(WARNING: Contains Spoilers for The Walking Dead S07E08, "Hearts Still Beating")
In "Hearts Still Beating," the action-packed mid-season finale of The Walking Dead's seventh season, the show's most loyal fans were finally rewarded for their patience through a sometimes slow half season. Rick Grimes was back, and the majority of the core group reunited at the Hilltop, ready to start planning Negan's demise.
This reunion did not come without a cost. As Negan and the Saviors descended upon Alexandria once more. Spencer, the last Monroe, and Olivia (the keeper of Alexandria's food supply) were killed. The losses pushed Rick over the edge, finally agreeing that the group had to fight back.
Why did these deaths affect him so? Spencer was plotting against him, and he was never particularly close to Olivia — why were they the ones to make Rick himself again? Well, the reasons are really quite obvious.
A Broken Promise
For nearly two seasons, Spencer has been a constant thorn in Rick's side, challenging his authority at every turn, and pulling stupid stunts like the "high wire above the Walkers" incident. Spencer's death, being brutally gutted by #Negan after an attempt to usurp Rick, is clearly his own fault. So, why does Rick care?
Deanna Monroe, former head of Alexandria and Spencer's Mother. Though her relationship with Rick was not without its hiccups, they eventually grew fond of each other, respecting the different skills they each brought to the community. When Deanna is dying from a Walker's bite in S06E08, she elicits a promise from Rick — that he will look after Spencer as he does his own people.
No matter how much of a slime-ball Spencer became, his death means Rick was unable to keep his promise. This failure will likely haunt him, driving him to fight harder moving forward.
The death of poor Olivia — shot through the head by a Savior — is easily more tragic than Spencer's, in that she did nothing to deserve it. Though we never saw Rick interact with her much, she had obviously earned his trust, being left in charge of Judith's welfare while Rick was out on his most recent supply run.
Olivia's death, an innocent not at all involved with the event that resulted in her murder, sent Rick a clear message: There could never be peace with The Saviors. Nothing was going to keep his people safe while Negan remained in charge. If there is any hope for the future, Negan must fall.
Look out, Saviors. Rick Grimes is back.
Check out the promo for the next episode of The Walking Dead, returning in 2017: