Goodbyes are always hard to do, not just for fans who’ve grown attached to certain television characters over the years (some latch on more like barnacles than others), but also for the writers and producers who have to find some way to give those characters the “proper” sendoff — “proper” being highly subjective. Goodbyes can never fulfill every fan’s wants and needs, not when you have as many fans as The Walking Dead hive, and not when the character the writers are sending off is Danai Gurira‘s Michonne.
Yes, tonight’s episode — season 10, episode 13, “What We Became” — is Gurira’s last episode as the samurai sword swinger. Is this the last-last-episode-end-of-sentence-that’s-it? Well, we do know there is potential for Gurira to return for those Walking Dead movies that are in the works. So, for now, the most hopeful we can be is to say it’s the last for the foreseeable future. And I, being one such fan in the horde of fandom, was expecting a bit more from this sendoff.
Michonne may not have been with The Walking Dead since the very first episode of the very first season, but just like Andrew Lincoln‘s Rick, she made an impact. She did so even before entering the playing field of the show; the character’s comic book legacy speaks for itself. She’s been absent from the show since episode 8 of season 10 when she first met Virgil (played by Kevin Carroll) and decided to return him by boat to his family on a remote island, where he promised a stash of military ammunition that could aid them in the war against the Whisperers would be waiting for her. A lot has gone down in her absence, and now she’s only back for one hour to say goodbye. Maybe that’s just because of Gurira’s hectic schedule. But it’s a goodbye that, for the vast majority, did not feel all that unique.
It felt in part like a replay of Rick’s sendoff. Rick, losing blood and his wits running away from a herd of walkers with an open wound, found himself hallucinating figures from his past. So, too, does Michonne. But while Rick’s ghosts were new performances by Walking Dead actors, Michonne’s ghosts seemed to be comprised of old footage from the show. It’s only in the final moments of the hour when we learn, narratively speaking, why Michonne won’t be back. What could possibly compel her to leave her children and her family at Alexandria? It’s really there where the spark of anticipation for what’s next for this character rises to excitement, but there’s no telling when these movies will see the light of day, especially as the coronavirus situation continually postpones film releases and productions. So, for now, we’re just left imagining what could be — just as the episode itself tries to do.
So, let’s start from the beginning. As that turns out, that means the character’s beginnings on the show.
We appear to flashback to the day when Michonne, walking alone with her two docile walker guardians through the woods, finds Andrea fleeing Hershel’s overrun farm. She watches as Andrea falls to the ground, frantically struggling to crawl with the dead. This we’ve all seen before in season 2. What we haven’t seen is Michonne, instead of running in to save her — which is what should happen — turns her back and walks away, leaving Andrea to die.
Flashing to the present, we see Michonne succeeded in bringing Virgil to the island, which has its own history. It’s an abandoned U.S. Navy Research Facility. A map they walk past sees spray paint designating the locations of five different groups across the island. But soon Michonne feels that something is off with Virgil. He’s taking his time to pick herbs (which have various properties and foreshadow the psychedelics to come), they walk past an abandoned trash can fire surrounded by chairs and stacks of books used for communal storytime, and he’s being increasingly vague about where the ammunitions are. Applying a little pressure to Virgil (i.e. her sword), she learns that his family is dead and that he really brought her to the island to help him clear out a building full of walkers so that he could retrieve their bodies for burial. Frustrated but with little choice if she wants to get the ammunition, she does so.
Hacking her way through the dead, she finds a room where a number of walkers are hanging from the ceiling. Virgil’s wife is one of them. He’s finally able to bury his family, but he’s still rambling about his children, ignoring Michonne’s pleas to give her the weapons so she can go home to save her own family. He claims the tide will be low at dark, preventing her from making it through the channel. So, she should stay the night and look for the weapons in the morning. Michonne can’t sleep, however, and goes on the hunt for whatever she can. That’s when she hears whispers. She follows the faint voices past a series of empty animal kennels and finds herself locked in a room by Virgil.
Turns out, Virgil’s a bit crazy. The whispers belong to three of his old coworkers who used to work on the island. Apparently, they would all take in stragglers who found themselves on the island, but one night a fight broke out over food rations and a newcomer died. When Virgil arrived, he panicked a locked everyone in one of the buildings, unaware that his wife and kids were inside. That building was the one filled with the dead that Michonne had just cleared out.
She fell asleep in her cell during the night and awoke to find Virgil had snuck in to grab her sword, but he left her food. Drugged food, that is, that forces Michonne to see visions, and the first ghost to appear is Siddiq, who blames her for his death. Virgil feels a connection to Michonne, that she’s just as in pain as he is and he must make her see. See what? Only God knows. Then an apparition in the guise of her hooded past self sends her back in time to see what could’ve been of her life if she hadn’t saved Andrea that day.
In this alternate timeline, Michonne goes back to grab a knife and water jug off of Andrea’s remains. The supplies don’t last her long. She finds herself walking down the street, desperately trying to flag down Daryl in his car for help. But he chooses to leave her behind. Now completely alone, she comes across Negan, who welcomes her as a Savior. She rises through the ranks to become his right hand. She kills Glenn and Heath when they sneak into one of their bases in the night, and on the fateful night when Negan kills Abraham, it’s now Michonne swinging the bat and it’s a vision of herself that she strikes down. We then rush forward to see how the war against Negan would’ve played out with Michonne on his side. Short answer, not well. It ends with Daryl firing an arrow through her chest and Rick shooting a bullet into her head.
When she comes to, Michonne is vomiting into a bucket in her cell. She’s able to surprise attack Virgil and steal his keys. As she lets out the other captives, Virgil runs to set fire to the boat to keep them there. They eventually catch up to him, but, as Michonne holds her blade to his throat, she sees how broken he is and says they should offer him mercy. Doing so will give them peace, whereas killing him will only take more pieces of them away.
But there’s still the issue at hand, the reason she came all this way: the weapons. She searched everywhere she could and didn’t find anything. What she does find, though, is a pair of cowboy boots… the same cowboy boots once worn by Rick. She forces Virgil to take her to where he found them: an abandoned ship that washed up in a nearby bay. She finds a broken cell phone with the name “rick” carved at the top and drawings of Michonne and Judith on the glass. Virgil says he never met Rick, but it inspires hope in her that he’s still alive somewhere.
Michonne and the other prisoners take the boat and leave the island, though Virgil chooses to remain back, furthering this metaphor that he’s both physically and psychologically trapped. Michonne radios back home to tell Judith she found something that might mean Rick is alive. She tells her mom to go and find him and mentions that Alpha isn’t a problem for them anymore. (Technically, that is true, though we know this war isn’t completely won and done.) So, that is now Michonne’s new mission.
When she arrives on the mainland, now somewhere between Virginia and New Jersey, Michonne takes a cue from her former self. She finds two walkers, cuts off their arms and their mouths, and ropes them up to be her new protectors on her journey. But where will she go? She doesn’t really have any leads to find Rick. At least, not yet. Two people, an injured man, and a woman propping him up, stumble out of the tree line. They ask for help because “they” will leave without them if they don’t hurry. Who’s they? Michonne looks off beyond the field and down into the clearing where a massive caravan of people, horses, and carriages have assembled. Remembering how Rick once took a chance on her at the prison, Michonne kills her walkers, turns to help these two strangers, and all three make their way to this new group.
Who are these new people? We don’t know. The man and woman are dressed in cowhide ponchos, which visually allude back to Virginia and the Pioneers/Settlers from Fear the Walking Dead. All Angela Kang confirms to EW is that these are not the same people with the three rings. They are something else. The Walking Dead‘s Scott M. Gimple did say “we are going in some wild new directions” with the movie. The “wild” West perhaps?
And that’s the last we will see of Michonne… at least for some time.
- The Walking Dead showrunner on what’s next for Michonne
- Danai Gurira reveals all about Michonne’s final episode of The Walking Dead
- Danai Gurira breaks down her final days on set of The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead
AMC’s zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.