Thoughtful & Abstract: The Walking Dead: “Hearts Still Beating”

In which there is a sense of redemption of the season to this point and a reason for hope.

Kim: Mid-season finales are supposed to make you antsy for the break from your show to be over from the moment you finish watching. In past years, the show would end for the winter break, and I’d instantly look up the return date and start counting down the days until I could get another fix. This year, I’m more interested in my birthday at the end of February and how many people I can fit into an Uber.

Aside from the literal gutting of Spencer and the weird, out-of-place killing of Olivia, this mid-season finale left me wishing that there was no such thing as an extended episode and I could be in bed by 10 pm. As with all things in life, there are things I need to mention and so, as we head into the bye-week (months) of this show’s season I will declare that hopefully the players can all do some healing during the off-time and come back as the complete package show I know and love.

Top 5 discussion points of this episode according to me:

5.) Negan looks kind of hot all shaved up. I didn’t think I’d like it as much, but I actually kind of do. He wasn’t as likable this episode as he’s been though, and that’s a problem. I’m also questioning the feasibility of the effortless cut to Spencer’s mid-section causing as much damage as it actually did. I don’t know though, I’m no knife expert.

4.) They have now taken Eugene. And if we’re really being honest here, there’s no way he survives this, and that kind of pisses me off. And Rosita lives on. One thing we’ve all learned so far this season – if you try to hurt or kill Negan, you get to live. I hope Eugene tries to choke Negan out or something. I don’t want my favorite nerd being taken out.

3.) Why did we need to spend any time with the Kingdom people at all? I mean, they weren’t an issue in this show, really. If you don’t give me the tiger or Ezekiel, then you can just not show anything going on there until someone there actually does something worth talking about.

2.) What the fuck was with the super-cheesy smiling montage at the end of this episode? I don’t know what they’re all smiling about. Maggie in Glenn’s hat and Abraham’s gloves, eating everything in sight is just about the cutest thing I’ve ever seen on this show. But this is not reason to smile. Your people showing up at Hilltop is not a reason to smile. Perhaps they realize that with this much of the group in the same place, we’re done with the individual episodes for a while. That is a reason to smile. The Daryl hugs were my absolute favorite, but they were all smiling before that happened.

1. Jesus and Daryl were on the screen at the same time. I don’t really need to say anything about this, but I will. This was, quite possibly, the best 15 seconds in The Walking Dead‘s history. Hopefully, this trend continues into the second half of this season. I guess I’ll have to watch to find out. Way to leave me hanging. Maybe the new mystery creeper is hot, too! Maybe they’ll put all three on the screen together. Maybe I’ll be happier with the second half of this season. Guess we’ll all find out in February, 2017.

Shawn: Well, I guess, technically “hearts still beating” goes for our long-term cast members but we’re blowing through the Alexandria cast pretty quickly. It’s been a weird path to get to this point but I think we all felt a little better about this episode because it was paced out among all the characters finally. It feels much more comfortable to feel the episode is playing out in more of a “real” time. Like you, I am growing weary of super-sized episodes that are padded just so Negan can talk some more. We’ve got a few weeks to live with this last episode. So I’ll counter your discussion points with a few of my own.

1.) “It ain’t just about getting by here. It’s about getting it all.” I have always had an uneasy tolerance for the violence against humans by “our side”. Usually it’s been a situation where I could defend them by saying the other people would have tried to kill them. Daryl killing Fat Joe as he begged for mercy and Michonne killing her guide/hostage both felt as gratuitous as the killing of Olivia. When it’s people we hold out as heroes, I know it’s signifying that this hellish future will cause you to do anything to stay alive but it also loses a bit of our moral compass. If you will kill Fat Joe, then what are the rules that guide us?

2.) An episode of convenience. One thing that’s happened consistently over the course of the past few seasons is that our characters split up and then come back together. I don’t remember it happening like this though. This was so convenient that it all occurred over the course of a few hours. Each character got a nice few minutes and some dramatic lines and then some smiles. Have we ever had all the characters get back together all at once? A little too manipulated to get us back to a full squad. You know, less the manipulation of killing off very minor characters to get us motivated to go kill the Saviors.

3.) “Against the grain, kid.” You point to Negan looking all hot without his beard. I still like my characters more beardy. But the shaving and then the spaghetti dinner with his traditional nuclear family was a nice touch. We’ve seen violent and lecherous Negan but seeing him in this setting might be his most creepy moment yet. Carl, Judith, and Olivia at the table with Negan was the most tense I felt the whole episode. Negan has been established as the ultimate bad guy. Where do they go from here? He gutted Spencer and no one did anything. Is this a very typical arc where we build up the bad guy and then take him down? I don’t want Governor 2.0. I want a more nuanced bad guy. Play it against the grain, people.

4.) Boating on Zombie Lake. I have spent the season using this pulpit to whine about lots of the writing and pacing. As if I was a successful TV writer that people should come to for expert advice. I wanted to find a few things to talk positive about from this episode. I found at least one. I don’t know that there was a more enjoyable sequence this season involving zombies in the zombie show than Rick and Aaron crossing Zombie Lake in a leaky boat. I miss sequences like this where the characters have to use some ingenuity to not get bitten. Aaron falling into the lake and swimming to safety with the “I’m ok.” mantra was just what I’ve been missing this season.

5. The Kingdom of Nice Houses. Way to go, writers. You managed to turn the conflicted and yet always bad ass Carol into just plain asshole Carol. If we have learned anything from recent seasons, it’s that when we need Carol the most, she’ll show up with a tank and a tiger and flame thrower to win the day and rescue everyone. Until then, she wants to just chill by the fire, watch a little Netflix, and read her book. It’s probably the most disappointing development of the season to this point.

February 2017. I’m more anxious than I was a couple weeks ago. I didn’t say much about Maggie but her apple-eating self can do no wrong for me. She’s not as integral a part to the future plans as they want us to think but I’m happy when she’s happy. You got your 15 seconds of happy with Jesus and Daryl, and I got mine with Maggie eating everything under the sun. But it all felt a little forced. Times aren’t happy. The Saviors War is on the horizon. Winter is coming.

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Shawn Bourdo

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