Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. Spoilers will lurk like groaning walkers..
Hearts Still Beating closes out the first half of the seventh season on – gasp! – an actually hopeful note, which signals the show might actually be headed to the Return Of The Jedi stage of this particular arc, and away from near-constant misery and negativity (aside from the odd side trip to other communities). Like last week's Sing Me A Song, this extended episode leavens the endless Neganisms (please let them one day give Jeffrey Dean Morgan another note to play other than arrogant, crowing psycho) with checking in on some of our other characters. So while the Alexandrians are trying to make toilet water lemonade out of the rotten lemon squatting in Rick's house in a variety of different ways (the actual lemonade was a little on the nose, Dead Team), we find Carol still trying to be a loner on the outskirts of The Kingdom, watch Rick and Aaron in action on Walker Lake, see what Maggie, Sasha and Enid are up to at Hilltop, witness Daryl's Big Escape and take in the brief couple of scenes that make up Driving Miss Michonne. Most of it – aside from Alexandria, Darryl and Walker Lake – involves a LOT of talking, none of it particularly subtle and making the argument for "show don't tell" more than other series.
But at least it is Carol, Morgan and the Kingdom's Richard (Karl Makinen) doing the debating, which means it's delivered well. The Hilltop stuff is mostly the pregnant, widowed Maggie Greene eating or trying to decide what step to take next given how the residents there see her as some sort of hero. Sasha wants to act, but doesn't want Maggie involved, and once again we get the well-used trope of people not wanting to communicate for spurious dramatic reasons. Still, we can see why she'd want to protect her friend and the child's she's carrying. Rick and Aaron, meanwhile have their own chat, but their big scene is more the standard tonnes-o-walkers scene demanded by finales. It's effective, though Aaron's escape by swimming doesn't feel particularly dramatic. Once they're back in Alexandria, poor Aaron suffers for leaving the insulting note found in the supplies, which seems like a silly mistake to make given whom the goods are headed to.
The Daryl scenes want you to think they're the very embodiment of tense, but it's mostly him sneaking around the Sanctuary, turning Fat Joe into Splat Joe with a pipe and meeting up with Ninja Jesus to make a break for it via a now-unguarded back gate. For all their power and tactics, the Saviours have some very Death Star-style gaps in their security. Carol's scenes are primarily her demanding to be left alone, and Richard heading to his own secret stash in the woods to have a little breakdown. We're glad to see Carol and Morgan again, but the scene really ended up as something that could've been held over until the latter half of the season. Even if it meant we forgot their story.
The meat of the episode was still in Alexandria, and Negan annoyance aside, it actually managed to push the storyline along. After numerous scenes of people waffling about what they're going to do about the Saviours, several narratives and plans came to fruition. Spencer made his play to usurp Rick by being charming and ended up gutted by Negan for his trouble. We won't miss him. Then Rosita stepped up to try shooting Negan with the bullet that Eugene made, and just damaged Lucille. And you know what Negan thinks about his weirdly phallic wooden best girl... Rosita survived, but Olivia paid the price instead. But it was actual plot movement with some true stakes, and we're grateful for that.
And then, once Negan and his gang left – we're still trying to figure out why they don't at least leave a guard or two to monitor the communities they conquer – it was time for the Reunion Special, as Rick (spurred on by a returned Michonne) and some of the Alexandria regulars headed to Hilltop to begin forming the committee to reelect the Presid... er... planning to fight back in whatever way they can. Jesus and Daryl are there and it turns into a lovely hug fest, which started to feel like the cast shooting a smiley alternate opening credits for the show. They're united! They're going to take the fight to the Saviours.
Yeah, this'll end badly. See you next year!
Who was the mysterious owner of the pair of boots who watched Aaron and Rick leave the lake house?
No one is quite sure yet - though it could be someone from Oceanside out on a scout. Or the owner of the lake house, who like Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol, did not die...
Were there callbacks this week?
The Negan shaving scene felt like a mirror – no pun intended – of Rick enjoying a shave after arriving at Alexandria. And spaghetti! (RIP Hershel, not that Negan knew him)
Won't someone inform on the Fight Back Committee right away?
Probably Gregory. It seems like a Gregory thing to do. Plus, Surely Negan and co. will head right back to Alexandria/Hilltop after learning of Daryl's escape.
Read this season's previous reviews below...
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC in the States and Mondays at 9pm on Fox.