Sorry, once again, for the delay. I had to watch this episode three times for it to sink in and I still feel like I'm missing something. Before I get started for real, I can't help myself...
Why didn't Spencer cross the road?Because he didn't have the guts.
I crack myself up. Sorry. That was a joke we told in elementary - only replace "Spencer" with skeleton. I've been waiting all week to use it.
It's been a week since the season-seven mid-season finale (try saying that three times, fast) of TWD. While this season has felt really, really slow, it's actually following pretty close to it's normal story progression. It is both mid-season and the mid-point of the story (not to be confused with the climax). At this point we've been introduced to all new characters and our protagonists are facing the catalyst for the upcoming battle - they know what needs to happen, but they're not quite done figuring out the details and there are still a whole bunch of loose ends to tie together. While last season danced with the theme of morality, this season - and this episode - is about power.
What we know so far:
- Negan is the bad guy.
- Negan rules by fear and intimidation.
- Negan has the numbers. "We're all Negan."
- There are five colonies, three of whom Negan controls, one is hidden, and of course, one is where he resides. Everyone within his circle of influence is pretty sick of dealing with Negan. I mean, his own people are practically begging to be shot just to escape.
- Rick and crew are the only ones who know everyone (though not everyone knows everyone) so they'll be the ones to bring all the communities together.
At the Hilltop:
The story starts with Maggie at the Hilltop, mourning Glen and wearing a hat reminiscent of the one Glen wore in seasons one and two. On TWD, hats play an important role in the lives of the characters. Glen stopped wearing his hat when he and Maggie became a couple, this is thought to be because his character evolved and matured, but maybe it's something more. In some cultures a hat is a sign of protection (Which is the point of a hat anyway, isn't it? They protect the wearer from sun, rain, cold, and wind...). Together, he and Maggie protected one another. Now that she's alone, she wears a hat. Or maybe it's just hot.
That doesn't make her vulnerable though, probably less so. Maggie is craving apples. In history, literature, and lore, apples symbolize everything from knowledge to luck to evil to love. Apples are often depicted as the forbidden fruit in the story of Adam and Eve, holding knowledge and mortality within its peel. In Norse lore, apples grant immortality to the gods. In one Norse story in particular, Loki kidnaps Iduna, caretaker of the apple tree of the gods. In her absence, the apple tree fails to produce fruit and as a result the gods age and become mortal. By taking Iduna (and her apples) Loki takes power away from the gods. In Hearts Still Beating, Maggie takes, and eats, Gregory's apple - removing him from his position of power in the process. Later, when the Hilltopers give her an apple pie (which she eats barehanded - love it) they solidify her as their chosen leader of the Hilltop.
Any clue what those little figurines were?
Daryl escapes at the prompting of a note left under his door. I'm going to speculate that it was from Dwight (who switches sides in the comics). Anyway. After eating, changing his clothes, and sneaking out of the compound's walls, Daryl finally makes it outside and back to his bike - his apple, his symbol of power and freedom. There, a Savior, "Fat Joey" catches him in the act and says he'll let Daryl go. Daryl kills him with a pipe and it is darkly reminiscent of Glen and Abraham's deaths. He then removes a revolver - Rick's revolver - from the Joey's belt before leaving with Jesus (who was still lurking since Carl's visit) on the bike.
Richard talks to Morgan and Carol about needing to take out the Saviors. He tells them how Negan took control and about the fragile peace they've formed. What he says foreshadows the near-end of the episode when Negan confronts Rick at Alexandria.
"Sooner or later something will go wrong. Maybe we'll be light on a drop, or maybe one of ours will look at one of theirs the wrong way, or maybe they'll just decide to stop honoring the deal. Things will go bad and when they do the kingdom will fall....I'm scared that if we don't do something now we won't only lose more people - we'll lose everything. I know what the Saviors are and I know what they do and I know they cannot be trusted. and I think you know that too."
He accurately assess the character of the Saviors and the future they can expect if they work with them. This is echoed in Daryl's words to Fat Joey's corpse before his escape. "It ain't just about getting by here. It's about getting it all."
The Pond Walkers:
Side note, since Dawn of the Dead, I've always assumed boats would be the safest place in a zombie apocalypse. Hearts Still Beating took that theory and drowned it. I shiver just thinking about it.
Anyway, it's in these scenes that we get the theme of this episode and of the rest of the season. Inside one of the buckets on the boat, they find a note with a big one finger salute drawn down the middle.
"Congrats for winning, but you still lose."
This foreshadows the war to come on both sides. Negan is winning, but he's going to lose. The colonies are going to win. But there will be loss. Why they didn't chuck the note is beyond me, but Aaron takes a beating for it when they get back to Alexandria. On the road we get a glimpse of why Arron allows himself to get beaten and why he is willing to risk his life to scavenge for Negan. His motivation is similar to Rick's - you do what you have to do to protect the ones you love. When he explains this to Rick, Aaron gives the episode its name.
"Either your heart's beating or it isn't. Your loved ones hearts are beating or they aren't."
This ties in with Rick and Michone's conversation later inside the jail. They will fight so their loved one's hearts can beat one more day. Negan will never allow all of them to live. He's killed upward of five Alexandrians so far and, like Richard pointed out and like Daryl pointed out, it's never going to be enough. He left Alexandria with these words, "[Eugene] and whatever you left for me at the front gate and however much you scavenged, it's not good enough."
Spoiler: Negan ends up living in the jail.
After guileful Spencer's prophecy about Rick and following disembowelment, Rosita takes her one and only shot at Negan in the second failed assassination attempt so far. Instead of hitting Negan, however, her one bullet hits Lucile, Negan's alter-ego, permanently damaging the bat; and in that instant, it isn't just Lucile who is damaged, but Negan's phallic symbol of power is scarred as well.
United at the Hilltop:
We finally get the feel-good reunion we've been waiting for since the premiere. Everyone hugs. Most of them cry. Sasha and Rosita bury the hatchet. Daryl gives Rick his revolver. This act restores Ricks power which had been in the hands of the Saviors. Our team is back together.
And to tie it all together:
- Everyone wants to kill Negan. They're all on the same page.
- They know how powerful Negan is (thanks to Michone's reconnaissance work).
- They know they all want to kill Negan.
- They're going to win.
Now all our protagonists have to do is unite all the communities and defeat Negan. That's simple, right? Only two more months until we can watch them do it.
A few more things:
The shoe in the forest: This is another group of survivors that we'll probably meet at the end of the season or at the beginning of the next season - they're either "The Survivors" good guys, or "The Whisperers" the bad guys. I didn't watch Talking Dead to find out which.
Where did the actual church come from? Weren't they meeting in a house before? With folding chairs?