniper.

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As for Rick and Aaron, I wager they may come across some weapons and the two may grapple on whether to keep them for themselves or, as Spencer is doing, hand over their items to Negan.  It would be nice for them to have an extra stockpile of weapons on standby in case needed.  The area they found looked pretty isolated, so chances are they could even leave the arms there, take down the sign, and keep quiet about the spot.

There’s a lot I liked about this episode and I’m very anxious to see how this will all play out in the mid-season finale, especially with Negan back in Alexandria, but before wrapping up, I’ll just go through one negative I have.

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The one part of this episode that I wasn’t a fan of was Rosita, or rather, her attitude towards Eugene.  I get her rationale.  She wants her revenge not just for herself, but for Abraham as well, and she’s not going to let anything stop her, especially if it’s possible for Eugene to manufacture a bullet.  What I didn’t like was her calling Eugene a coward and saying that his survival is due to other people’s actions.

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Rosita is way out of line here.  Yes, Eugene isn’t as gung-ho as her, but ever since “No Way Out,” Eugene has stepped up and done a lot to help the survivors.  He bit Dwight right in the dick, giving Abraham the opening he needed to attack the Saviors, and in “Last Day on Earth,” he was the one who ended up taking the camper, even though he ended up getting his ass kicked by the Saviors.

My point is that this even though Eugene is no Abraham, he has made significant development and has proven that he’s a changed man.  And for Rosita to call him weak felt like a step backwards.  He’s just hesitant to taking on the Saviors, and that’s understandable.  He was there in the lineup right along with Rosita.  Who could blame him for not wanting to just jump into this bullet plan?

Otherwise, “Sing Me a Song” was a great episode that allowed us to spend significant time at the Sanctuary as Negan bonded and became great buddies with Carl.  As we head into the mid-season finale, there are a lot of pieces in place to make for hopefully a great episode: Jesus may be of help to Daryl at the Sanctuary, Michonne is on the warpath, and Negan has made another surprise visit to Alexandria.  No one is on Easy Street right now.