The Walking Dead SN7 EP08-‘Hearts Still Beating’

After a brutal half season, The Walking Dead picks up the pace to end on a hopeful note.


There we have it folks, The Walking Dead has bowed out for 2016, and low and behold it actually ended on a note of hope. The show has done an effective job of showing us just how horrible Negan and the Saviours can be across this half season, but seeing our heroes beaten down can only be interesting for so long, so it was fantastic to see that we’re finally headed on a March to War. However, it wasn’t that easy. Rick and Co couldn’t Rise Up without one last horrible experience to push them over the edge, so naturally, this episode also saw the deaths of Spencer and Olivia. The former an all-around douche who once showed promise of becoming something more, the latter a kind soul who provided one of the most satisfying scenes of the series when she slapped Negan round the face for his general creepiness. I was sad to see both of them go, but their legacy will always be that their deaths were the final push Rick needed to fight Negan.

The final act of the episode certainly offered up the most exciting scenes, however, there was a lot of merit to what came prior. We finally got to see Morgan and Carol for the first time since Episode 2, and their scenes, whilst rather talkative, contained some complex character moments. Neither Carol nor Morgan wants to kill anymore, much to the chagrin of the Kingdom’s chief security guy Richard, and with the Kingdom looking set to join in on the war against the Saviours, it will be interesting to see how long they can stay like that. What was most telling about their scenes was Carol’s stance. She clearly wants nothing to do with the group anymore, but they’re bound to cross paths, so the only question is, will all the deaths that have occurred since she left spur her to fight? Learning of Glenn’s death at the very least should cause some strong emotions within her. Carol, even when she doesn’t want to be a one-woman army, remains one of the show’s most interesting characters, so hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of her again this next half-season.

The events transpiring at The Kingdom only took up a small part of this week’s extended episode, which effectively told several smaller stories away from the main narrative at Alexandria. Michonne’s misguided journey to find Negan took a surprisingly emotional turn when the Saviour she’d captured knew she had to die. It was always going to end that way, but the way the Saviour accepted she had to die was oddly sad. Sure we know the Saviours aren’t great people, but we’d never specifically seen this one do anything terrible. It revisited the question that was most prevalent in the back half of Season 6, as to whether Rick’s group is just as bad now. Michonne may not have found her way to win, but she did manage to make Rick see sense, and that in itself is one heck of an achievement.

Speaking of Rick, his supply run with Aaron came to an exciting climax, whilst also introducing a new mystery to the series. The lake Walkers proved yet again that the show will never run out of creative ways to have the group battle the undead hordes. It was certainly an exciting sequence overall, but as seems to always be the case nowadays, it wasn’t until they got back to Alexandria that their real problems began. There were several moments this episode that all likely helped in pushing Rick over the edge, but having to watch helplessly as Aaron was brutally beaten in front of him was likely the one that resonated with Rick most. It was a brutal sequence, but one that was necessary, alongside what happened to Olivia and Spencer, in explaining why Rick would risk everything to go against Negan.

So, I’ve referenced it enough times, what made that final sequence in Alexandria so thrilling? A combination of things really. Having read the comics, I was pretty certain Spencer would bite the dust, however seeing such an iconic scene play out on screen was still shock inducing. It’s one thing to see someone gutted in the pages of a comic book, it’s another thing entirely to watch it happen in live action. The special effects team did a brilliant job, as did Austin Nichols who plays Spencer in the run up to that moment. Spencer has always been a fairly complex character, bouncing constantly from being likeable to downright annoying, so it’s sad to see him leave. Especially because in those last moment he was truly trying to emulate his mother and make her proud. Deanna would have never suggested Negan kill Rick, though I’m not sure that’s exactly what Spencer wanted either, but nevertheless he was trying to uphold his family’s legacy, and that’s not a bad way to go.

I mentioned that Spencer dying didn’t really come as a shock, but conversely, Olivia dying very much did. It’s another departure from the comics, and even in the show it sort of came out of nowhere. Whenever any smaller character gets increased screen time on this show, the signs never bode well for them, but given most of what we’ve seen with Olivia over the course of this half season also happened in the comics, it was a complete surprise to see her killed off. It was also a much more upsetting death than Spencer’s. Spencer has been kind of a dick the past few episodes, whereas Olivia has always been sweet, and just pure awesome when she slapped Negan, so her death certainly had some emotional resonance behind it, which you always risk lacking when a character hasn’t been developed too much. Overall it was just a crazy sequence, but one that will have huge repercussions down the line.

Of course with all the insanity of a mid-season finale comes a lot to cover, so other notable highlights include:

  • I have to discuss the last scene for how hopeful it was. We’ve seen this characters go through hell this half season. Through some of the worst trauma they’ve faced in this apocalypse, and the most testing times, but whatever doubts anyone might have about this show, that final scene where the group mostly gets back together should wipe them all out. These characters are special, and it’s the bonds between them that make this show worth watching so that final scene showed the best of The Walking Dead. It is a show about the people. And the people are finally back together!

  • I’m glad to see they’re including more of Father Gabriel. He’s gone through such an awesome character arc, and I hope we get to see him in more action soon. Nevertheless, his preaching powers are still up to scratch, as he managed to convince Rosita not to blindly shoot Negan without thinking of the consequences. Of course, I’m not sure he banked on her lover being gutted right in front of her. That’ll usually push someone to shoot. She really doesn’t have much luck with men does she?

  • We briefly saw a side to Negan that I don’t think we’ve really seen before, and that was one of pure rage. Even when killing Abraham and Glenn he was his usual charming, darkly humorous self, but as soon as Lucille was damaged, he became truly angry. It’s something I want to see a little more of, as currently Negan feels a little one note.

  • Daryl escapes! Daryl kills Fat Joey! Rick and Daryl hug! Rosita and Sasha are friends! Maggie completely ruins Gregory in a few words! Rick gets his Colt Python back! Eugen was taken! Everything was crazy!

  • So who’s the mystery person stalking the group? Could it have been the owner of the supplies Rick and Aaron took? From that post-credits scene, we know they’ve found Alexandria and are watching the group. So the question is, are they friend, or foe?

So The Walking Dead rounded off the first half of Season 7 with a great episode that sees the show starting to move on from the dreariness of Negan’s rule, as the characters now start to Rise Up. The two notable character deaths this episode worked as the final catalyst to force Rick into action, with both leaving yet another significant dent in the Alexandria community. The main takeaway from the episode is that the group is finally back together, after a fairly disjointed half season. With everyone’s respective plans having been carried out and either succeeded or failed, it’s nice to see the group starting to work together again, which will hopefully make Season 7’s back eight episodes more coherently structured. The show will return February 12th in America and the following day in the UK, so until then I bid you adieu, and thank all who have been reading these reviews.

Joe has had a blast watching The Walking Dead these past eight weeks, no matter how brutal it got. To see what he rambles on about whilst it’s on its mid-season break, check him out @resonantrevs on Twitter.


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