“I’ve done things to protect this place. Some things I’m not proud of. Some I try to forget.”
Almost 5 years to the day that the classic (but horrific) Walking Dead episode, ‘The Grove’ aired, the show decides to pause the Whisperer storyline for another horrific and brutal episode. Pausing the ongoing narrative at this point in the story, to flashback to how our leads got matching ‘X’ scars, could have risked making it lose momentum. Plus I don’t think audiences were too concerned exactly how Daryl and Michonne got those scars in the first place. But the show continues to surprise even at this point, nearly 10 years in, delivering an original and harrowing tale that reminds us that this world can still be scary and that the show isn’t done shocking us.
First things first, it was nice to finally get a Michonne heavy episode. After Andrew Lincoln’s exit, it was Danai Gurira’s Michonne and Norman Reedus’ Daryl who were touted as the new de-facto leads. And while we’ve seen quite a lot of Daryl in the past few weeks, Michonne has been practically relegated to a background character and quite an unlikable one at that. Why is she so against letting the new people in? Isn’t that against what Carl and Rick believed, what she promised to uphold? Well in ‘Scars’ we find out what exactly made Michonne become so isolationist in the first place and boy, is it dark. The episode takes us back to when Michone was pregnant with RJ, so only a matter of months after Rick’s ‘death’. Both Michonne and Daryl are out looking for Rick, Daryl even mentions following the river (which flowed underneath the bridge where Rick was last seen) all the way to the sea. It does make me wonder where the hell Rick actually is though and why, in his upcoming solo films, he doesn’t make the effort to come back to his family. I mean, it’s been like 5 years dude, what’s up with that?
Anyway, in the flashback, we are introduced to a woman and her group of child scavengers. Turns out Michonne knows the woman and lets her and her kids into Alexandria. Unfortunately, this is The Walking Dead and we can’t have nice things. It turns out Michonne’s old friend is nuts and the kids are even more nuts and they raid the stocks at Alexandria before making off with the children of the town. As Michonne and Daryl give chase they are captured and branded by Michonne’s friend and her crazy kids. You know already at this point that Michonne and Daryl are getting out and are almost certainly going to murder Michonne’s psycho ex-friend. It’s a flashback, after all. But when, during their escape, one of the kids slashes at Michonne’s pregnant belly you realise that this isn’t going to be that simple and that Michonne may have to do the unthinkable. The show makes Michonne’s descent into child killing as believable as possible; she really doesn’t want to have to do it. But when the feral kids are between her and her own kids (RJ and Judith) Michonne is forced into doing something that will change her forever. Suddenly her cold, isolationist outlook in the present day makes sense. It’s a very dark moment in the show’s history, and I’m sure it’ll be too much for some fans, but it’s never gratuitous (in fact the scene is brilliantly edited and directed) and feels like something ripped from the pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic book.
Michonne’s ordeal will be the big talking point of the week but there were other things of note. It was nice to see Negan again and to see him growing closer to Michonne. I doubt they are going to bring him out of the cell this season now, which is a shame, but Negan’s eventual turn to the good side definitely shouldn’t be rushed. Next week looks to be another big, dark, depressing episode. Rumour has it that we’ll see the pikes next week which, if you know anything about The Walking Dead comics, means things will never be the same again.