The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Episode 6 Review – The Last Time

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale concludes Rick and Michonne's story with a heaping helping of action.

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live episode 6.
Photo: AMC

This The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review contains spoilers.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Episode 6

Between the two of them, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) have amassed a body count that would rival any of history’s greatest monsters, and that’s only talking about living victims.

Rick Grimes, for all his nobility, seems to be the character that The Walking Dead makes into the show’s punching bag when it comes to pushing the limits of good taste. Eugene might have bitten a guy’s groin during a fight, but that guy recovered in the end (as far as we know). Rick Grimes once ripped a guy’s throat out with his teeth. Granted, Rick has always been capable of terrible things, provided he had a good enough cause to do them. The throat-ripping was to save his son; admittedly, that’s a good reason to go half-cannibal on a windpipe.

No doubt Rick has good reason to justify every shooting, stabbing, slashing, and strangulation he’s done since waking up in a deserted hospital. Rick has done awful things to keep his friends and family alive. What might Rick Grimes do in order to save the world from General Beale (Terry O’Quinn) and the CRM’s alleged 500-year plan?

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No doubt the CRM will give Rick good reason for his next collection of terrible atrocities committed in the name of the greater good. Viewers of The Walking Dead: World Beyond got the first real taste of how the CRM solves problems, and throughout The Ones Who Live, it’s been established that the demise of Campus Colony wasn’t a one-off incident. Poison gas and high explosives are more effective than winning hearts and minds when it comes to keeping secrets hidden and ensuring a place at the top of the new world’s food chain. The CRM might have a reason for their paranoia, if Beale’s Echelon Briefing can be taken as accurate.

The plan is simple, but not easy. Rick goes back and gets the Echelon Briefing to find out all of the dirty deeds that the CRM is undertaking outside of the purview of the Civic Republic. Michonne sneaks back into a heavily guarded compound full of elite soldiers and gets the information about Alexandria hidden away by Jadis. Then once that’s done, they steal a helicopter, fly back across the country, reveal the truth to the civilian government of the Civic Republic, and then go home. Just another boring day in the life of Rick and Michonne Grimes. As Michonne says in the show’s introductory voice-over, “It’s never that simple.”

From the very opening moments of the episode, the pressure begins to build. Rick approaches the gates of the Cascades base, hands up with guns pointed at him. Michonne sneaks in through a hole in the fence, a walker pursuing on one side and an armed CRM guard investigating the walker sounds from the other. The voices and incidents of the past reverberate throughout the pre-credits sequence, intermingled with voice-overs from Rick and Michonne. Good advice, in some cases, and probing questions in others. It all feeds into the anxiety surrounding the mission, and the anxiety that permeates the episode.

Rick has to navigate a gauntlet of people who know him very well. Thorne immediately catches him as he comes in and they have a brief discussion about how Rick needs to become a true believer in the CRM before heading off for a one-on-one meeting with Beale, who is so impressed with Rick’s return to the fold when he had an easy out he gives up some of his pre-mission solitude to give Rick the one-on-one Echelon briefing in the midst of it. Rick has to keep up the front and look normal around people who would probably know if he wasn’t being normal. 

Michonne, meanwhile, has the CRM armor and helmet, and her task isn’t to fool a few people, it’s to fool everyone. She has to walk the walk and, hopefully, not talk at all as she sneaks into a building she doesn’t really know to find the apartment of someone she doesn’t really know. Once there, she has to find hidden Alexandria notes and destroy them, then get out without attracting attention. The plan blowing up immediately would at least cut some of that tension, right? No, it makes it worse as Michonne has to kill a goon, then try to evade all the other goons on her way out in the middle of the CRM Frontliner equivalent of Lollapalooza. 

At least Rick only has to fool a few people and he’s home-free. Well, until the part where they steal a helicopter and fly away without being noticed. Thankfully, they won’t have to worry about that, because the Echelon briefing, and the school assembly-style mission briefing Michonne sneaks into, are absolutely horrifying. The CRM is planning to gas Portland–not a huge surprise given their M.O.–after stealing ten percent or so of the city’s children. Rick seems to still be considering leaving despite that, but there’s no way Michonne could.

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Danai Gurira is proving herself to be an incredible actress this season, and I think her heavy involvement with the show is to her benefit. She, along with Andrew Lincoln and the credited writing team of Scott M. Gimple and Channing Powell, have managed to make the CRM even more monstrous than they seemed at first blush (which was bad enough before they started stealing children like a collective of cartoon trolls). Despite her concealed face, when Michonne stumbles out of that briefing in the middle of it with the horrified look in her eyes like George C. Scott in Hardcore, you don’t need to see the rest of her face to sell that impact. Her eyes say it all. 

Andrew Lincoln and Terry O’Quinn also deserve a lot of credit for their part in the tense middle moments of the episode. Beale has clearly done this rap before, so the details of millions of hungry dead clogging the middle of the country and the CRM science division’s estimate of 14 more years of human habitability is almost tossed off. Heavy details, to be sure, but he’s come to terms with them. Rick, meanwhile, has not, and it’s only the mention of the man whose throat he bit out and the brief trip down memory road with Carl and all of his Alexandria friends that keeps him from going fully into Beale’s message. It’s easy to see why someone like Thorne, who will likely never make it back to her home, fell in line to rage against the dying of humanity’s light. 

Rick, however, has people to live for and, more importantly, a will to live that bubbles over in his violent confrontation with Beale. With the knowledge he has, and the body he needs to dispose of, Rick has a very tense elevator ride. Michael E. Satrazemis and the show’s technical crew do a great job of making an elevator trip into something nightmarish. Michonne, who has a clear shot at safety, can’t abandon Portland either. Beale tells Rick, several times, that the sword that kills is the sword that gives life, and Rick and Michonne are that life-giving sword. Some people die so that others can live, be it the sacrifice of a friend or the death of 2000 or so true believers with a little inspiration provided by Michonne’s late friend Nat. 

All they have to do to get away is avoid the explosion and avoid the last of the die-hards in Thorne, who has been tracking the two since Rick lied about Beale going off to be by himself earlier in the episode. The final confrontation is nicely done, with Rick and Michonne cooperating until they see zombie Beale come shambling out of the tent, dragging a bunch of grenade pins behind him. Some quick thinking by the two keep them alive, but even after the grenades detonate and the poison gas kills off the remaining Frontliners, Thorne is still there to keep up the good fight before being bested by Michonne using Beale’s own sword.

Good triumphs over evil, in the end. By wielding the sword that kills, Michonne and Rick enable the sword that gives life. With the eyes of the people opened up to the behaviors of Beale and the Frontliners, the CRM is finally in a position to make real changes, both internally and externally. The Civic Republic Television Network talking head fills in those gaps nicely as Michonne and Rick get out of a helicopter in civilian clothes.

Cue the reunion with Judith and JR, and no other adult cast members. Cue the helicopters ladened with goodies flying overhead, off to help the communities that need it and recover the people who want it. A new Civic Republic using its resources to create a new and better world, and not just for those lucky enough to live behind their secret walls. The whole thing gets wrapped up in a nice, neat bow, and Rick and Michonne get a well-deserved happy ending (at least until the sequel series gets commissioned by AMC).

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Is it corny? Of course it is; The Walking Dead has never been known for emotional nuance. But corny can be a good thing if it works, and this ending really worked in spite of some clumsiness. It’s big, earnest, and well-earned; 14 years and multiple television series of characters being tortured and struggling means that the capstone to the Rick and Michonne story can be a sweet family reunion and a ray of sunshine breaking through gray clouds.


4 out of 5