REVIEW: The Walking Dead 708 – “Hearts Still Beating”

The Walking Dead is getting weird. Not in terms of subject matter, however.

The Walking Dead - Episode 7.08 - Hearts Still Beating.png

I feel like the show knows that viewers need a spreadsheet to keep up with all the characters, locations, and factions. The constant reminders that Maggie is pregnant feels like I’m in a remedial class of TV viewing. It’s overbearing — and I think it undermines the intelligence of the audience.

This week’s opening hops around to establish everyone’s starting point — all it does is lessen the impact of the sweet and devilish “pass the rolls — please?” remark.

What the hell are Rick and Aaron doing? Crossing a walker-infested chasm of water in a boat riddled with bullet holes is never a thing that’d cross my mind. Even though there were supplies they needed on the other side, I feel like there were smarter ways they could’ve went about to obtain them. At least we got our forced walker moment of the week.

I still can’t get used to Michonne acting hard with a gun. It’s something she seldom did in the comic, but seeing her get farther and farther away from her comfort blanket katana shows me that they’re making Michonne into the show’s “Comic Book Andrea” (the relationship with Rick, the sniper training, etc.) It’s weird to copy and paste the attributes of one character to another with no reason. The show had poised Sasha to take a lot of those attributes, but I really can’t imagine why they chose to insert Michonne into Rick’s love life. That just can’t bode well for the future of Michonne’s character.

The bouncing around to tie up loose narrative threads is fairly whacked out. This episode struggles to find its momentum and pace in the first half hour. This is a true contender for slowest mid-season finale in TWD history. There’s plenty of down time for Rosita and Father Gabriel to discuss Maggie’s Glennless raising of her child. Instead, we’re treated to an onslaught of vignettes that never feel like they belong in the same episode.

Let’s not even mention how all of these vignettes distract from Daryl’s epic escape from the Saviors compound. Poor Fat Joey, though. Lucille’d by a pipe. RIP, one of Negan’s best living butt of his jokes.

The episode finally feels like it starts around an hour in. The brutal beatdown of Aaron is sick and depraved — and the juxtaposition between the “friendly” pool game with Negan & Spencer is very, very strong. It’s awesome to see this storyline manifest from page to screen — Spencer’s last hoorah is a potent scene. It’s some of this season’s strongest, most focused storytelling. I couldn’t help but cheer for Negan taking out Spencer the Snake. I’m hopeful the guilt Rosita feels for Eugene’s capture will further evolve her character.

Overall, half of this finale was a waste… showing us glimpses of plot threads that’ll dangle over into February. Not that I expected everything to tie up with a nice little bow, but I really wanted some sort of resolution. I feel like the season will finally start next year with Rick bringing together the Post-Apocalyptic Justice League. I think it’s been well-established that Negan is the bad guy. Now it’s time to fight.

If I could split rate the episode, the first half hour gets a firm 6. The latter 30 minutes is a solid 9. The meandering middle is muddy and sloppy. For sloppiness alone, this episode suffers. This is one of the most disappointing mid-season finales in terms of lasting effects, but it has nice moments. It’s not a season 3 finale disaster, but it ultimately falls short in getting me excited for the onscreen adaptation of All Out War.

7

Random aside: Just as I was getting used to the idea of a bearded Negan, he shaves! Cue sad faces all around.

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