The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Recap: Of All The Gin Joints

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Recap: Of All the Gin Joints

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Season 1

Episode 2

Editor’s Rating

4 stars

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live reunited its star-crossed lovers at the end of the season premiere. So naturally, the second episode backs up to tell the story from Michonne’s point of view — from her exit from The Walking Dead to her chance meeting with Rick. The episode begins with an extended flashback to the events that follow Michonne’s last proper (read: not a post-credits scene) appearance on The Walking Dead. 

Let’s revisit the season-ten episode, “What We Become,” to refresh ourselves on her journey: Michonne was on a stressful side mission to Bloodsworth Island in the Chesapeake Bay with a survivor named Virgil (Kevin Carroll) when she discovered Rick’s cowboy boots. Because Michonne didn’t see the CRM helicopter take Rick away in season nine, this was the first evidence of Rick surviving the bridge explosion she’d seen in six years. She later found an iPhone carving of her and Judith, the couple’s adopted daughter, on a military boat that washed ashore. The boat’s log said the vessel last docked at Bridgers Shipyard in New Jersey. She radioed Judith at the Alexandria Safe Zone in Virginia, where their family settled in season five, and Judith convinced her to go looking for Rick if there was a chance he was alive. While on the road to New Jersey, she ran into Aidan (Breeda Wool) and Bailey (Andrew Byron Bachelor, a.k.a. King Bach) and offered to help them rejoin their caravan of nomadic survivors.

“Gone” picks this story line up no more than a day or two later. Michonne, Bailey, and Aidan have caught up to the caravan. Michonne appeals to Elle (Erin Anderson), one of the caravan’s leaders and Aidan’s sister, in the nicest tone this side of the zombie apocalypse. She’s not looking for payment for rescuing anyone; she just wants a horse to help her get north to Bridgers Shipyard and investigate her only lead about Rick’s current whereabouts. She says she’s happy to go on her way if they can’t accommodate that request. Elle tries to recruit her to join their community instead. The caravan is made up of dozens of wagons and hundreds of survivors. But they have one rule: The caravan doesn’t wait or return if someone gets left behind. Keep up, or else — just like the harfoots in Rings of Power!

Elle also warns Michonne against going north because of a horde of migrating “wailers” (zombies) headed in that direction. But Michonne needs to find Rick and bring him back to their family in Alexandria. Moreover, she’s not interested in people who don’t help their own. In storms a new character, Nat (Matthew August Jeffers), who shares Michonne’s values. Nat rants and rages about wanting to take his wagon and leave the community because Elle and the caravan abandoned his friends Aidan and Bailey. He comes in so hot that he doesn’t realize Aidan and Bailey are right behind him. Nat is chaotic and endearing from minute one. That’s one of the things I love most about The Walking Dead: The apocalypse doesn’t kill these characters’ personalities. Some people may become stoic badasses in a lawless society. Some people might turn evil. But some are just dramatic, annoying, and 100 percent themselves.

Because she protected his friends by returning them to the caravan, Nat offers Michonne the horse she wanted. The three of them (Nat, Bailey, and Aidan) suit her up with armor and gadgets, too. Nat is a munitions guy, weapons tech, engineer, and all-around genius survivor. The trio sends her off toward the horde between her and the N.J. shipyard, and then — surprise! — Nat, Bailey, Aiden, and a handful of survivors from the caravan community decide to join her and come to her aid at the horde. They want to thank Michonne for waking them up to their community’s toxic “wait for no one” philosophy by helping her find her husband. Nat was already itching to leave, but the rest were, no joke, inspired by the power of love!

Sometime later, the group travels peacefully through a Northeastern town. Nat tells Michonne a touching story about how his stepdad “Danger” redirected his teen angst by giving him a passion for building rather than burning. Then they’re attacked by the Civic Republic Military, who drops chlorine gas from a helicopter above. The gas kills many of the survivors, including Aidan and Bailey. This is what the military that Rick joined does.

Nat and Michonne spend several months recovering from the gas in a shopping mall with oxygen tanks scavenged from a nearby medical plaza. Once the two of them regain their strength, they set out on their own and find the Bridgers Shipyard abandoned, except for piles of burnt bodies. As Michonne hugs the cowboy boots she’s been carrying since The Walking Dead, Nat gently points out that many of the unidentifiable bodies don’t have shoes but encourages her to hold on to the belief that Rick is alive regardless — he’s not going to let her give up.

The episode jumps to the present, where we see the last scene of The Ones Who Live premiere from Michonne’s perspective. She and Nat are en route to the Alexandria Safe Zone, almost within range for the radio to contact Judith, when a CRM helicopter approaches. Nat, wishing to avenge Bailey and Aidan’s death, is the one who shoots it down. Michonne picks the soldiers off one by one and discovers that one of them is Rick Grimes.

“I found you,” says Michonne. She’s crying. Rick’s crying. I’m crying. It’s corny, but can you blame them? Emotions are too high to be anything but a little inelegant. Rick asks about Judith first and assures Michonne that he’s not really with the CRM second. Unfortunately, the intimate and cathartic moment is painfully brief. More CRM soldiers are coming. Half-pleading, half-commanding, Rick gives her a story to tell his superiors. “Don’t show them who you are,” he says, meaning her name and relationship to Rick and her moral character. If they sniff out that she’s strong and a leader like him, she’s in danger. He also warns her not to call zombies “walkers” because that’s what he called them. It’s nice to see TWD acknowledge the many, many different nicknames the disparate people of this world have for their reanimated pals.

Rick and Michonne go to hide her journal and anything that could connect her to Alexandria in his pack. Before they can do that, Nat is shot in the chest by a CRM soldier who survived the crash. Not cool! Rick kills the soldier and leaves his wife’s signature katana in Nat’s hand. As the approaching helicopters land, Rick stages the two of them: Michonne with her hands up and him with his gun on her. “I love you,” he shouts.

We don’t see Nat turn, but I’m going to assume he doesn’t survive for the time being. Later in the episode, Rick gives Michonne the lighter that Nat was carrying with his stepdad’s name, “Danger,” on it. He has to be dead, right? My only major criticism of The Ones Who Live so far echoes a concern I had with Dead City and, to a lesser degree, Daryl Dixon. I don’t love how quickly new characters like Nat, Aidan, Bailey, and Okafor are introduced and killed off. The Walking Dead was an ensemble show. Let these characters linger! Leave that whiplash style of storytelling to The Last of Us. It’s hard enough that the seasons are one-third as long as The Walking Dead, you know?

In the episode’s final stretch, Michonne passes herself off to the CRM as a meek and lonely survivor named “Dana” in a job-interview setting. Gurira’s performance is fascinating in this scene when you compare the faux sweet Dana act to Michonne’s even temper at the top of the episode. After she answers their questions and the CRM gives her a worker’s uniform, she snoops around the Philadelphia-adjacent military base. Then, when the moment’s right, Rick nudges her and the two sneak into a garage. They kiss and talk and kiss some more. He tells her he’s going to pass her notes. (What are they, 12?! Amazing.) They also talk about how the CRM is committing genocide. Rick says they can’t stop them; the CRM isn’t like the cults that Rick and Michonne faced on The Walking Dead. They have numbers and resources well beyond any other community. Rick and Michonne’s priority has to be getting home to Virginia.

What Michonne doesn’t tell Rick is that they have a son together. RJ, short for Rick Junior, was born after Rick vanished. She decides to wait. I’m not a big fan of “withholding information as plot,” especially with couples, but this is a wise choice. You can’t convince me that Rick would act rationally. He would get them both killed trying to bust out of the CRM, guns blazing and doing his best rendition of “Yorktown” from Hamilton. Even if he did play it cool, it’s safer for RJ if only Michonne knows he exists.

Especially because Michonne herself is not as safe as she thinks — someone at the CRM knows she’s not Dana. Someone we almost forgot about: Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), a.k.a. Jadis, a.k.a. the one who got Rick into this mess by Blue skidoo–ing him away in a helicopter. Anne knows who Michonne is. The former art teacher/junkyard cult leader/bob enthusiast shows up at Rick’s apartment in the episode’s final scene, remarks on how Rick and Michonne miraculously managed to “bump into each other,” and asks him, point-blank, what the fuck he’s doing. She threatens to kill everyone they love if the two escape. Since the CRM has the ability to bomb Alexandria, that’s a big threat. She also alludes to them having had an agreement. “Let’s continue to keep certain things between you and me,” she says. Michonne’s arrival, she says later, “doesn’t fall under our long-standing deal.” What deal? This is news to me!

• When I pulled up a map to try and figure out where the fictional shipyard might be in New Jersey, I realized that I misspoke last week. I said that Rick Grimes was in Pennsylvania due to his proximity to the CRM community in Philly. Technically, he is stationed across the Delaware River, which is over the New Jersey state line. I’m good at reading maps when one is in front of me but bad at geography and retaining cartographic information. I apologize to the Garden State for the error.

• Shakespeare in the Park reunion! Matthew August Jeffers was in Richard III with none other than Danai Gurira in the titular role, which you can watch on PBS’s Great Performances.

• Sam Ewing’s rambling score is really lovely in this episode.

• Michonne calls for “Shoto” on her radio. That’s her nickname/call sign for Judith Grimes, who calls her “Daito” back on The Walking Dead. The words mean “short sword” and “long sword” in Japanese. Cute!

• It’s a good thing that Michonne is out of radio range because if my TWD timeline math is correct, Judith and RJ may not even be in Alexandria right now. I believe this is around season 11, when they’re living with their Uncle Daryl in a community called the Commonwealth, which I think is in Ohio.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Recap

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