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The Walking Dead: Hearts Still Beating

twd-hearts-still-beating

“Hearts Still Beating”, the mid-season finale of the seventh season of The  Walking Dead, wraps up all the ongoing stories introduced in the season premiere and resets the stage for the back half of the season.  Over the course of 90 minutes, the episode checks in with all of the regulars.  Maggie is still pregnant and the likely next leader of the Hilltop community, Carol still wants to be left alone, Morgan still won’t kill except when the plot demands that he break his oath, Spencer is still insufferable, Carl still needs a haircut, Tara’s Oceanside community still doesn’t matter, Eugene still likes to watch and Negan still likes the sound of his own voice.

Hearts are still beating (except for Glenn and Abraham’s) and the status quo remains largely unchanged after eight episodes (three of which were extra-long).

Most of this season’s story-lines have been exercises in running in place with a nod towards world building.  Carol and Morgan served as our introduction to The Kingdom, but other than setting up shop outside of Alexandria they haven’t changed from last season.  Tara got an entire episode to go off and find the Oceanside community which may never come into play again.  Maggie, despite showing no signs of pregnancy, is apparently experiencing cravings.  Despite depleting Hillside’s food supply, she remains a more popular figure than established leader, Gregory.  Carl and Michonne went off on what should have been suicide missions only to return to Alexandria exactly as they had left.  For most of these characters, nothing much happened.

That’s not true for Spencer.  Spencer had probably the least surprising death in the show’s seven-year history.  By now, it is established that if you are critical of Rick Grimes – a leader who is constantly getting those around him killed – you are not long for this world.  After telling everyone who would listen how much he hated Rick, Spencer finally got gutted and I’m guessing most viewers cheered.  Spencer was never presented as anything but a sniveling worm.  Never mind the fact that his arguments were valid, Spencer was a douchebag.  He was always going to end up getting gutted.

But really, was Spencer wrong?  The Alexandrians had managed to live in relative peace through the first couple years of the apocalypse with very few fatalities.  As Negan points out, Rick’s arrival lead to the death of Spencer’s entire family as well as several other citizens of Alexandria.  Rick’s tenure as leader has been a complete disaster.  Spencer really couldn’t do any worse.

Both Rick and Spencer went on supply runs this episode.  And both of them brought back goods with the intention of handing them over to the Saviors.  The only difference between them is that Spencer seems to be happy to do it whereas Rick looks like a wounded animal.  When Spencer approaches Negan and asks to be put in charge, Negan spills his guts in the street.  Why?  Because it happened in the comic book.  But then in the comic book, Spencer hadn’t just handed over a bunch of supplies to Negan.  In either case, we’re supposed to chalk this up to Negan being a wild card.

Spencer and Rosita had some kind of flirtation going on.  It was never fully fleshed out on the show which is a shame because both characters could use the added depth.  Truth is, I forgot they had a relationship until Spencer brought it up out of the blue.  This might have helped explain why Rosita fired her single bullet at Negan following Spencer’s death.  Somehow, despite the fact she is standing just a few yards away, Rosita misses her target and hits Negan’s bat instead.  Understandably upset over the attempt on his life, Negan orders one of his hench-people to “kill somebody” which leads to the quick death of another Alexandrian redshirt, Olivia.  If anyone cared at all, it’s only because Olivia seemed more like a real person than most of the characters on the show.

Quick aside: This entire interlude only shows how ridiculous it is that Negan is still in a position of power.  Several characters have had ample opportunities to kill him.  Just about everyone around him including his own men have reason to want to do so.  Negan is too much of a wild card.  If you challenge him, he may burn your face off, kill your friends or he might just make you a spaghetti dinner.  But if you fall in line, he’s still going to torment you and your loved ones.  So why wouldn’t you take your chances?  He’s constantly walking around with nothing but a baseball bat to protect himself.  And quite frequently, he hands that to someone who would love nothing more than to bash his brains in.  So why is Negan’s heart still beating?  Cause the show isn’t done with him.

The episode ends with most of the regular reuniting for the first time since the pilot sent them off in different directions.  Daryl, who spent the entire eight episodes in captivity, is finally freed with the help of Jesus.  He and Rick hug it out as Rick realizes something that should have been obvious from the first episode of the season: Working with Negan is not an option.

That’s one of the many frustrating aspects of this season so far.  Negan is obviously a lunatic.  In the first episode when Rick and company were outnumbered and outgunned, the smart thing to do was to play along.  Instead, they resisted and people paid the price.  After that, when Negan is away, they should have been mounting their resistance in secret.  Instead, it took almost ten hours of television (less many, many commercials) for the characters to decide to fight back.

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Posted on December 12, 2016, in TV, Walking Dead and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I actually think Negan’s decision to kill Spencer makes perfect sense. In Rick, Negan has a competent person motivated by a moral desire to protect people operating to provide resources to the Saviors. Negan went to great effort to break Rick down and he now believes he has Rick under his thumb. He probably knows Rick could put up a fight, but he believes Rick won’t. Heck, he’s handed Lucile over to Rick and turned his back on him. Why in the world would Negan want a selfish, ambitious pretty-boy taking out Rick? As a bonus, Negan gets to “give back” to Rick without really giving up anything, because Negan probably knows that Rick can easily handle Spencer, seeing as how Spencer waited until Rick was out of town before making his move.

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    • That being the case, doesn’t it make more sense to just tip Rick off rather than gutting a guy in the middle of town and adding fuel to the “this guy is crazy and must be stopped” fire. The way it played out, it unified the opposition to the Saviors, so in hindsight whatever Negan was trying to achieve blew up in his face.

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  2. Negan seems to like to kill people publicly to break the will of resistance. This is just a continuation of that strategy. He certainly underestimated Rick. Not really his fault because Rick’s temperament shifts pretty radically depending on the direction the wind is blowing, and Negan happened to meet him at a low point. I didn’t get the sense that killing Spencer rallied the rebel forces on its own. There was a Aaron beat down. There is also opportunity now that Michone has intelligence about the location of the Saviors. But whether or not it turns out to have been the wrong move, I would say it makes sense in the TV world in which Negan exists. From my reckoning, the poorest decisions Negan makes seem to involve sparing the lives of people who shoot at him. In Carl’s case, maybe that’s to keep Rick on a short leash. Maybe it’s because he’s a kid (sort of). But in Rosita’s case, I don’t get it.

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    • Sparing Rosita and killing Spencer just serves to underline how unpredictable he is. You could maybe justify working under a tyrant who is consistently rewards compliance and punishes disobedience. But when someone is just random and dangerous, there’s no reason anyone should follow him. In a way, both decisions are just opposite sides of the same coin.

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  3. The writing of the show is definitely not what it used to be. A lot of things happen clearly for convenience and (slow) plot advancement. I don’t disagree that following Negan is a terrible proposition. I’d suggest Rick doesn’t follow Negan so much as accept being owned by Negan, and that’s for a lack of viable options. I agree that Negan’s actions and decisions frequently seem random to nonsensical. However, I think his decision to support Rick makes a lot of sense, and his decision to kill Spencer is as opposed to just exposing his act of betrayal is consistent with Negan’s established methods. One other reason it is a smart move that I just thought of is that if he leaves Spencer to Rick to handle there’s a chance Rick would be distracted by the problem or drop the ball entirely and wind up getting replaced by Spencer. Rick is a known quantity as far as Negan is concerned and he isn’t going to let Spencer mess that situation up. This is one of the few things that have happened this season that kind of makes sense to me.

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    • Aside from the first season which is vastly superior to all those that followed, I feel like the writing has been consistently bad. A lot of that has to do with padding out the number and length of the episodes in order to get as much ad revenue as possible.

      The Spencer thing is more of a quibble than a major criticism. But it strikes me that Negan really doesn’t have a lot to gain by killing Spencer. He’d probably be better off showing his new subjects that they can count on him not to gut them as long as they tow the line. This scene happened in the comic book too, so it is a consistent characterization. But as the show often does, it changes the context which makes the events make less sense than they did in the book. Spencer was positively eager to work for Negan. Rick is a wounded animal. Is Rick really better for Negan than Spencer? Obviously, in the end, he’d have been better with a lapdog like Spencer than Rick but TV villains do these things.

      My primary criticism is that we just spent about ten hours with these characters and virtually nothing of note happened.

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  4. First three paragraphs = perfect summation of the season to date. So little has happened that I didn’t even bother with one. Writing TWD is probably a better gig in Hollywood than Vanna White. It’s certainly no more work and they’re probably paid quite handsomely for it (though not as much as Vanna). The characters aren’t just running in place though; some of them have actually been devolving back to prior states. Rick, of course, is the big example of this. After his alleged big breakthrough last year, Morgan has returned to his brainless pacifism. Eugene’s evolution away from cowardice–THE Eugene plotline from last season–has been reversed.

    I think I spent too much of my own piece this week on speculation regarding my three-episode theory (though I haven’t had the heart to reread it yet and see for sure). I think there was an ep made up and inserted into this chain, probably as the conceptual stage, in order to render two 90-minute eps out of what they’d already worked out.

    The situation with Negan’s leadership has become a mirror of Rick’s own and that was the angle I almost used both last week and this. Why are these versions of these characters still leading their respective groups? Negan at least gets results but people in his camp seem as if they either hate him or are scared to death by him, which really doesn’t seem credible in a zombie apocalypse–a state of affairs that would tend to toughen up people.

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    • Good point about the regression. That is definitely in play. Eugene is a prime example. They had to revert him to a coward so they could retell the only story they know how to tell involving him – coward finds a spine. Just like how Rick has been flip flopping back and forth between bad ass and victim for years.

      I did find your “extra episode” theory interesting. I hadn’t seen it discussed anywhere else and I think you’re on to something. It definitely feels like this week and last week split a middle episode between them to extend their runtime.

      Imagine having to choose between Rick and Negan. Rick will almost certainly get you killed and Negan will make you wish you were dead. At least with Negan, there are egg sandwiches. The obvious answer is to kill Negan and rule in his stead.

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  5. In my opinion, this show has decayed into nothing but a sort of mash-up of the soap opera, video game and children’s cartoon genres.

    Soap: endless examples of scenes where long plodding, mostly inane ‘conversations’ between characters are drawn out to the point of absolute redundancy. The ‘Carol is a killer who doesn’t want to kill’ nonsense for example, we’ve got to re-hash this moronic blather again not just to spin the tires, but to do it in the most banal and boring way possible. I fully expect one of the characters to stand in the foreground facing the camera while spinning some brandy in a glass and delivering their idiotic lines to others in the background.

    Video game: It could be crossing a bridge full of zombies, it could be traveling a highway blocked with vehicles or, as in the last episode, a pond populated with bobbin’ dead. Whatever the case, at some point, some characters will happen upon a situation where they can simply circumvent the problem but instead are suddenly limited by the Laws Of Video Games: participants must traverse the playfield as is, as apparently, some invisible barrier prevents them from using common sense and simply flanking the obstacle. This episode’s vid sequence, let’s call it “On Moldin’ Pond”, Rick and Aaron are trying to get to a houseboat on the other side of a tiny pond. Of course, instead of simply walking along the shore until they safely reach their goal, they choose instead to needlessly risk their lives by hopping into a tiny aluminum boat riddled with so many bullet holes that Negan could have been using it to strain Carl’s spaghetti. I could almost hear 80s Mario Bros-type electronic music playing as this imbecilic scene played out. Speaking of imbeciles… why would they leave that ‘you’re still losers’ note amongst the supplies they hand over to the Saviors? Which brings us to…

    Children’s cartoons: Lots of things happen in old kids’ super-hero cartoons that just don’t make sense logically but serve to let the hero be a hero. (Think 60s Spiderman…) In TWD, this is the Rule Of The Road. The cartoon feature is essentially “The Great Rick Grimes and his Band of Loyal Heroes”. Examples? Sure: nobody in the Kingdom can convince King Ezekiel to fight the Saviors, even though the reasons for doing it are obvious and spelled out quite logically by that trailer guy, nobody can do it… except for either of The Great Rick Grimes’ Loyal Heroes who’ve been in the Kingdom for what, a week or two?? It’s the same as the idea of killing Negan…. NOBODY could see the benefit of clipping that psycho and taking over themselves (Negan even pretty much outlines this very scenario albeit regarding Rick while playing pool with Spencer) but then along comes The Great Rick, the ultimate cheeseball super-hero, only he can save the world, because, well… he IS a the hero, that’s why. Examples along this line permeate most of the run of this series, and seem to only be getting more and more idiotic.

    Now they’ve decided to fight them. Now that they have no guns, no ammunition, no means of making ammunition, (which they could have been stockpiling since the day Eugene found that factory) no knowledge of possible allies in the Kingdom but some actual intel regarding the seemingly impregnable compound and huge numbers of the Saviors.

    And why was that decision made? Because they’re doing it ‘together’ now or some such lameass shit, I don’t know, nothing makes any sense whatsoever… but Rick is a hero!

    (Cue up the ‘Spiderman’ theme song….)

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