The Walking Dead Review by John Keegan

The Walking Dead 7.08: Hearts Still Beating

The Walking Dead 7.08: Hearts Still Beating

Written By:
Matthew Negrete and Channing Powell
Directed By:
Michael E. Satrazemis

The Walking Dead, fundamentally, works on a very familiar storytelling cycle.  The core characters encounter an existential threat, they are overcome to varying degrees, some people die, but ultimately they come back together to overcome the challenge.  The devil, as they say, is in the details; some threats are more significant than others.  And as the scope of the series has widened dramatically, so has the level of threat.



What is different about this season is that the threat is so vast, yet so personal, that it takes a lot of exposition and setup to communicate the entirely of it to the audience.  It’s something that can be covered in a few issues of a comic book, but takes a bit more time on-screen, especially when various factors prevent having all of the main characters involved in every single episode.  And yet, that was the challenge of the first half of the season: cover all the bases while giving all of the characters sufficient screen time.    


For a good chunk of the episode, I wasn’t sure if this episode would finally start pushing the narrative forward.  There were a lot of subplots that just didn’t seem to be coming together.  Of course, that changed in the third act, when all the pieces started falling into place and everyone made their moves.  Rick was finally convinced that the time had come to act, and there are people in place all over the map ready and potentially willing to hear what he has to say.  Just about everyone (perhaps excepting Carol and Morgan) has all the information now.



Spencer’s death was inevitable; if there’s one thing Negan simply cannot abide, it’s disloyalty to one’s leader, after all.  Had Spencer given it even a moment’s thought, he might have realized that.  And it’s entirely possible that Negan actually believes that he’s seeing to everyone’s best interests.  After all, he needs the other communities to produce for him to maintain his status quo, and he needs each community to have a leader that the people will follow.  From his own point of view, he’s actually being very reasonable with Rick by letting Carl live, enforcing discipline, and eliminating disloyal members of Alexandria’s community.    


What has made Negan difficult to write correctly for the show (and despite the outstanding performances by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, the portrayal has been inconsistent) is the dueling need to show him as the endgame villain, but also someone that the audience can see as relatable and potentially an alternate Rick.  After all, the end of this episode has Rick planning to unite the communities against Negan, and that may or may not include elements of Sanctuary.  Rick is essentially setting himself up to take Negan’s place under a less draconian style of dictatorship.  (Or so one would assume, though it might be interesting to see if a kinder, gentler form of Saviors would be as effective.)



For all the missteps in this first half of the season, the final moments of this episode made up for a lot of them.  The writers and producers dispensed with the notion of unnecessary cliffhangers and left the story in the perfect spot: with Team Grimes largely reunited for the purpose of fighting back against the Saviors.  Will it be enough to lure back the millions who either felt like the show was coasting in neutral or simply couldn’t abide the brutality of the season premiere?  I tend to doubt it, but the series was going to start on the course to a natural conclusion sooner or later, and the numbers are still well above the norm for basic cable (or current television standards in general).  But for the faithful, this is a moment of hope and fuels plenty of excitement for the February 2017 return.

Our Grade:
The Good:
  • The season arrives at an important turning point at just the right moment
The Bad:
  • It took a bit too long for the subplots to come together, even if they did so almost perfectly

John Keegan aka "criticalmyth", is one of the hosts of the "Critical Myth" podcast heard here on VOG Network's radio feed Monday, Wednesday & Friday. You can follow him on twitter at @criticalmyth

The Walking Dead by - 12/12/2016 8:50 AM155 views

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