The Walking Dead: ‘Heart’s Still Beating’ Winter Finale Review
The mid-season finale of season 7 sets us up for a fight against Negan.
Warning: This midseason review of The Walking Dead is filled with spoilers, naturally.
We’ve now reached the middle of The Walking Dead’s dragged out seventh season. Finally, an episode has arrived where we see everyone in the cast appear in the same episode, some more than others though. In this midseason finale, most of our characters from Alexandria and Hilltop have reunited, while Carol and Morgan are still posted at The Kingdom. However, there is one thought on nearly everyone’s mind: Negan must die.
One might have expected this mid-finale to have been packed with thrills and kills. One big shockfest where important characters are killed off before the two month hiatus. And while this episode had plenty of suspense and death, it was more about getting Rick to finally realize he needs to man up and join the fight with his people against Negan, rather than give us a cheap thrill before the break. So at least the tone of “Hearts Still Beating” was consistent with the rest of the first half of the season. Given the slow start of this season, I have to at least admire that this mid-finale didn’t just go into full action mode. It was all basically a setup towards the direction the series needs to go. Tenson was the keyword for this episode.
Although I would have liked Rick’s decision to have come quicker than eight episodes, I am glad the events shown here this week were enough to finally push him over the edge. Having him and Aaron cross through a walker infested pond on a boat with bullet holes to pick up a bunch of supplies for the Saviors, only to have them beat down Aaron over a misunderstanding, surely didn’t sit well with him. Having his own people doubt his leadership, including his lady Michonne indicating her lack of faith in his plan to cooperate with Negan was another factor. And of course, Negan spilling blood in Alexandria was probably the deal breaker. Add all this episode’s events, along with everything Negan has done, plus the realization that there would never be peace as long as Negan and his Saviors were around, Rick could only go so far before he had enough. So even though this season has been filled with needless episodes dedicated to a couple of characters at a time, I am glad that at least the road to rebellion will begin when we return in February.
Michonne’s exchange with Rick, getting him to realize what they must do, was one of the most emotional works Danai Gurira has done as her character. Her words of encouragement seem to also be speaking to the audience who may be losing faith in the show. The group has overcome the impossible and they’re still alive. So in a way, it seems like they are telling us to be patient because even though the group is at its lowest point, they are fighters, and we will see they win again. It was an excellent scene, and it produced the results we needed. However, Rick may have already made up his mind or at least was thinking about taking action before she even started talking.
We didn’t get to see much of Carol and Morgan, but at least they were present. Ezekiel’s enforcer, Richard wants to take the fight to Negan, so he’s recruitment speech to Morgan and Carol was interesting. Really hilarious how he assumes Carol has no experience as a killer. Carol not wanting anything to do with a fight is believable. She’s caused plenty of death, and now she’s found a nice spot where she can be left alone. Although, she’s picked the worst time to hang up her guns. Richard does make a compelling argument though. It’s only a matter of time before Negan and the Saviors turn on everyone in the Kingdom and the rest of the communities. She will be affected by the conflict one way or another. So her new found peace will be short lived. I figure Jesus will eventually tell Rick about The Kingdom, and he’ll do his own recruitment. Might even finally convince Morgan to start killing.
Rosita continues to get extra screentime as she progresses into a fleshed out character. Her attempt to assassinate Negan can be looked at as brave or stupid, depending on the individual. Just as Gabe’s message was about to reach her, Negan goes and kills Spencer in front of everyone, and all bets were off. In other words, her emotions got the best of her. Problem is, she put the group in immediate danger. She may be willing to die, and that’s what she thought would happen, but seeing how her actions got Olivia killed, she might think twice before pulling an extreme act like that again. I can’t say I blame her attempt at shooting Negan. She is a fighter and not really a strategist. She has courage to be the lone person to do something in a crowd of people doing nothing. So, I’m not on the side that hates her right now. I say this because I know a lot of viewers are pissed off at her actions. She did what she thought would make a difference, and she was devastated by the consequences, therefore, the experience should make her choose an more effective path. Either way, I am very happy to see her still alive. Maybe she has a lot more development in the works. I hope her and Sasha can work closely together to avenge Abraham.
As for the deaths of Spencer and Olivia, I don’t think any of us are rattled by them being gone. In fact, I for one was glad to see Spencer’s plan backfire on him. He may have had the right intentions on getting close to Negan in order to take him down later, but him trying to throw Rick under the bus was the dumbest flaw of his plan. Negan’s really into loyalty, not backstabbing. Olivia’s death was more effective to me. She was as expendable as they come, but she was one of the most innocent characters in the show. She never did anything to hurt anyone, and she took a lot of verbal abuse from people. Seeing her die so suddenly showed just how cruel and merciless the Saviors can be, which is probably another incident that triggered Rick.
Oh, poor Eugene. I mean, I give him props for showing a little bit of bravery by admitting he was the one to make the bullet that was meant for Negan’s head. It’s only obvious he’s going to be kept alive to make more bullets for the Saviors. Question is, is what condition will he be left alive in?
Daryl’s escape from the compound was quit suspenseful. I knew he’d make it out okay, but I couldn’t help but be on the edge of my seat. I was wondering if it would turn violent, and sure enough, it did when the chubby Savior member who Negan teased last week caught Daryl stealing a bike. You have to wonder if he would have been serious about letting Daryl go. Can’t blame Daryl for not taking the chance as he brutally killed the guy. Important thing is, Daryl is free and still retains his killer instincts.
The interesting thing about the guy Daryl killed and the female Savior Michonne killed once they arrived at an area full of Saviors is, while the woman was willing to accept her fate, and the other guy begged for his life, I got the sense both knew working with the Saviors was wrong. The fat guy was looking for mercy because he was only doing what he could to get by. The woman seemed to have given up, and would rather just die than to go back to Negan’s compound. While most Saviors are assholes, there are some who seem to regret being part of the group. It will be interesting to see if some of Negan’s men turn on him once all the other communities start fighting.
The final scene with Rick’s gang reuniting with Maggie, Sasha, Daryl, Enid and Jesus at Hilltop was great. It was one of those rare happy moments of the show that requires no dialogue. The actors all did a good job conveying the right emotions through their body language and facial expressions. Hands down, the best moment that everybody’s talking about was the bro-hug between Rick and Daryl. Seeing our two favorite bad asses reunited, embracing each other after both going through hell separated is exactly what needed to happen. And then, it happens. Daryl hands Rick his Colt Python. The feels, man! The music was excellent. Played so well with all the smiles, hugs, nods and hand shakes displayed during the emotional scene. It was the perfect way to cap off the middle of the season.
So there it is, the end of The Walking Dead for 2016. It wasn’t the rewarding midseason finale we wanted or deserved. It was the one we needed. The pace of this season has been rough, and sometimes frustrating. I mean, I get why the season has taken this long to build momentum. We had to feel the long period of anguish and helplessness these characters are feeling. The fighting will begin, but the motivation to do so had to be built upon, I get it. But if only they could have found a way to make the pacing more enjoyable to the viewer. So once the season returns in February, things need to be kicked into high gear. No more separations with the cast, no more solo character episodes. Let’s take the fight to Negan, dammit.