“The Walking Dead” S07E08: Hearts Still Beating

What’s up, Grue-Believers? Did anyone else get hit with snow over the weekend? Is everyone gearing up for Christmas? I’m pretty stoked since I will be off the week between Christmas and New Year. I still have a bunch of gifts to get too. Speaking of gifts, here’s a great idea: go to Tee Public and grab some Gruesome Magazine gear for all your loved ones! If they bring it to a con we are attending we will sign it and take pictures and not charge $150.00. Ok, enough with the silliness, let’s get to the task at hand, my thoughts on the mid-season finale of The Walking Dead. One thing we know we are going to get with the 90 minute show is a ton of commercials and last night was true to form. Another thing we expect is scene after scene that are either too long or unnecessary. Let’s jump in and I’ll tell you how I really feel.

As mid-season finales go, Hearts Still Beating  is very average for me. It has some high points and definitely has some “why was this scene even in here” points. One thing I did like about this episode is we get to see most of the characters throughout the episode which culminated into a tear-filled happy reunion at the end of the show where Rick (Andre Lincoln) tells Maggie (Lauren Cohan) that she was correct, it is indeed time to prepare to fight. This means some good things are on the horizon as long as the writers don’t get lazy and enter cruise control like they sometimes do.

As has been the case with most scenes with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), we are kept on the edge of our collective seats again — some of us knowing what was going to happen but not knowing how. Now, I have not read the comics but my good friend and excellent artist Scott Yasson does and he keeps me in the know. I am going to spoil something here, so, if you hate spoilers, skip to the next paragraph….If the show sticks to the comics and it has done a fairly decent job of that so far. Negan is not going anywhere. As a matter of fact, after he is captured by the gang, he sort of assimilates to Rick and the gang’s ways (sort of). He is actually more of a crazy brother-in-law type ally.

Once again Jeffrey Dean Morgan, as has become the case, did not disappoint as Negan again. Negan is a criminal, murderer, sociopath, psychopath — you get the point. That being said, he is not your average mustache twirler and The Walking Dead is not your average comic/show. That is why we either love it or hate it and the same applies to Negan, we either love him or hate him. I have to say, even though I knew what was coming last night, I was still engaged. Morgan’s timing and delivery is fantastic, I did enjoy his whole commentary on guts as he disemboweled Spencer (Austin Nichols). I don’t think anyone was too upset at the loss of Spencer who has been a weasel from the start. The other character we lost tonight was also just a bit player in Olivia (Ann Mahoney) but again Negan throws some jabs in telling Rick he did him a favor by giving him two less mouths to feed and the one in Olivia being a significant one, I did LOL literally.

The other thing to glean from this is Negan’s fascination or admiration for Rick. I’m not quite sure what to make of this but it is based on a comic and what is a villain without a hero and vice versa, I mean what would Lex be without Superman? What would the Joker be without Batman?

On the other side of the coin is Eugene (Josh McDermitt). I am not saying anything bad about McDermitt or the character he plays for the most part. I actually like Eugene. I just wish a different arc was given to him. I get that he is a fragile character and he watched his best friend get battered but the writers can do something better than have him walk around blubbering all the time. I was happy to see him stand up last night which was out of character for him which may be a sign of good things to come.

I was hoping to see a bit more about the Kingdom including Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) but what we did get was very “head bob” worthy. Carol and Morgan still have that weird relationship where there is a mixture of respect, dislike and genuine care. We did get a little of this last night but it felt forced. It was like “we want to put Morgan and Carol in the episode but we’re not quite sure what to do with the dialogue”. They brought Richard (Karl Makinen) into the scene to try and stoke the fire a bit. It looks like he will be the one lobbying for the Kingdom to join Hilltop and Alexandria in all-out war. Carol is one of my favorite — if not the absolute favorite –characters and, at the end of last season, we got to see McBride’s acting chops yet again as she continues  to cope with what she has become while holding great disdain for that person which is the reason for her request of solitude. I get it but I don’t like it; bring my badass Carol back please; I really loved her interaction with young Sam last season.

The part where Rosita (Christian Serratos) takes the shot at Negan was necessary but I wasn’t a fan of how it was done. I know we had to establish Eugene as the bullet maker but the whole scene was redundant. We know she wasn’t going to kill Negan but the scene served to fuel Negan’s rage due to Lucille taking the bullet and as a conduit to kill Olivia. Again Negan’s weird admiration for those who stand up to him and try to end him comes through as Rosita is spared.

I don’t know if it was just me but the whole scene with Aaron and Rick making it to the boat to get supplies seamed as filler for the 90 minute episode. The action was anticlimactic and served only to establish a conduit for Aaron’s whooping and to establish a new mysterious character whose boots we get to see when Aaron and Rick are unloading the boat and in a stinger at the end of the episode after the previews for the second half of season seven were shown.

We did not get much of Michonne (Danai Gurira) but what we did get was important. She had her hostage show her where Negan’s camp was before dispatching her at her request. The other thing this established is what I ranted about last week. As a part of the saviors group she was not happy and knew the consequences that awaited het. She did not want to be a part of the war so she had Michonne end her after giving her instructions.

It was definitely nice to see everyone unite at the end of the episode and embrace before the impending war which should be the second half of season seven. It appears that the gang will head out to meet with Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and the Kingdom to plead their case to get them to enlist to the cause. As a whole this episode was very average for me. I know I will take some flack because on social media there are those that loved it. Except for the parts where Negan was on screen I found myself wanting to change the channel to watch the Cowboys/Giants game. I do have extremely high hopes for the continuation of season seven in February. It is also my opinion that the 90 minute episodes should be few and far between unless the writers really have material worth making scenes out of. The Walking Dead’s heart is still beating but the pulse was faint this week.

The Walking Dead Season 7  Episode 8 “Hearts Still Beating” 2.5 out of 5 stars (2.5 / 5)  on the Thug Meter

JJ Fitt
Joe lives in the coal region of Northeastern PA with his beautiful wife Mary and their French Bulldogs Watson and Xander. He's a huge fan of all things horror and can't explain why especially since he was afraid of everything as a kid. He co-hosts the Indie Infestation podcast which gives a platform for those involved in the indie horror scene to get their name and projects out there. When he's not working he is usually watching the latest horror movie or show, at the gym with his wife or taking in a sporting event, Eagles! His all time favorite horror movie is the original Halloween, still effective to this day. Hit him up on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook or drop an email, let him know what's awesome.