“What if he needs you more?”
So that’s Michonne gone! For the time being at least. It looks likely that she’ll return for -the upcoming Rick Grimes-centric films. Which makes sense. I think we’re all glad she got to leave smiling, and not in some gruesome way like the majority of characters. She’s one of the coolest characters on the show, and ‘What We Become’ was a superb ending for the katana-wielding badass.
Last time we saw her, Michonne was on a boat and heading to an island with Virgil; a mysterious man who promised her a bounty of weapons. Virgil is weird from the off. He’s soft-spoken and seems to keep dodging the questions asked of him. His island is an old naval research base that he shares with his family. Though it quickly becomes clear that things are amiss; his family is dead and Virgil has long ago gone off the deep end. He traps Michonne with his other prisoners (and former colleagues) and things get weird from there. In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, the Roman poet Virgil is the character that guides him into the seven circles of hell. And hell is exactly where The Walking Dead‘s Virgil sends Michonne.
The island has special powers. That’s what Virgil tells Michonne, and he ain’t wrong. Or, more specifically, the island’s fauna has special powers. On the island there grows a flower that cause hallucinations; jimsonweed (also known as “the devil’s snare”). Virgil has been chugging this shit by the bucket load, in an attempt to see his family again through the magic of an intense drug trip. (I mean, the guy is stuck on an island and is slowly going insane. There are worse ways to spend your time). In his trips, Virgil sees heaven. After coming to the conclusion that Michonne is hurting deeply too, he gives her some. But instead, she goes straight to her own personal hell.
One of the main reasons I’ve loved The Walking Dead for as long as I have is because it’s never been afraid to take narrative risks. This show has never shied away from flashbacks, hallucinations, dream sequences, etc. In fact, that’s often been their very best stuff (see ‘What Happened and What’s Going On’ and ‘What Comes After’). In this Michonne trips hard, with the floor literally vanishing from under her and the world going topsy-turvy. She imagines a world where she didn’t join the Rick and the gang, and instead took an entirely different path.
In some ways, it’s fan service of the highest order. But when it’s this good, who cares? Her trip initially takes her all the way back to the end of season 2, when she arrived on the scene to save Andrea. In this universe, she leaves her to die, instead looting her half-eaten corpse for supplies. After this, she’s taken in by Negan and the Saviors, becoming his right hand man, in the same way Simon used to be. We see our band of survivors killing the Saviors in their sleep, only now Michonne’s there. We then see the infamous execution from the season 6 finale, only now it’s Michonne swinging Lucille. Finally, we see her take an arrow to the gut from Daryl in the big all-out war, only to be put out of her misery like another nameless henchman by Rick and his trusty Colt Python. And a shout out to the production team here because the mixing of old and new footage was superb in this sequence. Just look at the shot of Rick below; old footage with a few digital tweaks.
It’s a common theme of the show, and a question is asks every season; are people the real monsters? One small decision might have completely changed the person Michonne grew to be. Meeting the wrong person, at the wrong time (as Judith said to Gamma) sends people in a completely different trajectory. The flash-sideways also reminded us that there, Rick and the gang seem pretty evil when you’re on the receiving end of they’re midnight, stabbing antics. But ultimately, it was weighing up Michonne’s whole run on the show. Like Rick, she’s made some pretty nasty choices and hasn’t always been one of the “good guys”. But ultimately, as is the case with Virgil – as it was with Negan and Rick – her mercy prevails. She’s no angel, but she’s a good person.
But the episode isn’t over after this psychoanalysis of Michonne, she’s still on the island and doesn’t seem to be departing the show. But that changes when, while looking around the base, she discovers a pair of battered old cowboy boots. Rick’s boots. The battered old pair that Sheriff Grimes wore for the past decade. She questions Virgil and this leads to another discovery, a boat washed up on the island. On it is a drawing of her and Judith. Scratched next to the portrait is a message in Japanese (revealed by showrunner Angela Kang to read “believe a little longer”) and the name “RICK”. Officer Friendly has been there and, according to a log book Michonne discovers, a bunch of other places too.
Michonne calls Judith and gives her news, that her father might still be alive and kicking. Without hesitation, Judith tells Michonne to go out there and save him. And who could say no to Judith? Michonne knows it’s the right thing to do, Daddy Daryl will protect the kids, and she heads out on a quest to find Sheriff Grimes. Returning to her old ways, mutilating herself a couple of walkers on chains for protection, Michonne ventures north. We last see her helping two people try and catch up to a procession of people. It’s a convoy of thousands, all moving in orderly formations. She ventures after them as the camera pans up to the sound of the iconic Walking Dead theme.
I have no idea who they are, if Rick’s with them, or what will happen to Michonne. But it’s intriguing. Hopefully the movie’s eventually get off the ground and we can find out. But with El Camino coming six years after the end of Breaking Bad, I’m not too worried. They’ll tie up this story somehow, and I for one just want to see Rick and Michonne together again.
The episode is a surreal and emotional tribute to a fantastic character. It treads well-worn themes and questions but in an utterly original way. It also feels like something straight out of a comicbook, which I appreciate. Danai Gurira has been such a gift to this show, time will tell if they can fill the void. We’ll miss you Michonne, but I feel confident we’ll meet again down the line.