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Recap: 'Walking Dead,' ep. 7.8., 'Hearts Still Beating'

Another first half of a season of The Walking Dead is in the books and Alexandria is down, but definitely not out.  Spencer tries his hand at reaching upper management, though he may not have the stomach for it.  Rosita needs only one shot, yet she misses and it goes to Olivia's head.  Meanwhile, Rick & Aaron pick up an admirer who may have already "claimed" the cache they're submitting to the Saviors.  Michonne has a hard time connecting with her hostage, who shows her exactly how foolhardy her solo effort is when she sees Saviors in the road, at least dozens who haven't even reached the Sanctuary yet. They are a reminder that the Saviors do indeed have the numbers and the last thing Alexandria would survive is a direct confrontation.

It has been a slow trudge over the past 8 weeks but a journey well worth traveling.  Every episode hasn't been a decisive winner, even though Alexandrians - The A-Team - were able to squirrel away a minor victory here and there.  But I think the most difficult part was watching how fractured our group became throughout the ordeal. For years, we've literally watched them become closer and stronger and tighter with every obstacle they conquered, even while losing people along the way. Still - they've never lost anyone like this before. The stakes have been ramped up to a constant threat level.  The dread that overtook our friends in episode 1 of this season is still looming and must be dealt with, akin to a barn full of walkers just over yonder. How well could you sleep with that next door?

You can rest assured now that the corner is about to be turned because our A-Team is finally reuniting.  Jesus was still at the Sanctuary when Daryl made his great escape so, not only is the fan-favorite safe, he is with friends at the Hilltop.  He keeps acting like this and Jesus may earn my trust before too long.  Maggie is gaining footing at the Hilltop, cementing the belief that she should be its leader.  To be honest she's probably already kind of running it, just unofficially.  Gregory is just a laughable figurehead at this point; a face for the Saviors to deal with in account of Maggie's "death" (as Morgan told Negan).  Flanked by Sasha, Jesus and now a healing Darryl, Maggie should have no problem getting the Hilltopready for war. But in the event theHilltoppers don't make good fighters, at least the Hilltop is in good hands.

And while we're on the topic of being 'nice with their hands' aka skills, I have to commend Father Gabriel who -  for the second time in as many weeks - provides good sound advice, this time to Rosita. Proving himself a staple of the community and admittedly not above reproach, himself, he agrees with her that Negan must die, while questioning why she feels that she has to die to make it so. Her spoken rationale is that's how Abraham went out, sacrificing himself for the group.  I see how she'd think that's the best way to honor the group, with her dying act... assuming she would have been successful in killing Negan.  But she wasn't and Olivia died for it. Poor Olivia; she was introduced on the show to be nothing but a victim.

Finally I want to speak of Michonne's journey of self-exploration. Per her nature, she went solo - perhaps to think, maybe to try to kill Negan.  I think she wanted to have a conversation with him but it would have served little purpose. Luckily, it doesn't take her the whole ride to discover what she was looking for and she returns to Alexandria to share her insight with Rick at the end of the episode. Every instinct in her tells her to fight back against the Saviors, but she knows she can't do it alone. She doesn't want to do it alone. She's not sure they can do it together, but she'd like to try.  And if she can't convince Rick to fight, then she'll roll over with him too. That really was the most powerful part of her speech, because it seems once 'the First Couple' is on the same page; then Alexandria can heal.  What's the largest part of the healing process?  Dealing with grief.  Not over the loss of Abraham and Glenn, but the constant grief caused by Negan.

If you want to take away a line from tonight's episode to serve as a preview of what's to come, it'd be Negan's line to Rick at the closing of the episode regarding the scavenging Rick did while Negan played a psychotic Andy Griffith on his front porch -  "Whatever you brought back it isn't enough. You owe me."  I agree. Rick owes Negan.  And I look forward to February 12 when Rick starts making payments back in full.