This The Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 13
From his very introduction, Virgil (Kevin Carroll) has been untrustworthy. I mean, he’s caught skulking around Oceanside and stealing supplies, and he spins Michonne a story about living on an island that’s also a navy base that’s potentially full of weapons to aid them in their fight with the Whisperers. Weapons that, ultimately, they wouldn’t have needed, but would have been nice to have all the same.
Desperation makes for strange bedfellows, and Michonne (Danai Gurira), pushed by that desperation, is willing to risk it all by going back to Bloodsworth Island with Virgil to check out the promised munitions. When Michonne steps foot on the island, her innate paranoia is unsurprising, given just how sketchy Virgil continues to be, and how unwilling he is to allow Michonne to leave when she feels like it’s time for her to leave.
Michonne’s been through some stuff in her life, especially after the collapse of civilization. While she tends to trust her gut, her urgency for the weapons overwhelms her good sense and she ends up taking part in an unwitting, zombified version of Ken Kesey’s Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test…except without the Kool-Aid, LDS, or Grateful Dead music, and replacing the garishly painted bus with a cold concrete cell. At least the hallucinations are the same, even if Michonne’s come from jimsonweed and not peyote.
The centerpiece for this episode, which is fitting because it’s her last episode for the immediate future, is Michonne, and Danai Gurira does a beautiful job of taking the character through a really cleverly-written Sliding Doors scenario in which, at certain key moments, the decisions of Michonne and the characters around her change. For example, she doesn’t help Andrea (or an Andrea look-alike) when she’s attacked by walkers in the woods in the cold opening, and from then on, things start changing for Michonne. Daryl, stopped on the side of the road, drives past her without a second glance, and takes off before she can catch up to him when the SUV he’s in briefly bogs down in mud.
The group that takes her in isn’t Rick at the prison, but Negan and the Saviors, and rather than becoming Rick’s eventual lover and the leader of Alexandria, Michonne becomes the second-in-command of the Saviors. When Glenn and Noah sneak into the Savior outpost, Michonne wakes up and kills them. Negan doesn’t swing the bat in judgment on Glenn and Abraham, it’s Michonne who makes quick work of them to avenge the friends that Rick and his dogs gunned down in cold blood in the middle of the night. Michonne, fleeing from the battle with Rick at the prison, is shot in the chest by Daryl’s arrow, and summarily executed by Rick via Colt Python to the forehead.
To the credit of Sharat Raju, who directed this episode, and the special effects crews, at no point in any of these alternate scenarios do I see any sort of seam erupt that would take me out of the scene. Michonne is dropped into these scenarios without so much as a misplaced splice or seam. For a show that prides itself on great practical effects, but also occasionally indulges some really bad digital effects (remember the deer?), The Walking Dead blends the practical and computerized in a seamless fashion here. Michonne staring down Rick as he kneels at the crossroads, Michonne and the Saviors interacting with one another… certainly, a lot of it is new footage, but it blends seamlessly in with the old, and a few things that I’m certain they couldn’t recreate were pieced together flawlessly.
It’s a high-water mark for the show in terms of digital effects, and the general creepiness of bizarro Michonne pairs really well with her personal journey throughout the series. Raju does a stellar job of guiding the character, and Gurira is such a game performer that she leans into both Michonne’s sadness for her separation from the family and her game participation in the predations of the Saviors. Certainly, it’s a mean streak that the character has always had, and it’s easy to see how Michonne could have turned dark without Rick, Carl, and the rest around to win her back to a more civilized world view. Michonne was a survivor, not a helper, until shown a better way.
One of the reasons behind why Michonne as a Savior works so well is that Vivian Tse takes Negan’s pre-Lucille speech and alters it just slightly to fit the Michonne character like a glove. Michonne, despite everything, is a protector, an avenger, someone who looks after her people, and by killing her people, Rick and company deserved their righteous punishment for slaughtering her friends. It’s just the barest little twists to the core of who Michonne is that turns her from Rick’s best ally to Rick’s biggest enemy, and to watch her put the lessons into practice of what she learned when she finally gets the drop on Virgil and escapes from his imprisonment—and shares those lessons with the other prisoners Virgil had on his island—is a nice character moment for her and a true glimpse into just how important Rick has been and continues to be in her life.
So important that, at the end of the episode, she listens to her child and not her own maternal instincts to go off in search of Rick, gone at least for the near future depending on how well Danai Gurira’s show on HBO goes and the current status of The Walking Dead‘s promised Rick spin-off movie trilogy. Judith and RJ are in good hands, to be sure, with uncle Daryl and the rest of the crew, but the episode’s largest flaw is that Michonne, who was devastated by the death of her child years previous, would leave her two other children behind to seek out someone. Then again, she’s seeking out the love of her life and the man who saved her from herself, so it’s kind of a wash.
Rick sacrificed everything to keep Carl, Judith, and his family safe, now Michonne is sacrificing everything to save him. Michonne has nothing left to give to anyone that she didn’t get from everyone else. Saving Rick is her version of tracking down Lori and Carl, and woe betide anyone who steps in her way. Rick is the man who saved pretty much everyone, and now someone has to save him. Who better than his right-hand woman?