The return of Spaghetti Tuesday.
Be warned! This review will cover aspects of the episode. You know what I’m thinking, I’ll take a guess.
That’s right, it’s fall finale time!
After Negan came to Alexandria and killed two people – we’re going to miss you, Olivia (Ann Mahoney) and Spencer (Austin Nichols) – Rick (Andrew Lincoln) finally decided he’d has enough and it was time to fight back against the Saviors. This was the inevitable seasonal act break. It’s a sweet, if unfocused scene that brings with it some very real catharsis of Rick’s reunion with Daryl, but not exactly an earned payoff.
The Walking Dead returned in October to some of the highest ratings in the series’ history, with fans tuning in by droves to find out which character (or, as it turned out, characters) the smarmy Negan had clubbed to death with his barbed-wire bat. Despite continually making excellent points about what a shitty leader Rick is, that guy was only ever set up as his cowardly foil, and Negan states as much as he ends Spencer for trying to ingratiate himself to the Saviors and unseat Rick. In the end, Rosita’s actions got Olivia killed, made Eugene a captor of the Saviors and even left her with a nasty scar on her cheek.
In every episode there is something or other that makes no sense, whether it’s a random zombie in dreadlocks that’s supposed to fool us into thinking a character has been bitten or another character managing to approach the heavily armed Saviours camp on foot without being seen.
We know where this is going. Rosita was destined to fail.
Another joked, “Did Rick and Daryl slow motion run into each other’s arms or was I seeing things?” We love Daryl, and it’s been a while since we had a storyline that explored who he is. She’s suffering from huge survivor’s guilt, and still carrying the homemade bullet that she forced Eugene to make for her. It’s just how the show operates.
Making a passionate plea for Rick to band with her and battle the Saviors, Michonne finally knocks some sense into the emasculated prisoner and lights a fire back in his spirit (and trousers, probably). Ezekiel’s right-hand man Richard shows up at Carol’s secluded house around the time Morgan pays a visit.
Ezekiel looks like he’ll need some convincing to go up against Negan.. So why does “Hearts Still Beating” value this reveal as information to be stretched over a brief cliffhanger? The moment of truth came when Spencer (Austin Nichols), feeling empowered on his return to Alexandria, made a decision to cozy up to Negan and make a power play for Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) job. Who will he kill? Who else lost their appetite when Spencer’s stomach was ripped open for all to see?
Looking ahead, there is some promise in uniting the various communities against Negan, as well as seeing the series finally address what has become a major drawback under showrunner Scott M. Gimple by reassembling many key members of the core cast. 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. Norman Reedus has one of the best cry-faces in the game, dammit. Of course that little bit of drama puts Rick’s group behind on their tithe, according to Negan. There’s that one guy who was picking a fight with Richard over in The Kingdom back at the top of the season, and now there are the two guys who beat on Aaron.
As Negan happily lived out all of his deepest Suburbanite fantasies in Rick’s home, his domestic bliss was interrupted by the conniving plans of Alexandria’s douchiest resident: Spencer Monroe.