REVIEW: The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 – What We Become

The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 - What We Become

Danai Gurira’s final episode on The Walking Dead was a unique but ultimately disappointing chapter that delved deep into the choices that shaped Michonne while exploring a disturbing alternate reality. While it was only fitting to have a Michonne-centric episode for her final outing on the show, this was not the sendoff worthy of such a great, iconic character.

In fact, even Michonne’s arc this season has been less than satisfactory, especially with her leaving everyone behind during the midseason finale to follow a stranger to a new area where he claims there might be a cache of weapons. This episode shows the disappointing results of her choice when it turns out that Virgil had been lying all along. But that is just the beginning of the disappointment.

The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 - What We BecomeVirgil later imprisons Michonne in a cell beside where he left three of his other companions. After inadvertently killing his own family, he snapped and the grief made him trap his friends while he took drugs to try and see his dead loved ones again. A familiar story on The Walking Dead as he’s basically a weirder, weaker, and more annoying version of Morgan (who got better later on).

Besides, it was a waste to spend so much time introducing new characters like Virgil in an episode that was supposed to be about Michonne. It’s also a stretch to think that an unstable man like Virgil could have bested a fighter as capable as Michonne, especially since she always had her guard up with him. Michonne would not have been so easily captured. But in the end, Virgil was no more than a plot device to allow the writers to give Michonne a hallucinogenic vision of what could have been.

The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 - What We BecomeThe whole alternative reality sequence, admittedly, was a creative way of delving deep into Michonne’s psyche and exploring some of her guilt and grief over the loss of Rick and Carl. Danai Gurira was fantastic in it, as usual, and it was interesting to watch a darker version of Michonne. Seeing her eventually become one of the Saviors, and even Negan’s right hand woman was definitely a bit of a thrill. Negan was always very impressed by her toughness and fighting skills.

Another good moment was when the furious Michonne took Negan’s place as the executioner pointed out the they had murdered people in their sleep like cowards. And you can’t really argue with that. The Walking Dead has always portrayed Rick’s group as the heroes so it was difficult to see their actions painted as villainous. But in this case, Negan is actually justified in pointing out that the group had murdered a bunch of strangers in their sleep. It’s as morally reprehensible as it gets, and hypocritical too, considering how stringent they had always been about letting people join their group (asking them how many people they’ve killed and all that.) So at least the show didn’t gloss over that problematic event though mentioning only now after all this time lessens the impact of it all.

The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 - What We BecomeThose were the few merits of the whole EvilMichonne!AU which ended dramatically with Daryl and Rick killing the Savior Michonne. But as interesting as it was to explore this alternate reality, it doesn’t really add anything to Michonne’s character arc. And this whole side-trip to the island was supposed to be a great journey for the character which was not even the case. It’s still strange that Michonne barely played a role in the ongoing conflict agains the Whisperers and that she did not even have a hand in bringing about Alpha’s downfall. Her whole story feels disjointed from the rest of the season which would have been fine if she had been given a compelling story to work with but instead she gets drugged and imprisoned by a madman.

The only forward movement happens later on, after she’s convinced the others to spare Virgil’s life and she discovers a pair of boots that belonged to Rick and a smartphone with Rick’s name and a drawing of her and Judith engraved on it. There were also some Japanese characters (my guess is hiragana) near the drawings which added to the mystery. With these (convenient/contrived?) clues, Michonne surmises that Rick might not have died on that bridge and that he might even be alive out there. She and the others manage to repair the ship with relative ease, making it even more contrived, and they make their way off the island, leaving Virgil to his madness.

Michonne then has a moving conversation with her children and the impressively long range of the walkie-talkies can be forgiven in this instance because it at least gave her the opportunity to interact with her family. She shares some wonderful moments with both Judith and RJ, the latter giving himself the code name “little brave man” which really tugs at the heartstrings. Michonne mentions that she might have found clues about Rick, prompting the ever-precocious Judith to encourage her mom to find him.

“He might need you more,” Judith says sagely, and she reassures her mother that the fight with the Whisperers has ended. How Michonne is so easily convinced of this is another convenient plot point that downplays the character’s love for her children. And how she can be so easily willing to leave her children behind over a few vague clues about a lover who may or may not be alive. But alas, The Walking Dead lives to serve plot and not character.

The episode is bookended with Michonne maiming and tying up two walkers as her protection, which was a fun image to end on, but again, had no impact because she immediately cut them down as soon as she met two strangers asking for help. What was the point of having her string up two walkers then? Just to bookend the episode? This whole scene sets up Michonne’s journey to find Rick and shows a new group of survivors moving in a very organized manner in between two forests? The Walking Dead sets up this great journey and this new mystery and yet will probably not follow through on any of this until the writers decide to make the Rick movies. Calling this a massive copout would be an understatement.

Reviewers are torn about whether this was a very successful or utterly regrettable end for the character.  I find that this was a lackluster tribute to a truly great and integral character of The Walking Dead. While it would have been unoriginal to have adopted the same approach as that of Rick’s final episode, that chapter at least gave Rick an epic sendoff and had him interact with many significant characters. Granted, Michonne had started out as a loner on the series, but after all the years of wandering, she had found a large and loving family. It seems strange that she did not have any proper farewell moments with Daryl, Carol or the others. We don’t even know what happened to Maggie at this point.

The Walking Dead, S10 Ep13 - What We BecomeHaving Michonne’s final chapter occur mostly in isolation is a disservice to a character who had come a long way from the closed-off loner she had started out as on The Walking Dead. She’s become the leader of the community and yet she ends up as alone as she ever was. As it stands, only Judith really knows what her mother is going to do so we don’t even get to see Daryl or Carol reacting to the prospect of Michonne’s prolonged absence. And while her new journey be an obvious tie-in to the Rick-centered movies, whenever these are ever going to come out (or even if they do), because there’s no proper sense of resolution.

The search for Rick would have been a very compelling journey for the show but we’re not going to see that anytime soon. Instead, The Walking Dead continues the familiar, tedious pattern of the heroes against new sets of villains every season. It’s also very frustrating to see that such an inspiring female character’s arc has become to search for a man. At this point, I would much rather see Michonne-centric movies than Rick ones. The only consolation is knowing that Michonne will live to fight another day, and that this will not be the last we will see of such a capable, courageous, and compassionate fighter.

Michonne, The Walking Dead doesn’t deserve you. But you will be sorely missed.