https://www.google.com/amp/www.thev...season-7-episode-8-hearts-still-beating-recap THE ROAD TO REDEMPTION Bryan: I came into tonight’s episode wondering if it would show me something different; if The Walking Dead would redeem itself by respecting its audience more, or making smarter choices when it came to story and character. I don’t think I found that. If anything, I’ve found a show that seems to have learned almost no lessons whatsoever. And I’ll be honest: I’m shocked. When I quit watching, I’d decided The Walking Dead wasn’t worth the investment of time I was putting into it. But even then I knew there may be cool moments or interesting turns I might miss out on. Coming back for this mid-season finale, I don’t think that latter assumption is actually even true. And while I haven’t spent nearly as much time watching him as you have, it’s hard to not look at the main problem here as Negan himself. Jeffrey Dean Morgan is doing a great job with the material he’s being given, but TWD seems so in love with re-creating Negan as faithfully to the graphic novel as possible, that it appears nobody has considered if that treatment is actually appropriate for a TV show. Maybe his bad stand-up routine dialogue and leering grins play in single frames, but here he seems utterly out of place. Yes, I cringe when Negan seems coiled and ready to strike, but it’s because I think the episode may show me something grotesque or awful to look at — not because Negan as a character is actually frightening. That’s a failure. I WAS WRONG TO PLACE MY HOPE IN NEGAN Nick: I have to say I’m shocked, too, but for a different reason. I had come to trust TWD to get its big moments right, even when it was doing everything else wrong. Regardless of how meandering its seasons could be, or how cheap the theatrics seemed at certain points, I could rely on the show to deliver an explosive episode to make up for the painstakingly slow build-ups. With the fumbling of Glenn and Abraham’s deaths in the season seven premiere, I worried the show had taken an irreversible turn. But I held out hope that Negan would bring back the gritty moralistic explorations TWD had pulled off so well with the Terminus storyline, and then again with Rick and crew’s initial arrival in Alexandria. Now, seven episode later, I realize I had placed my hope in the wrong character. Negan, who in the comic books is supposed to represent the worst perversions of power in the post-apocalypse, comes off on-screen like a poorly written B-movie villain. I agree that it seems like the show’s writers, in an effort to make Negan as true to the source as possible, have sapped the comic book character of any sense of realism. And it’s largely because the show refuses to tell us anything about his life that would explain his behavior. In the comic book, we know that Negan used to be a sadistic high school gym teacher who loved pushing people to their limits. I don’t see how the show can handle that translation without the same clumsy tonal dissonance that it suffers from now. Bryan: The good news, I suppose, is that showrunner Scott Gimple and his team will have time to figure this all out. The back half of this season isn’t premiering until February, and if they’re concerned at all about the ratings drop, or the complaints from fans, they’ll have time to rethink, retool, and recalibrate. It’s nearly impossible to change the direction of a TV series when you’re in the middle of airing the season, but here the network ploy of two extended half-seasons will give The Walking Dead time to gets its act together. That said, I don’t think I saw anything new tonight that convinced me there had been lessons learned in the first place. I came back for an episode and gave it a go, but right now I can’t honestly say The Walking Dead redeemed itself. You? Nick: At times, I felt like this season had bounced back from its gory, manipulative premiere with a true sense of purpose. We saw the show sticking to its source material more closely than it ever had before, and it looked as if it was trading in its standard narrative toolkit for something newer and bolder focused on world-building. But it all fell apart about halfway in, when the show reverted to its standard wheel-spinning. And instead of delivering a strong mid-season finale to make the wait worth it, we got another tease of more to come. I think it’s safe to say that redemption was never a possibility here because the minds behind The Walking Dead don’t seem ready to admit they have a problem. However, if anything can convince Gimple and crew that what they’re doing is no longer working, it’s lower ratings. Astronomical viewership is what turned this show into the machine that today is seemingly churning out episodes until someone pulls the eventual plug or Andrew Lincoln walks away from his lucrative contract. And if viewership keeps falling, maybe we’ll see the show change its strategy and even sunset the Negan arc earlier than anticipated. Perhaps that’s what’s needed right now: an acknowledgement that The Saviors can’t save The Walking Dead from its own worst tendencies.