- Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead,” season nine, episode 14, “Scars.”
- Sunday’s dark episode of AMC’s “TWD” revealed how Michonne and Daryl received scars on their backs. They were branded by children months after Rick’s disappearance.
- A difficult ending to the episode shows Michonne is forced to decide whether or not to kill a group of children when the lives of herself, Judith, and her unborn child are put in danger.
- Director Millicent Shelton told INSIDER what went into executing this scene to make sure audiences felt like Michonne had no choice but to murder a group of children.
Sunday’s episode of “The Walking Dead” took a dark turn as it revealed exactly how Daryl and Michonne received those “X” scars on their backs. A group of children, led by one of Michonne’s former college friends, not only brand the duo, but they also go after and try to kill Michonne. One even slashes at Michonne’s very pregnant belly.
In the episode’s final big scene, Michonne is figuratively pushed back against a wall. The life of her, her unborn child, and a young Judith are all at stake as the group of children close in on her and threaten to kill her. After, she makes the impossible decision to kill a majority of the children who come at her one by one.
We never see the deaths of the children happen on screen. Instead, the scene juxtaposes a scene in the present where Michonne is killing walkers with one in the past of the katana-wielding samurai looking horrified as her sword delivers blow after murderous blow.
“I story-boarded all the scenes that had to do with the kids and any violence and wanted to make sure that, especially in the end, when Michonne has to save her child at the expense of these kids, I really wanted to make sure that juxtapositioning of her killing the walkers made it quite clear without ever seeing any harm come to our kids,” Shelton told INSIDER of why Sunday’s scene doesn’t show the direct killings of the children on screen.
“It was just the juxtaposition that told the story more than anything and then you know, Danai is an amazing actress so her face just showed it all.”
Making sure viewers understood why Michonne was forced to make this difficult decision
Shelton spoke with Danai Gurira, the writers, and Angela Kang to make sure they got this scene and all of the ones with the children just right. There was one goal in particular the group collectively wanted to make clear during the episode.
“The scene went through several different versions and one of the most important things that all of us wanted to make clear was that Michonne does not want to take out these kids,” said Shelton. “We desperately wanted to make sure that that was clear,” she added about that final big fight scene. “The more that we thought about it the more we said, these kids have to be feral, they have to keep coming at it, they have to be the ones that aren’t letting her off the hook. They don’t run away; they keep charging at her and even though she is protecting herself and ultimately protecting her child, she is torn and tormented over having to do this.”
As Shelton pointed out, there were multiple times on Sunday’s episode where Michonne told the children, “Please, I don’t want to do this.” She’s begging and pleading with them for the life of her child and then her stomach is slashed by one of the children. She’s hit with a piece of plywood over and over by her close friend from college, Jocelyn.
For Michonne, it becomes kill or be killed. It’s more difficult because it’s not just her own life at stake. The children put her unborn son’s life at risk, R.J., and Jocelyn eventually orders for Judith to be killed along with the rest of the stolen children from Alexandria.
“Ultimately one of the most powerful shots I think is the shot when we were just on Danai and she’s swinging the katana beside the camera and it all plays on her face,” said Shelton.
Changes made to the scene
Shelton mentioned the scene went through “several different versions.”
When asked what those changes were, she said, “It really wasn’t a huge rewrite it was just little tweaks. It kind of was just amping up the kids. The kids kept coming,” said Shelton.
“That’s what changed in the script – the kids have to keep coming and the adding of [Michonne] saying, “No don’t. I don’t want to do this,” she added of small things that were added into the script to help sell the point that Michonne doesn’t want to take the children’s lives. At one point, she even tells them it’s OK and that they can return to Alexandria with her.
Shelton says these were the subtle changes they continued to add to the scene even while filming.
“Even when we got on set, even when we were with the kids I was like, ‘Guys, you’ve got to be more ferocious, you have to really come at her,'” said Shelton.
Shelton told INSIDER the crew also spoke at length with the kid actors and their parents to make sure they knew exactly what was happening on the episode for their safety.
One other cue added on the episode to show how difficult Michonne’s decision was: How quickly she killed her old friend, Jocelyn.
You may not have noticed this the first time around, but the episode also made a clear distinction between how easy it was for Michonne to kill Jocelyn versus the difficulty of killing the children. That’s something that was done on purpose.
“Yes, that was definitely intentional,” said Shelton. “I mean Jocelyn’s an adult and Jocelyn has betrayed her. And Jocelyn, to be honest, is hitting her with a two-by four! She was wailing on her. I think they cut it down a little bit in the edit from my director’s cut. I mean she was wailing on her!”
“She’s evil,” said Shelton of Joceyln, “But you also, when Michonne does kill her, if you look at Michonne’s face, she’s not happy about it. She is tortured.”
Was anything else cut out from the episode?
So much focus is put on Michonne’s decision of whether or not to kill the children after she and Daryl escape from being tied up. The episode never shows what Daryl is up to until he finds Michonne with the children lying on the ground.
Shelton said the focus was to be on Michonne for this episode. There was only one more thing she would have added to it.
“I mean, if I had my way I would have had even more juxtapositions of the walkers and the killing and the kids,” said Shelton. “It could have been seamless. But I think the way it is, is really tasteful and is really well done.”
“The Walking Dead” airs Sunday’s on AMC at 9 p.m.
- Read more:
- 11 details you may have missed on Sunday’s ‘The Walking Dead’
- ‘The Walking Dead’ took extra precaution with its kid actors for Sunday’s dark episode: ‘There were 3 levels of conversation that happened’
- ‘The Walking Dead’ finally reveals how Michonne and Daryl got their scars and the answer is intensely dark
- Why Sunday’s ‘The Walking Dead’ showed Michonne pregnant and why the episode strayed from doing what viewers may have expected
- Where are they now: Actors who have been killed off “The Walking Dead”
- The most shocking deaths on “The Walking Dead” ranked
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