The Walking Dead Review: “Hearts Still Beating”

Editor’s note: this review of AMC’s The Walking Dead will contain some spoilers. I will try to keep them to a minimum, but they’re be there nonetheless. You’ve been warned.

After several weeks of wheel spinning, The Walking Dead finally feels like it’s making some forward momentum, just in time for the mid-season break. It’s mighty frustrating, especially considering anyone with half a brain knew we’d end up here before too long, but at least the show is moving in the right direction.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. A lot happened in this episode, all of which contributed to the big moment the closed out the episode. I’m just going to piecemeal things together, and I’ll likely skip over some things. If I miss anything important, let me know in the comments below.

The Walking Dead Review - Hearts Still Beating

Let’s start with Carol, who we haven’t seen in a bit. She’s just chilling in her new house, eating some pomegranate. Soon she’s interrupted first by Morgan, and then by one of the other guys from the Kingdom. He’s there to convince them both to help him get the Kingdom to attack the Saviors before it’s too late. This feels important; we know the Saviors can only be taken out by a coalition of these smaller communities, and this might just be the first step toward that. But Carol demurs. This isn’t her fight, and she doesn’t want to be involved. It’s not the bold start we want, but the cracks are starting to show.

At the Hilltop, Maggie is establishing herself at the de facto leader. Not a lot going on here, so let’s move on.

Next up we check in with Daryl, who makes his move to escape. I figured that the note was a big setup, and he’d quickly be captured and further humiliated, but that doesn’t happen. He finds some clothes and food, grabs a pipe, and makes it outside. The Savior out there seems perfectly fine to let him leave, but Daryl isn’t taking any changes, and stoves the guy’s head in right as Jesus walks up. Daryl grabs Rick’s revolver from the man, takes a bike, and he and Jesus make a quick retreat.

Meanwhile, Michonne is still holding her Savior at gunpoint while the two of them head toward Savior headquarters. Michonne takes a look at it, decides against taking it down on her own, and murders her hostage.

The Walking Dead Review - Hearts Still Beating

Finally, Rick and Aaron continue to work on getting the supplies they’ve located, which involves rowing across a zombie-filled pond in a leaky boat. Aaron falls in the water, but somehow survives, and they eventually make it to the supply cache in the middle. Inside they find lots of good stuff, but also a taunting note. We cut back to see a man in heavy boots watching them. I’m sure this means something to comic readers, but I’m way, way behind.

Side stories out of the way, we’re now free to talk about Alexandria. Negan is still working on his spaghetti dinner while his men wait not-so-patiently for Rick to return. Spencer grabs a bottle of scotch and decides he’s going to charm Negan into letting him be in charge of Alexandria. Things seem to be going well enough, until Negan finally tires of the charade, and guts Spencer.

Rick and Aaron arrive with the supplies, and Negan’s men find some pretense to beat the hell out of Aaron while Rick watches helplessly. They’re allowed to once Aaron has been sufficiently beaten, only to hear a gunshot from the other side of town. That shot? Rosita trying to kill Negan, and only managing to hit a baseball bat.

Negan is not amused. Rosita is quickly held to the ground with a knife to her face, and poor Olivia gets shot in the face just to make a point. Finally, Eugene confessed to manufacturing the bullet, and is dragged away by the Saviors. Rick arrives to get taunted further by Negan.

The Walking Dead Review - Hearts Still Beating

The episode closes with Rick talking to Michonne about what needs to be done, and then reuniting with (most of) the gang at the Hilltop, finally ready to start fighting back.

As shaky as this season of The Walking Dead has been so far, this was a fairly strong showing. Hopefully things are moving forward now, but I guess we’ll see when the show comes back for the second half of the season.

Grade:
4.5 zombie heads out of 5

8 Comments

Siabur

I think this first half of the season would’ve been good as is, if they wouldn’t have built up the first episode of the season. It feels like it was supposed to be the finale of last season and they changed their minds to make it the season premier instead and padded out the season to do so. I did like the world building and character building, except Negan who seems like a character that’s being by a 13 yr old who doesn’t know what a bad guy is. (I know, this is how I wrote bad guys when I was 13.) I can’t remember if this was how he was in the comics. It’s been a while. Spencer was right about the group showing up and everyone getting killed. Not much of the original population of Alexandria’s left. The next half hopefully will be better.

Reply
Dave

I couldn’t agree more. It stinks of making changes for marketing purposes, which made a total mess of the flow of the season.

Reply
pi3rk

Overall I’m satisfied with this first half. I like Negan as he is quite good acting like a lunatic psycho. Actually I guess that this deep in the apocalypse, bad guys could look like that. Wait a few more years and they all look like Mad Max villains LOL

Nice set up episode, no high cliffhanger but instead it was quite emotional. That’s new. See you all in february LOL. Have a merry christmas and a happy new year!

Reply
Ballinabricky

I think there may be one yet. Remember that note found in the supplies? It’s not uncommon for preppers to poison some of their own stock. How much do you want to bet that a bunch of people die back at Negan’s once they distribute that food (or that there’s some other booby trap in there), prompting the Saviors to escalate to an all out war faster than our intrepid heroes will be capable of laying the groundwork for a good offense?

Reply
Ballinabricky

Yup. For example:

http://www.survivalsullivan.com/10-deceptive-strategies-preppers-can-apply/

“5. Tactical Home Defense Strategies

“If you have the foresight to have two wells, you can even taint the taste or even poison the well nearest the road so that anyone attempting to drink from it becomes either disgusted or ill. This increases the likelihood they will move on to another house rather than setup camp in your area.

“Along this same vein, you can also have some decoy food in the cupboards for looters to find. To make sure they don’t want to return to your house to check for more in a couple days, poison the decoy food with laxative or something stronger. Make absolutely certain you keep the poisoned decoy food separate from your family’s stockpile.”

Reply
Mick

One thing I noticed was Negan let his “dumb act” slip while talking to Spencer. Not only did Negan know Spencer was trying to play him, he was able to explain every detail of Spencer’s plan. The plan wasn’t original, but Negan still saw straight through it.

Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *