The Walking Dead – Hearts Still Beating
By: Jennifer Vintzileos
The mid-season finale certainly did not disappoint as questions were answered, especially who managed to spring Daryl (Norman Reedus) from the Sanctuary. With another multi-layered storyline, fans were treated to a “check-in” with each group before the show went on mid-season hiatus. Some hearts were broken while others were mended with one of the most touching moments of Season Seven so far. But the main questions remain: How can the group stop Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)? How will Carol (Melissa McBride) and Morgan (Lennie James) find out about the bloodshed of their comrades? And most importantly, when will Rick (Andrew Lincoln) finally come to his senses?
Maggie (Lauren Cohan) continues to settle in at Hilltop with Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) as her support system. The daily routine begins with a visit to Glenn’s (Steven Yeun) grave before taking shift. With Gregory (Xander Berkeley) still lurking about, he finally manages to get her first name right, but not without attempting to dig at her capabilities every chance he gets. However, the dynamic of Hilltop has changed and the community has turned towards Maggie for guidance. But while Maggie takes the lead, it is Sasha who has sent Jesus (Tom Payne) on a mission to find the Sanctuary.
In Alexandria, Negan has taken a shine to the community. As an affront towards Rick, Negan takes on the parental role by first shaving off his beard as Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Judith (Chloe & Sophia Garcia-Frizzi) are forced to watch, later instructing Carl and Olivia (Ann Mahoney) to wait on him after he prepared a spaghetti dinner in anticipation of Rick’s return. Unfortunately, since Rick is still out on his run with Aaron (Ross Marquand) to scavenge for the supplies needed in appeasing Negan, the meal is started without him.
Carol has managed to find her niche right outside the gates of the Kingdom, but still no rest. Between Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Morgan providing her with food and unwanted company, she has not found her urge to fight again. The day Morgan comes to visit, Kingdom member Richard (Karl Makinen) also drops by, pleading with both of them to convince Ezekiel that they need to fight against Negan and the Saviors. Carol still has not found reason to budge on her stance and with Morgan supporting her, Richard’s pleas go unanswered.
Rick and Aaron located a boat out on the water in the previous episode, hoping to find supplies to offer. There’s just one catch: the row boat to ferry the men out has been pumped full of bullet holes courtesy of the boat owner and former trespassers/now walkers. With hope of a lone, untouched canoe that sits close to the boat, Rick and Aaron paddle their way over through a current of undead to claim their treasure and return to the community. As they leave, an unknown figure watches them.
With the possibility of being freed, Daryl takes his opportunity to break out of his cell and flee the compound. Hearing voices too close for comfort, his first stop is into the room of one of the Saviors to change his clothes and devour an entire jar of peanut butter. He notices on the table that there are figures that were kept on his bike. In a fit of rage, he flips a table and manages to procure a large piece of pipe before heading outside to the motorcycle. Fat Joey (Joshua Hoover) enters in a “wrong place, wrong time” moment as Daryl’s rage overcomes and he beats Joey to death and takes his gun, which is coincidentally Rick’s gun. Jesus emerges from the shadows and we now know that it was he who provided Daryl with the escape tools. They flee the Sanctuary.
After taking the Savior Isabella (Aerli Austen) captive, Michonne (Danai Gurira) demands to be taken to Negan. Isabella stops at the top of a hill where the Saviors are entrenched below. Negan is more than a man; his Saviors are the collective and the numbers are greater than imagined. Isabella advises Michonne to kill her and take the car back to Alexandria, death being the only way out. Michonne grants her request and heads back.
As Rosita (Christian Serratos) works on finding her moment to use her acquired bullet with Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) trying to talk her down, Spencer (Austin Nichols) decides to try a friendlier approach. Cleaning up his home, freshening up and grabbing a bottle of whiskey, he sets off to have a conversation with Negan. Rosita spots him and they discuss Spencer’s notions, as well as a potential dinner date in lieu of the recent end of their sexual coupling.
Spencer manages to schmooze with Negan, making him comfortable and pliant with good whiskey. When Negan declares that all he needs now is a pool table, Spencer manages to have one from a nearby home brought out into the middle of the street. But the conversation turns serious as Spencer’s true intentions are brought to light: he wants Negan to remove Rick from power and place Spencer in charge. Since Rick and his group had arrived, Spencer lost his entire family and what was once a thriving community no longer exists. The Alexandrians gather while Spencer pleads his case.
Rick and Aaron return from their run to find that the Saviors are waiting at the gate for him. Rummaging through the goods, a taunting note left by the boat owner is uncovered in one of the bins and Aaron pays a hefty price as they beat him up for it – Rick being forced to watch. Eventually, they are able to proceed past the front gate towards Negan’s location.
Mulling over Spencer’s request, Negan views this tactic as weak and cowardly. Rick may be a domineering figure, but he is out there scavenging for the Sanctuary. Negan points out to Spencer that Rick has “guts” where Spencer has come to him when Rick is absent. To make a point, Negan takes out his knife and tells Spencer he has no guts, then slices him open and leaves him to die. Rosita’s rage over that moment takes hold and instead of being patient, aims her gun at Negan and pulls the trigger.
When the gun goes off, it does not hit its intended target, but rather puts a dent into Lucille. Enraged, Negan demands that Rosita tell him where she got the bullet. Her lie to protect Eugene (Josh McDermitt) results in the death of Olivia by Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow), one of Negan’s Saviors. Rick has finally arrived at the bloodbath, demanding that Negan now leave as he has kept up his end of the bargain. Unfortunately, Rosita’s missed opportunity results in the taking of Eugene as he confessed to being the bullet maker.
Later on that night in the cell that Morgan built, Michonne finds Rick. She tells him that she couldn’t go with him and Aaron on their run, but she knows that they cannot live with the status quo. They have survived so many moments together and they need to fight because this life has to mean something. Rick finally agrees.
Maggie wakes up to another day at the Hilltop, visiting Glenn’s grave before taking her post at the gate. But today is different, as Rick, Michonne, Carl, Rosita and Tara (Alanna Masterson) have come to see her. The reunion is complete when Daryl and Jesus come to greet them, Sasha and Enid at the gates with the rest of the group. Rick and Daryl share a tearful hug and Daryl hands Rick back his gun. The time has come for the group to fight back and they know that together, this can be accomplished. They head up to the mansion at Hilltop to talk.
Join me in February for the Season 7B premiere where Rick finally getting his “guts” back! We can hope that maybe the neighboring communities are ready to join forces. What’s next? Stay tuned!