Feature: The Five Best Moments from The Walking Dead Season 7 Episode 8 – ‘Hearts Still Beating’

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Originally published on Flickering Myth on 12/12/16.

It was finally mid-season finale week on our favourite post-apocalyptic zombie nightmare, and as those ultra-miserable season 7 dominoes finally started to tumble towards the yet another cliffhanger (albeit, rather slowly), we actually got a half-decent tease for what’s still to come next year. And it’s very, very exciting.

Eight episodes of Rick moping around as Negan’s bitch seem to have actually paid off, as the bearded sheriff and his rather broken crew actually took a giant leap towards the epic standoff we’ve all been waiting for. There was even a significant human death to tie it all together too, so without much further ado, here’s the best bits from our final slice of walker-infested mayhem for 2016.

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1. Family Dinner

What makes Negan such an incredible character isn’t just his penchant for brain smushing. It’s not even Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s note-perfect performance week after week. It’s the fact that he really is, underneath everything, one truly sadistic son of a bitch. We saw quite a few glimpses of his more fucked-up side this week and the first came before the opening credits had even rolled.

It was teased a little in the last episode but there was definitely something innately eerie about the famed torturer/warlord sitting down alongside Rick’s nearest and dearest (and Olivia, because, why the hell not) for a peaceful family meal. The image of it alone was enough to turn your stomach, but when you throw in his little temper-tantrum about Rick being late too, we get an even deeper look at what makes this psycho tick: he’s far too used to getting his own way. Beard or no beard, he’s still imposing as ever.

2. Prison Break

It took him an entire eight episode arc and several failed/humiliating attempts, but badman biker Daryl finally managed to spring a fairly easy escape from Saviour HQ this week, with the help of a certain Mr Jesus, finally ending those long days of chilling in a burlap sack eating dog food and listening to catchy indie pop tune ‘Easy Street’ on repeat.

The actual prison break itself wasn’t anything overly special, but seeing what the weeks in confinement has done to poor Daryl’s mental state, when he mercilessly bludgeons a surrendering Fat Joey (one of Negan’s favourites) to death with a metal pipe, really drives it home. The fan-fave is certainly back in action, but he might not be quite the same as when he left.

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3. A Serious Hole

In classic Walking Dead fashion, pretty much all of this week’s best bits (and hell, the season’s too) seemed to spring up right at the very end, with Rick and Aaron returning home to find a bloodied Negan on their doorstep, demanding vengeance after Rosita’s failed assassination attempt. Of course he seemed more pissed off that the bullet in question defaced his precious baseball bat Lucille, as opposed to the fact that someone was actively trying to shoot him in the face, but I guess what the hell else do you expect from someone with this many screws loose?

Payment for said grievance rather rapidly came in the form of a defenceless Olivia, who ended up taking a bullet instead of Rosita (oh, what a shame, however will we live on, she was so important etc. etc.), before Negan decided to drill down a little deeper into the operation and figure out how the hell the Alexandrians came across some ammo in the first place. And so, for once in his life, Eugene actually manned-up and took the hit, becoming the Saviours’ latest prisoner in the process. Bless him.

4. It’s War

The show’s final mid-season bow actually ended up being arguably its best/most encouraging moment though, when the gang finally found themselves back together again. It’s been a long and pretty damn miserable road that they’ve each struggled down since Glenn and Abraham got the chop, but during the episode’s dying moments, a once-again bloodthirsty Rick and his core council strolled on up to Hilltop, regrouped with Maggie, Sasha and Enid and everything was once again right in the world. Well, sort of. Well, actually not really, but they were smiling so…

Then Daryl and Jesus showed up and things actually got a little teary, before Rick was reunited with his most beloved of all: that super shiny, iconic (but really very unsuitable) silver revolver, and we were all pretty much balling our eyes out. Between all the reunions and cuddles and that incredible closing shot of the team’s sassy march up the hill to make their plan of attack, it was just really, really nice to be happy and excited for once. Rick’s got his mojo back and shit is going to go down.

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5. KILL OF THE WEEK: Spencer’s Got Guts

You wait an entire season for some decent, semi-meaningful character deaths and then three come at once… although it was easily Spencer’s that was both the bloodiest and the most impactful this week. Sure, it was obvious throughout pretty much the whole of ‘Hearts Still Beating’ that Deanna’s last remaining son was ready for the chop; he’s been bitching about Rick all-season long, and any attempt to get chummy with a psychopath like Negan, is highly unlikely to go well.

What did come as a surprise though was just how grim the whole affair ended up being, with Negan slicing open his entire stomach, making some quip about having “guts”, then forcing Spencer to grab at his own intestines as they spilled out of his body. Not only dark as hell, but also another nod towards Negan’s ongoing respect for Rick, killing off a threat to his leadership in one of the goriest ways possible. Still not quite as uncomfortable as Glenn or Abraham’s, but a definite punt in the right direction.

With The Walking Dead now taking a break until the new year, there’s plenty of time to start theorising about Rick and co.’s next steps, and of course, to dream up all the ways in which the show will hopefully speed up from here too. Is Maggie the Hilltop leader now? Will Tara ever spill the beans on Oceanside? Does Carol actually have any idea about what the hell is going on? The groundwork’s been laid, it’s finally time to kickstart the war we’ve all been waiting for. 

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