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.

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