Last week’s episode of The Walking Dead ended with Negan chopping off Alpha’s head and presenting it to a bemused Carol.
As much as we’d all like to follow up on that story thread, it’s also been a while since we checked in with Michonne…which is even more important now since Danai Gurira is leaving the show.
Last time we saw her, she was sailing off with a guy named Virgil who claimed to live on a fortified island naval base. He also claimed to have enough weapons to blow Alpha’s walker horde to smithereens, which he would give in exchange for safe passage back to his family.
The episode opens with a flashback to Michonne from before she joined up with the evolving group of survivors we’ve been following on the show. This is evidenced by the appearance of Mike (her pre-apocalypse boyfriend) and his friend Terry, who are both de-jawed/de-clawed walkers being lead by Michonne on a chain through the forest.
The nostalgia gets cranked up an extra notch when we see Andrea running through the same woods from a horde of walkers. Instead of saving her like she did back in Season 2, however, Michonne turns away, leaving Andrea to die.
Huh. Did not see that coming.
Back in the present, Virgil wakes up to Michonne undoing his handcuffs from the side of their docked boat. He asks why she couldn’t have freed him hours ago and gets the exact response you’d expect.
The pair disembarks from the boat and begins heading inland toward Virgil’s family. Along the way he stops to pick some herbs from one of his wife’s garden, which annoys the hell out of Michonne. Her primary focus is finding the munition depots. Unfortunately for her, Virgil doesn’t seem to be in much of a hurry to get to them.
After they reach the naval base, Michonne quickly notices that it only seems to have had one occupant living there. She draws her sword and demands that Virgil tell her where his family is. He complies, taking them to their graves. As you might imagine, this justifiably pisses Michonne off. Things get even worse when Virgil explains that despite the graves, his zombified family is actually inside one of the nearby buildings along with a bunch of other walkers–and he needs her to put them down because he’s too scared to do it.
Realizing that she’ll never get to the munitions until this idiot’s task is completed, Michonne heads toward the base to clear it. She takes out a pair of walkers, then deftly slides through an opening to a hallway that leads into the room with a large group of walkers. Virigil follows her and gets his shirt caught on something, knocking a bunch of equipment over and blocking their path back out while also alerting the zombie horde to their presence.
Good lord does this guy suck. Lucky for him, he’s with possibly the most badass woman on the planet pre or post-apocalypse.
Michonne picks up a folded medical cot and charges forward, pushing the walkers back. She then gives the cot to Virgil to protect his weak-ass self while she hacks the entire horde down single-handedly. After that bit of awesomeness, they go into another room and find a bunch of walkers hanging by their necks from the ceiling. It’s clear by the look on Virgil’s face that his family is among them.
Michonne and Virgil head back to his family’s ceremonial gravesite. He grieves while also refusing to help Michonne look for the munitions on account of it getting dark soon. After a bit of back and forth, she reluctantly agrees that they can do it first thing in the morning.
That night, Michonne goes looking for the munitions herself. While scouting one of the nearby buildings (which is revealed to be an animal laboratory), she hears whispering and attempts to locate it. After entering a room with only one exit, Virgil appears behind Michonne and locks her in. She demands that he let her out, but he refuses, instead chastising her for breaking his trust.
Like I said before, this guy really sucks.
The next morning, Michonne wakes up with a plate of food next to her. She also discovers that there are three other people in the next room that have also been taken prisoner. Turns out that they all worked in a the lab with Virgil and were friends with him.
The group goes on to explain that they used to take in stragglers who found their way to the island. One night, a fight broke out over food rations and someone was killed. Virgil panicked and declared that all the doors to the base needed to be locked. What he didn’t realize, unfortunately, was that his family was in one of the rooms that he sealed off. As you can probably imagine, the fact that he condemned his family to their deaths caused Virgil to snap.
After revealing themselves as her allies, the group encourages Michonne to eat the meal near her so that she will have enough strength to kill Virgil when the chance arises.
That night, Virgil visits Michonne’s room and expresses his appreciation that she ate the food. He then goes full Lost on her, explaining that the island has many gifts to offer while she hallucinates the Season 2 version of herself standing right next to her.
As Michonne’s hallucination evolves into a very bad trip, Virgil walks into the cell and tells her that she’s under the influence of jimsonweed. She demands that he set her free only for him to speak her words at the same time, explaining that they’ve already had the same conversation three times.
Michonne changes strategies and asks Virgil to think about her children, which only seems to make him angry. Things get even worse (or at least weirder) when a hallucination of Siddiq appears and begins berating her for not protecting him and everyone else she loved who has ever died. Siddiq then briefly turns into a zombie version of himself before disappearing and being replaced by Season 2 Michonne, who approaches Prime Michonne and offers her Mike and Terry’s chains. She takes them and is thrown back in time to the moment when Andrea was being attacked in the woods.
Here’s what that looked like back in 2012 in case you want a quick refresher:
In this visit to the past, however, Michonne allows Andrea to die–just like what we saw at the opening of the episode. Later, she comes across Daryl and someone else (can’t remember or find who it was) in a car. She begs them for a ride, but is ignored.
Time jumps forward again, this time with a worn down Michonne crossing paths with Negan, Laura, and the Saviors. She attempts to swipe at Negan, which ends up impressing him more than pissing him off.
After another time jump, we see that Michonne has joined the Saviors and is stationed at the Satellite Outpost from back in Season 6 that Rick & Co. annihilated. During the attack, Michonne kills Glenn and Heath (!) before getting pinned down by machine gun fire from the one and only Rick Grimes. When Rick goes to reload, she manages to flee the compound and survives.
Our next time skip lands at the infamous moment between Seasons 6 and 7 when Negan is deciding whose head to bash in with Lucille. This time, however, he steps aside and allows Michonne to do the honors. After rebuking the group for killing her friends, she settles on the prime version of herself (although it sure seemed like she actually was going to kill Maggie) and swings.
Our final jump lands at a battle between Rick’s group and the Saviors. Michonne looks like she’s about to escape into the woods when an arrow from Daryl’s crossbow strikes her chest. After Daryl coldly kicks Michonne onto her back, Rick aims a gun at her head and fires.
Back in the present, Michonne vomits into a bucket. Virgil watches, assuring her that she will feel better while offering her a glass of water. Michonne takes it, drinks, and stabs Virgil in the leg with a spoon. After a brief struggle, Virgil flees. Michonne gives chase while also freeing the other three prisoners on the way out. They temporarily lose sight of Virgil, but do manage to find the boat, which he has lit on fire and destroyed.
Michonne and her new friends track Virgil down in the woods and knock him down. He makes a bunch of lame pleas about only wanting Michonne’s help and planning to let his former friends out, but no one wants to hear it.
The Lab Trio asks Michonne to move since they have more reason to kill him than she does. Instead, Michonne tells them they should spare Virgil because killing him won’t do anything, but sparing him will bring them peace (lame). The Lab Trio appears to agree (LAME), but still decides to knock him out and lock him up back at the base.
Weapons Cold, Revelations Hot
Michonne visits Virgil in his new cell, where she informs him that she has searched the entire island and not found any munitions. Virgil acknowledges that it might be hard to trust him at this point, but he’s sure they are somewhere.
Michonne then asks Virgil what he sees when he ingests the jasminweed. He tells her that he sees his family alive again, which feels like heaven. Michonne responds that it made her see a life without her new family, which was hell.
Following that awkward conversation, she takes Virgil out with her to look for weapons (which seems like a bad idea). Instead of finding those, though, she discovers something much more mysterious/confusing: A pair of Rick’s cowboy boots.
Michonne immediately demands that Virgil tell her where the boots were found. He vehemently insists that they simply “washed up,” but Michonne isn’t buying it. Instead, she forces him to take her to a large dead-in-the-water boat where he found the boots, which also just apparently “washed up,” too. After searching the boat’s interior for a bit, she conveniently finds a dead cell phone Rick had with a drawing of her and Carl etched onto the front of it.
After a moment to take in the idea that Rick might still be alive, Michonne turns on Virgil, accusing him (understandably) of knowing who she was the whole time and bringing her to his island nefarious purposes…or worse, doing something to her beloved missing husband.
Virgil insists he has no idea what Michonne is talking about, but believes her discovery proves that there was a purpose to their otherwise useless meeting (ugh).
The next day (?), Michonne and the Lab Trio set sail on the repaired boat. Despite the Lab Trio saying they’d be cool with their former friend/jailer coming along, he refuses, insisting that he needs to stay behind where his family died.
As the ship heads out to sea, Michonne calls Judith on what must be the world’s most powerful walkie talkie. After some heartwarming back-and-forth–and Judith informing her mom that Alpha has been defeated–Michonne tells her daughter that she found evidence Rick might have been on the ship she’s on and could still be alive.
Judith immediately encourages Michonne to go after her dad, saying she can take care of things just fine with some help with Uncle Daryl. After a some motherly resistance, Michonne reluctantly agrees to try and find him.
Later, we see Michonne back on land, where she promptly finds two zombies to neuter and use as camouflage just like the old days. After heading off to search for her Rick, she comes across a woman helping a wounded man. They beg Michonne for assistance, explaining that their group will leave them if they don’t catch up. Michonne looks down the road and sees a gigantic convoy heading north. She kills her zombies and offers them a hand.
This is a hard episode to hand down.
On one hand, the always incredible Danai Gurira is at the top of her game. Every moment and every emotion is perfectly conveyed to the point that it feels like you’re in the same space as her, albeit without the danger. I just wish that her final plot line (for now at least) was better than an obvious trap set by an incredibly unlikable character featuring a drug induced alternate history clip show.
Don’t get me wrong–I liked how they showed the way one decision to help someone changed the entire trajectory of her life. Part of me also thinks that Michonne would never fall to the point she would be in league with someone like Negan, but then you look at someone like Laura, who become a completely different/honorable person after joining in with the Alexandrians…or listen to Alternate Michonne’s speech/heartfelt justification before killing
Maggie her Prime Self…and maybe that sort of dynamic character shift really is possible.
All that being said, however, I still would’ve liked for Michonne’s last appearance to revolve around something other than her getting tricked by a mentally unstable drug addict. Also, I understand the real world reasons for making her serendipitously finding evidence of Rick being alive (and abandoning her family to search for him), but it still doesn’t sit right with me.
In the end, though, Danai Gurira’s performance is just too good to focus much on the episode’s narrative issues. While I’m glad to see such a talented person get to flex their creative muscles on other projects (like running their own show), she will be sorely missed on The Walking Dead. Michonne was one of those great characters that perfectly toed the line between being a stone cold badass and a person who’s heart could shine bright and break harder than anyone–all without every seeming out of character or crazy. Gurira brought a range that took one of the comic series’ best characters and somehow made her even better in the show (in my opinion at least).
While I hope Michonne finds Rick, I’ll be hoping even harder that Michonne makes a return appearance on The Walking Dead series very soon.