- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” season 10, episode 13, “What We Become.”
- Sunday was Danai Gurira’s final episode of AMC’s zombie drama.
- Her farewell was filled with callbacks to previous moments on the show, including her first appearance and the first time she met Rick.
- You may have also missed the significance of the secret radio call names Michonne and Judith have for each other and the translation of the Japanese message carved into the phone Michonne found.
- Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Michonne is seen at the start of the episode during a flashback to her character’s first moments on the show.
The opening moments of the episode focus on Michonne’s boots, gloves, and original cloak before revealing her face to let us know exactly who the camera was following.
Michonne’s wearing her original outfit on the show from when we first met her on season three, walking around with two of the undead – her ex-boyfriend, Mike, and his friend – on chains.
But that’s not Michonne on season three. There’s a huge payoff to this scene.
We’re seeing the season two finale play out from Michonne’s point of view, which wasn’t possible in the past.
Andrea (Laurie Holden) shockingly returns in a moment straight out of the final minutes from season two. As she runs away from Hershel’s burning farm, she was initially rescued by a cloaked woman, who was later revealed to be Michonne.
Why is this important?
If you return to Michonne’s introduction on the show’s season two finale, that’s not Danai Gurira playing the character. It was a stand-in before Gurira was cast.
It’s extra special in this moment to get to see Michonne play out a version of this scene from the past.
The unexpected reveal is that we’re not simply watching a flashback. When Michonne is supposed to step in and save Andrea, she simply doesn’t. She watches as she starts to be eaten alive. As the episode progresses, we learn this is part of a giant “what if” scenario being played out for Michonne during a hallucination.
There are five significant episodes Michonne revisits on Sunday’s episode.
Here’s the list in the order they’re shown on screen on Sunday’s episode:
- The season two finale when Michonne makes her first appearance on the series.
- Season three, episode 12 when Michonne is seen as a hitchhiker on the road (more on this episode shortly and it’s significance).
- Season six, episode 12 when Rick, Glenn, Heath, and more invade a sanctuary outpost to silently kill Saviors in their sleep.
- The season six finale/season seven premiere when Negan killed two major characters from the show.
- Season two, episode 7. The scene of Rick shooting Sophia was remixed for when he shoots Michonne.
- Season three, episode six when Michonne and Rick meet for the first time.
Showrunner Angela Kang told Insider they pulled off the new versions of old scenes by combining new footage with old scenes.
“TWD” didn’t bring back a bunch of actors for Michonne’s final episode. They used previous footage and combined it with new scenes they filmed.
“Our production folks did an amazing job of re-creating some of our sets and lighting to shoot new footage,” Kang told Insider via email. “Then our VFX and post [production] team merged old footage with new footage to create something that feels like it might’ve been in the show, but never actually existed until now.”
Season two, episode seven footage was used of Rick to help create the scene where he shoots Michonne.
Rick was aged to have more scruff and hair than in the original scene. You can see the two moments side by side here.
The entire “What if” scenario presented on Sunday’s episode is fascinating for a few reasons. At first, it shows how every little decision we make can impact our lives.
On the surface level, Sunday’s episode is a reminder of how one simple choice in our everyday lives can completely change the outcome of our lives. If Michonne never saved Andrea, it’s suggested she may have never met Rick and his community.
Furthermore, she would have wound up with Negan at some point and became one of his most trusted leaders.
It’s something we’ve seen play out in the movie “Sliding Doors” with Gwyneth Paltrow and in a more recent episode of “This Is Us.” It’s also something Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” video game has also done.
The “choose-your-own-adventure” game let’s you play out multiple scenarios of the same situation depending how you choose to play the game.
The episode also shows you some big moments from the series in a way you may never have considered, suggesting Rick wasn’t a flawless hero.
While Sunday’s episode of “TWD” highlights the different path Michonne’s life could have gone in, it also showcases a few important moments in the show’s history from the perspective of Negan’s saviors.
The scenes show that, just like Rick’s group, they were also just doing what they had to in order to survive. A few changed up moments show Michonne with DJ and Laura, former Saviors, who had redeemed themselves and became well-established and trusted members of Alexandria.
In Michonne’s alternate version of history, Laura gets killed when Rick’s group breaks into a Sanctuary outpost on season six, episode 12. In return, Michonne winds up killing Glenn and Heath. In reality, Glenn was killed by Negan on the season seven premiere. Showrunner Angela Kang told Insider that Heath wound up being traded by Anne to the helicopter people off-screen.
In that moment especially, Rick’s group comes across as the villains as they kill people in their sleep.
“You didn’t know s— about them, but you came in the dead of night and slaughtered them anyway. In their sleep like cowards,” this alternate version of Michonne tells Rick and his group.
This is something Insider previously with Juan Gabriel Pareja about when his season one character, Morales, returned to “TWD” as one of Negan’s recruits and was subsequently killed by Daryl.
“If you think about it, Rick himself is doing some pretty awful things,” Pareja told Insider in 2017.
“TWD” writer and co-producer Kevin Deiboldt recently joked with Insider that in an apocalypse situation you shouldn’t “let anyone named Rick into your community or there’s a solid chance you’ll wind up dead.“
Deiboldt said the writer’s room talks all the time about how Rick has actually destroyed most of the communities he has entered, which probably isn’t the way most people view Rick’s character when you’re rallying behind him.
Virgil tells Michonne that the island is “not clear,” reminiscent of a line Morgan used to say on the series, specifically on season three.
Though it’s probably not intentional, Morgan (Lennie James), came to mind when Virgil said this line. When Rick found him back on season three, episode 12 in their hometown, he was obsessed with making sure spaces were “clear” of walkers. In that episode, in particular, Morgan had the word written over walls.
We doubt Virgil is someone who likely came across Morgan if he was secluded on an island in Maryland.
However, it’s worth noting Morgan here because of his appearance in that season three episode with Rick and Michonne.
During her hallucinations, Michonne revisits a moment from season three, episode 12, titled “Clear.”
Later in the episode, when Michonne hallucinates an alternate “what if” scenario of her life, she revisits a moment from season three, episode 12 after Rick, Michonne, and Carl met Morgan. She imagines herself on a road with a backpack (which we’ll come back to shortly).
If hearing the word “clear” made Michonne think of Morgan from that point of history, perhaps it was in her subconscious on the island and made her revisit that moment in place.
Revisiting this episode was important for a few reasons. First, we see Michonne as a hitchhiker on the road calling out to a car.
Michonne is calling out to a vehicle, presumably filled with Rick, Carl, and Daryl. We only see Daryl who briefly looks at Michonne before getting back into the car and carrying forward.
If this scene felt familiar, it should have because it’s an important side story that plays out at the beginning and end of season three, episode 12.
On season three, episode 12, Michonne, Rick, and Carl saw a man on the side of the road with a backpack.
While travelling to King County, the three don’t hesitate to speed up as they drive by a hitchhiker. By the episode’s end, as they drive home, they see the entrails of the man on the side of the road. He’s, presumably, been killed by walkers.
Since Michonne’s hallucination positions her as the hitchhiker, perhaps it’s suggesting a moment in time that haunts her. On season nine, episode six, Michonne told Magna that they have all done terrible things.
“We’ve all done things or else we wouldn’t be here,” Michonne said. “It isn’t always that easy to live with.”
The scene is also highlighting, once again, the importance of small decisions. If Rick, Michonne, and Carl had decided to save that man, would it have changed the outcome of how the rest of the series played out? Maybe not.
In her hallucination, Michonne, unlike the unfortunate hitchhiker, is not devoured by the dead. Instead, she finds Negan and becomes a member of his group.
More importantly, season three, episode 12 is important because it was the first episode on the show to hint at a flirtation between Rick and Michonne.
Carl and Michonne bonded when she risked her life to help Rick’s son retrieve an important family photo. Afterward, an initially-sceptical Carl gave his approval of Michonne joining their group.
Carl’s approval allowed Rick to warm up to Michonne a tiny ounce. When Michonne noticed Rick appear to look off into the distance for a moment, she inquired if he saw something. When Rick hesitates, Michonne opens up and says she used to talk to her dead boyfriend often. She says she knows he’s been seeing things after his wife Lori died and assured him that’s OK.
In response, Rick decides to let Michonne drive them all home.
At San Diego Comic-Con in 2016, Robert Kirkman told press that was when they first started planning out and hinting at Michonne and Rick’s eventual pairing down the road.
“[Richonne] was something that Scott [Gimple] started talking about, I believe, in season 4,” said Kirkman. “I don’t remember the episode number, because I’m old, but the episode, oh it’s ‘Clear’ [season 3, episode 12] when Michonne and Rick and Carl encounter Morgan. We were discussing that kind of stuff all the way back there and there were seeds planted in that episode that you so brilliantly wrote.”
You can relive every Rick and Michonne moment on “The Walking Dead” in our Richonne timeline here.
Michonne reluctantly picks up an apple to eat it while held in a cell.
Before biting into it, she lingers on it for a moment in her hand before biting into it.
The scene is in stark contrast to one of the happiest moments of Michonne’s life where she was in bed with Rick eating an apple.
Early into season six, episode 15, Michonne picks an apple up off of a nightstand. Just like on Sunday’s episode, she looks it over in her hand before taking a bite out of it.
This may not be a purposeful callback, but the juxtaposition between the two scenes is worth pointing out. On Sunday’s episode, Michonne is in a dark, confined cell moodily eating the apple alone versus the warm glow of the season six scene above.
When Michonne relives the season seven premiere of “TWD” where Negan originally killed both Abraham and Glenn, the lineup is a little different.
Glenn is removed from it since this alternate version of Michonne killed him earlier on season six. The space where Michonne was is removed as well so Daryl and Rosita are moved closer to the rest of the lineup.
Dwight can be seen in the background still.
The callback to the season seven premiere most likely has a second purpose — to help redeem Negan.
Since the season eight finale, it’s appeared as if the series has tried to set Negan upon a redemption arc. When Kang took over as showrunner, she locked Negan in a cell for a good portion of season nine to refocus the show on its core characters.
Whether or not viewers will see him differently will remain to be seen, but having Michonne, a character that fans deeply respect and love, deliver a speech to Rick, Rosita, Daryl, and more on Sunday’s episode about how they ruthlessly slaughtered some of Negan’s group members in their sleep, may help more long-time fans finally see the season seven premiere from a different perspective.
And that’s most likely what AMC wants. Negan’s still a big part of “The Walking Dead” after all. He recently killed the Whisperer leader under Carol’s orders and the show has already been trying to get fans to empathise more with Negan by referencing the controversial season seven premiere and bringing up Negan’s wife. If Negan’s going to be sticking around, AMC will want to make sure fans can finally get behind the character in the way they have fallen in love with Rick, Daryl, and Carol, no matter some of his past transgressions.
Michonne makes the difficult decision to not kill Virgil after locking herself and others up.
“He owes you more than he can ever make right,” Michonne tells the others. “Taking his life, you’ll lose more of yourself. It doesn’t settle it. But your mercy gives you something. You get something. Peace.”
Michonne was remembering Rick’s speech from the season eight finale when he let Negan live.
When Rick decided not to kill Negan, he uttered the phrase, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.”
Michonne find a very familiar pair of boots.
Did you know whose boots those were the moment Michonne spotted them?
They’re Rick’s longtime boots.
He was still wearing them when Anne found him after the explosion on season nine, episode five.
“The boots are an iconic part of Rick’s costume, would have been on his person at the time of the bridge explosion, and would be immediately recognisable to Michonne, so that’s how we came to have this first clue,” Kang told Insider via email.
Virgil claims that the boots washed up during a big storm. But it’s uncertain if that’s accurate. We never saw if Rick was wearing his shoes on the helicopter that lifted him away. From the clues Michonne finds, it seems like Rick may have been on that island at some point.
Michonne also finds a phone with hers and Judith’s photos etched onto it.
Rick’s name can be seen written on the phone as well. But take a close look at those characters on the phone. They’re written in Japanese.
Angela Kang confirmed to Insider the message written on the phone and it may make you a bit emotional.
“[Chief creative officer of ‘TWD’ Universe’] Scott Gimple confirmed that that was the intended translation: ‘believe a little bit longer.'” said Kang via email.
Kang told Entertainment Weekly the message wasn’t written by Rick, though.
“It was a message to Rick from somebody, somehow on this boat,” said Kang.
It’s inferred that Michonne may know Japanese by the scene that comes next on the show.
Michonne calls for Judith over radio. The two refer to themselves by code names: Daito and Shoto.
The mother and daughter duo gave themselves nicknames representative of their weapons in the zombie apocalypse. Daito and Shoto are the names of Japanese swords.
Daito is representative of a long sword and Shoto is Japanese for a short sword. Together, the swords form the word Daisho, a term for long and short swords worn by samurai. In this case, Michonne is the big sword, while Judith is the little sword.
R.J. has a callsign, too. He refers to himself as “little brave man.”
That goes back to the season 10 premiere. Judith told her brother the story of “the brave man” who saved the communities from a massive zombie herd on season nine, episode five.
What R.J. didn’t know was that Judith was telling him the story of his father and how he sacrificed himself for the communities (or so they thought).
It’s fitting that Rick Jr. would be the “little brave man” if his father is the original brave man.
Michonne tells Judith she’ll try reaching out to her every morning on her walkie talkie while she’s away.
“I’ll try you every morning on this walkie for as long as I can,” Michonne tells Judith.
If Michonne’s words sound familiar, we’ve heard something similar before from Rick.
Rick told Morgan something similar on season one.
On the first episode of “TWD,” Rick gave Morgan a long-range walkie. He had promised Morgan he was going to try reaching out to him every morning at dawn.
“I’ll turn mine on a few minutes every day at dawn,” Rick told Morgan before he left him in search of his family.
If you recall, that promise didn’t work out so well. We saw Rick reach out to Morgan on season one, episode five to warn him about Atlanta being overrun and to tell him where he and son, Duane, could try and find them.
Hopefully, Michonne is more true to her word.
Michonne’s decision to go after Rick has been hinted at in two previous episodes across season’s nine and 10.
Leaving her kids behind to search for Rick was an impossible decision, but there have been moments leading up to Sunday’s episode pushing Michonne towards this direction.
On season nine, episode 14, Michonne’s old friend Jocelyn tells her to go after her man. Michonne put it off because of her pregnancy with R.J.
Later, on the season 10 premiere, Michonne tells R.J. and Judith she would do anything for them. When R.J. asks if that also includes their dad, she says, “Yes.”
When Insider asked showrunner Angela Kang if that scene was planting seeds for Gurira’s departure sometime this season, she said it was “an apt observation.“
“Yeah, I mean there’s definitely, we know that Michonne still does not really believe that Rick is dead,” Kang told Insider. “So that’s one of those things that carries forward into the season.”
Michonne sees a giant caravan full of people at the episode’s end.
Who are they and where are they going? This is what Kang had to tell us about the moment.
“We coordinated with [chief content officer of ‘TWD’ universe] Scott Gimple on what he needed the endpoint in the episode to be in order to set up the handoff to the TWD Universe,” Kang told Insider.
It seems like it will be a tie-in to either another “TWD” show or these Rick Grimes movies.
The end of the episode shows Michonne approaching the prison’s gates on season three.
This is the first interaction Rick and Michonne have ever had on season three, episode six. On the season three finale, Rick told Michonne he only let her into the prison because of the baby formula. When she calls his bluff, Rick coyly says it “must have been something else, then.”
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