Monday, January 16, 2017

The Walking Dead, Season 7, Episode 8: Hearts Still Beating

And this episode brings the first mustering for war – and it does it firstly by laying out the pieces ready to deploy

In Hilltop Gregory is clearly worried about losing his grip. Sasha and Maggie stepped up when the colony was threatened, they acted, they saved people. Gregory didn’t and the people remember this. We can see Gregory’s insecurity and equally see the people’s support for Maggie and Sasha. Sasha also seems willing to plan something – but feels she has to act alone because she can’t ask Maggie, as a pregnant woman, and the rest are unwilling to fight the Saviours – but she will fight.

A similar frustration is happening at Kingdom as Ezekiel’s lieutenant (whose name I can’t remember – Richard?)  who appeals desperately to Morgan and Carol to try and convince Ezekiel they have to fight. He, rightfully, points out it’s only a matter of time before one of the volatile Saviours lashes out or Negan in his random sadism lashes out. And he’s not wrong – every time that the Saviours have gone to collect their tribute someone has picked a fight. It’s only a matter of time before it escalates.

Richard also says “I imagine fighting is not something you’ve been involved in” MUAHAHAHAHAHAHA oh, the Saviours die when Carol decides to show them all the flowers. Neither Carol – who wants out of everything as much as possible – nor Morgan who is desperately clinging to his path of non-violence, refuse to fight. But we know they’re going to be drawn in. We’re introducing the troops here.

On his supply run, Rick and Aaron manage to gather some supplies (though Aaron came close to death several times) with Rick laying out why he’s serving Negan and Aaron agreeing (because Aaron has never disagreed with Rick in his life. Or had an opinion. Or personality) that existing and living is better than the alternative. They manage to grab the supplies, head back to Alexandria – and Aaron is brutally beaten by the Saviours. Because they’re Saviours

But I’m getting ahead of myself – Negan has been hanging around Alexandria waiting for Rick to return and generally getting on everyone’s nerves in the process. Everyone is terrified, except Spencer, who is the worst. Spencer takes the opportunity to try and creep in with Negan and be the new leader of Alexandria after Negan kills Rick. This is his plan

And, lo, we have the one moment when we all agree with Negan – he kills Spencer. He kills Spencer because he has zero respect for the cowardly sliming of Spencer trying to take over from Rick and relying on someone else to do it because he’s not brave enough or capable enough to do it himself. Besides which, what chance would Spencer have of holding Alexandria together since no-one respected him even a little?

RIP Spencer, you will not be missed.

Rosita is continuing her plan to kill Negan, she has reached a level of desperation where she just simply doesn’t care what happens to her. She sees herself as a reasonable sacrifice, disposable – she sees everyone else around her as being useful, skilled, in relationships while she is completely irrelevant to the plot (oh, Rosita, there are at least 5 other people on this show who could die tomorrow and not be noticed). Gabriel – continuing his surprising trend of stepping up and offering some really excellent advice – tries to talk her down. Not from killing Negan, he’s totally onside for that – but in affirming her value

No, really, Gabriel has completely turned round this season. He’s like awesome mentor to everyone giving great advice and insight. I don’t know when his happened but kudos for making me not want to kill this character.

Rosita didn’t listen to Gabriel any more than she listened to Eugene – and she tries to shoot Negan after he kills Spencer… and worst possible luck she hits Lucille instead.

In the aftermath Negan decides to do exactly what Eugene warned her he would do – he has someone at random killed. Olivia. Damn it, Olivia was starting to become more prominent and she slapped him and I really really really would have loved to see more of her. She could have been interesting. The moment when she insisted to Tara she would stay because she promised Rick she would look after Judith was such a nice character moment. Olivia is afraid, she’s been repeatedly insulted and offended for her weight but she said she would do this thing and she’s going to do it.

Negan demands to know who made the bullet since he can tell it was home made and ability to make bullets is a super useful skill… after a moment of “I’m Sparticus”-ing, Eugene tearfuly tells Negan it was him.

Which is when Rick returns – to have Negan being terrible, Spencer needing putting down and to be told that Eugene is going with them. And he expects Rick to be grateful. It’s an enraging, breaking moment and you can see the future from here – with 2 dead, one taken and one brutally beaten on Negan’s very first visit.

But we have one more storyline – Michonne. She kidnapped one of the Saviours last episode and demanded she be shown the Saviour’s compound where Negan is. She is told “we’re all Negan” and sees just how huge the Saviours are.

There’s an odd moment where the woman she has kidnapped urges Michonne to ditch the car, pretend this never happened – and kill her. I’m not sure why this Saviour wanted to die… did she think Michonne would have a chance to bring Negan down? Is she afraid of consequences? Is she just done?

I don’t know – but Michonne does just that and returns to Rick to give him an awesome speech. She has been looking for a way forward, a way she wants to go on – but she wants them both to go on. She wants their way. She wants Rick and her to come together. She has an epic speech about what they do – they survive. They survive and fight and get things done. It’s what they do, it’s what they’ve always done and it’s what they have to do for the future especially for the kids Michonne isn’t content with just surviving and hoping – she’s ready to fight and find a way because they always have.

And I love this from Michonne because it’s a lesson of action and hope, because she’s leading the way but not following Rick’s lead. Because we see it as part of her story progression: from being silent, to demanding Rick support her in finding a home which she saw in Alexandria, to having and adoring that home and then, now going on to demanding they make that home safe and real again. This has been Michonne’s progression: being alone and hurt and lost to seeing what she wanted, demanding they pursue that, being more than a weapon, demanding that home be preserved and protected and continue.

My one worry is that she announces that they live and survive – which, being The Walking Dead, makes me think that’s going to change

She gets through to Rick and he agrees and together they go to Hilltop to be joined by Maggie (also ready to fight) and Sasha and Jesus and Daryl (who has escaped from the Savours). Daryl gives Rick a gun – and he accepts it. An important point when we consider he was so unwilling to touch a gun recently out of fear of the Saviours. Just in case we had any doubt of where he stands now