In the winter finale of The Walking Dead season 7, titled “Hearts Still Beating,” Negan’s visit to Alexandria ends in bloodshed, another member of Team Family is taken prisoner by the Saviors, we finally see The Kingdom again and quite a few characters reunite by episode’s end. This is easily one of the best episodes of the season, and it takes us into hiatus on a high note.

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Gabriel Talks Rosita Down

As the episode opens, we find Negan taking a moment to shave. He then cooks a meal for himself, Carl and Olivia. Olivia is clearly uncomfortable at the thought of going back in the house with Negan. Tara comes by to give her the mix for the lemonade and offers to go in her place. Olivia tells Tara that she made Rick a promise that she would watch Judith and that’s what she is going to do. They all sit down for a meal together, but Negan is losing his patience waiting for Rick to arrive.

While that is happening, Spencer shows the Saviors his haul and they are impressed. One of the female Saviors even flirts with him. Spencer then stops by his home to get cleaned up before he goes to meet Negan. He’s clearly trying to channel his mother in this moment and it’s a nice character beat.

As Spencer makes nice with the Saviors, Rosita is contemplating her plan to kill Negan. Gabriel talks to her and tells her that she doesn’t have to die taking Negan down. Gabriel knows Negan needs to die, but he doesn’t think she should too. Rosita mentions that everyone else has someone to live for or something they can contribute. She clearly doesn’t think that implies to her. Gabriel tells her they will find a way to win and they’ll do it together. He includes her in that “together” and says they need her. Gabriel’s words have Rosita reconsidering her options but not for long.

On his way to see Negan, Spencer stops to have a chat with Rosita. He asks her why she started things up with him, and Rosita tells him she was just using him. Spencer doesn’t seem to mind and even asks her to dinner, and she agrees.

Spencer Shows His Guts

Spencer finally gets his face-to-face with Negan, and things start off well enough. They share a drink on the porch and decide to play a game of pool together. Negan has the pool table brought out into the open so everyone can witness their chat.

While they play, Spencer starts talking to Negan about Rick. He tells Negan that Rick isn’t a team player, and sooner or later Rick will screw things up and try to take over again. Negan asks Spencer what he wants, and Spencer says that he can be the leader his mother was. He tries to convince Negan that they would all be better off if Negan put him in charge.

Negan pretends to consider Spencer’s offer, but he points out that Rick is out there scavenging and doing his part. Negan also points out that Spencer waited until Rick was gone to make his pitch and try to convince Negan to kill Rick. Spencer tries to backtrack, saying he doesn’t actually want Rick dead, but Negan says Spencer has no guts. He then proceeds to gut him in front of everyone. (Austin Nichols did an excellent job in the role, but I cannot say I’m sad to see Spencer go.)

Spencer’s death upsets Rosita so much that she fires her single bullet at Negan. Alas, she only manages to hit Lucille. Needless to say, Negan is not pleased. He decides that Rosita must be punished. At first, he threatens to have one of his Saviors cut Rosita’s face, but when he doesn’t like her answers to his questions, he chooses to punish her in a different way. He orders one of his Saviors to kill someone, and the woman shoots poor Olivia in the face. (Unlike Spencer, I am actually sad to see Olivia go. After she slapped Negan in the previous episode, I was hoping we’d get to see more moments like that from her.)

Rick arrives, and Negan tells him about Carl showing up at the Sanctuary and killing his men. Negan thinks he should get a thank you for returning Carl home. Negan wants to know who made the bullet Rosita used. Rosita and Tara both claim to be responsible for making the bullet before Eugene steps up and admits that the bullet was his work. Negan decides to take Eugene to the Sanctuary, as his skills could be useful. Before he leaves, he tells Rick that the Alexandrians are in a serious hole after today.

After the Saviors leave, Rick waits for Spencer to turn before putting him down.

A Mostly Happy Ending

As the episode comes to a close, the Alexandrians arrive at the Hilltop and many happy reunions are had. Maggie assures her friends that she and the baby are fine. The Alexandrians are then surprised when Daryl emerges, already having arrived at the Hilltop. (Anyone else disappointed that we missed Daryl’s reunion with Maggie? After the reaction she had to Daryl being captured in the season premiere and the guilt Daryl has felt over Glenn’s death, that’s a reunion I would’ve liked to see.) Daryl and Rick embrace, and Daryl returns Rick’s gun.

Everyone exchanges intense glances, and as a group, they all walk toward the main house, presumably to start making plans on how to deal with Negan.

While most of the characters reunite at the Hilltop, a shadowy figures spies on Gabriel as he stands watch back at the Alexandria Safe Zone. This mystery person is also shown spying on Rick and Aaron earlier in the episode.

Richard Asks Carol and Morgan for Help

After what feels like an eternity, we finally check back in with Carol and Morgan at The Kingdom. Carol is still staying at the creepy house near The Kingdom, and Morgan drops off some things for her. She invites him in and lets him know that Ezekiel has been visiting her with fresh fruit on a regular basis. Once Morgan tells Carol that he’s doing well, Carol tells him to leave. Yet when he opens the door, Richard is waiting on the porch. Richard came to see Carol, but he wanted to speak with both of them.

Richard sits the two down and explains that he knows Ezekiel made a deal with the Saviors to keep the peace, but he also knows that peace will not last. The Saviors cannot be trusted and they could break the deal on a whim. Richard says that Ezekiel trusts Carol and Morgan, so he wants them to help him convince Ezekiel to attack the Saviors. He thinks they need to take the Saviors out while they have the element of surprise.

Carol tells Richard that she has no interest in getting involved in any of this, and she just wants to be left alone. Morgan tells Richard that he’s not going to do anything to disrupt the peace that exists now. Richard is angry and tells them that when people die, the blood will be on their hands. Carol tells Morgan to leave and says that if he runs into anyone they know, she wants him to tell them that she’s gone.

After leaving Carol and Morgan, Richard goes to a trailer hidden in the woods and breaks down. (Is it safe to say that Richard’s vendetta against the Saviors is personal? Are the Saviors responsible for him losing his family?)

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Michonne’s One-Woman Show

We don’t see much of Michonne in this episode, but we pick up with her still in the car as the female Savior leads her to Negan’s compound. Michonne tries to talk to the woman, but she refuses to respond. Michonne tells her that she’s not going to kill Negan today, but she is going to figure out a way to win. When they finally arrive at the Sanctuary, Michonne is shocked to see how huge the place is and to realize the kind of numbers the Saviors have. The female Savior tells her that she still has choices. She can go home and burn the car, presumably so Negan never learns about her little road trip to the Sanctuary. The woman even tells Michonne that there is a silencer in the glove compartment, and Michonne uses it to kill her.

Michonne returns to Alexandria and tells Rick that she found what she was looking for, but she realized she doesn’t want to do things on her own. She tells him that Negan has more people than they knew, but that doesn’t change anything. She still thinks they can fight the Saviors and find a way to defeat them but only if they do it together. Rick surprises her when he tells her he knows that now. Rick is finally ready to fight, and they celebrate with a nice make-out session.

Daryl’s Escape

Daryl begins the episode by taking a chance that the note is real. He leaves his cell and starts making his way through the compound. When he hears some Saviors coming toward him, he enters one of the apartments to hide. It turns out to be Dwight’s place (I think), and Daryl makes himself at home by eating Dwight’s peanut butter and borrowing his clothes.

Daryl finally makes it outside to where the motorcycles are kept, but he is spotted by Fat Joey before he can get away. Fat Joey claims he won’t tell anyone that Daryl is gone and basically pleads for his life, but Daryl kills him anyway. After everything he’s been through, Daryl clearly has no tolerance for anyone who willingly sides with Negan. Jesus arrives to witness Daryl’s killing of Fat Joey, and the two leave together.

Rick and Aaron’s Adventure

Rick and Aaron are still on their supply run as the episode begins. We catch up with them at the lake, which is filled with walkers. They need to get to the other side in order to retrieve the supplies, but the only boat on their side is riddled with bullet holes. They decide to go anyway, and they make it to the dock on the other side but not without Aaron suffering a very close call. There’s another boat near the dock so they have an easier time getting away with their haul.

Rick takes the time to talk to Aaron about their deal with the Saviors. Rick knows that not everyone agrees with his decision to cooperate with Negan, but Aaron was there when Glenn and Abraham were killed so he knows they’re doing what they need to do to keep people alive.

When Rick and Aaron get back to Alexandria, they realize that Negan and the Saviors are already there. One of the Saviors tells Rick that Negan is waiting at Rick’s house, but he makes Rick stick around as they go through the supplies that Rick and Aaron brought back. During their search of the haul, they discover a taunting note written by whoever left the stockpile of goods near the lake. Aaron tries to explain that they didn’t write the note, but the Saviors do not care. They decide to beat Aaron up while Rick watches. Aaron takes quite the beating, but at least he’s still alive.

While Rick is helping Aaron walk, presumably to seek medical attention, they hear a gunshot. By the time they arrive on the scene, both Spencer and Olivia are dead.

Maggie and the Hilltop

When we find Maggie at The Hilltop, we see her going through what looks to be a daily ritual of visiting Glenn’s grave before heading up to the watch post. As the episode begins, Gregory stops by to see her. He knows that his people are warming up to Maggie and Sasha, saying how grateful they are that the women saved The Hilltop when the Saviors launched their sneak attack. Gregory tells Maggie to not let it go to her head, and Maggie taunts him that she knows it bothers him.

Later in the episode, Maggie is sitting down to eat some apple pie that one of the Saviors made for them when she asks Sasha if Jesus has left yet. Maggie wants to add a few things to his list, already thinking about ways to improve life for those at The Hilltop. Sasha lies and says Jesus already left, but when Maggie is out of earshot, Enid calls her out on her lie. Sasha says that if Maggie knows what she’s planning, she’ll want to help. Sasha tells Enid that they both have to keep Maggie safe. Enid knows that Sasha wants to go after Negan and tells her that she isn’t the only one who wants to take Negan down. Enid is proven right by the episode’s end.

What did you think of The Walking Dead winter finale? Were you sad to see Spencer or Olivia go? Did you miss seeing Carol and Morgan at the big Team Family reunion? Who is the mysterious figure spying on the group? Can anyone or anything pull Carol out of her self-imposed isolation? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below.

The Walking Dead
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Megan Cole

Contributing Writer, BuddyTV