(Spoilers ahead for the March 22 episode of “The Walking Dead.”)
It’s been a while since we last saw Michonne on “The Walking Dead,” and it’s probably going to be even longer before we see her again, if we ever do. “Walking Dead” fans have been dreading this day ever since Danai Gurira announced last summer that she was leaving the show, and now her final episode has aired.
The episode directly followed up on the story from the last episode Michonne appeared in back in the mid-season finale in November. Michonne set off with an unstable man named Virgil (Kevin Carroll), who promised that the island he lived on had plenty of large scale weaponry that would help immensely in the war against the Whisperers.
Things don’t go as planned, as is usually the case on “The Walking Dead.” Michonne gets locked up by a hysterical Virgil and feed some kind of psychedelic tea that causes her to imagine an alternate version of her past in which she joined the Saviors and helped Negan pacify Alexandria. Eventually she manages to free herself and settle that conflict, but then it turns out the whole adventure was for naught because there weren’t actually any weapons on the island.
But there were clues that point to Rick Grimes’ survival after he blew up a bridge he was standing on back in Season 9. We already knew he survived, but this was the first time any of the other characters learned anything about what happened to him after his disappearance. And so instead of returning to Alexandria, Michonne — after a heartfelt chat with Judith over the radio — sets off to find Rick. Presumably, this means we’ll see her again in one of those theatrical movies that AMC and Universal are going to put out that focus on what happened to Rick.
Speaking with TheWrap, Gurira discussed this “bittersweet” final episode, how Michonne could justify leaving Judith and RJ behind, and how crazy it was to see the villainous version of her character in the finished episode.
But first, are we going to see Michonne again in the “Walking Dead” universe? For now, Gurira isn’t saying whether this episode will lead to an appearance in the movie.
“We’ll have to see. But that really is an open-ended goodbye. She leaves on a quest. And she leaves with a plan to go and find the man she never was quite sure had died. So definitely open-ended. We’ll see where it goes.”
Gurira told me that she felt that Michonne’s big move here was justified by the narrative.
“Her journey to go to the island was all connected to trying to help her community and find a big way, a very definitive way, to end things with Alpha,” Gurira said.
“The fact that she gets the information from her daughter that Alpha has been defeated, it sort of gives her a degree of permission to take another track.”
Gurira said that everything Michonne does at this point is “always with the same goal, being to help her family,” and that the quest to find Rick is just another example of this.
“There’s no way the Rick she knows and loves would stay away this long without it being against his will, in her mind,” she said.
Of course, Gurira knows that there was certainly some difficulty for showrunner Angela Kang and the “Walking Dead” writing staff in making Michonne’s exit work, and praised their effort.
“We shot out of order, as there’s a component of how much time I was able to give that season. So there were those logistics,” she said, noting that she disappeared for four episodes before getting her final sendoff. “And I think they found a really smart way to navigate that.”
Aside from just the fact that this was Michonne’s last episode and all that stuff about Rick, there was another hugely interesting thing going on in this episode: those perverse “It’s a Wonderful Life”-esque flashbacks which saw Michonne become a bad guy. Gurira said she actually thought that scenario was pretty plausible.
“I think there was a component of her, a side of her that if she kept nourishing it, it could have deadened or really put on ice the part of her that chose to help Andrea,” she said. In the first scene of the episode, we revisit Michonne’s first scene on “The Walking Dead,” when she encounters Andrea (Laurie Holden) in the woods and saves her from zombies. But in this version of the scene, she turns away and lets Andrea die.
“I think a lot of her, and even the disconnect from who she was, was at such a high volume when she saw Andrea about to die. A real yearning and knocking of her heart, like her heart knocking hard on her armor, caused her to make the choice in that moment to help Andrea,” Gurira said. “But it could have been just a little smidge to the left on the volume, and she could have chosen to do exactly what we saw. That to me is quite chilling.”
And, she continued, one such decision can lead to another.
“Those choices compound themselves. Now you have to live with the idea that you just did that. And now you have to sort of justify it in a sense. Validate it. The validation of it can cause more choices in a similar realm,” she said.
“Like being found by Negan and connecting with him on his philosophies. If she was compounding the choice of walking away from people in need, that could have happened. So, that’s really what’s chilling to me about that sequence. I don’t think it’s impossible. It’s amazing what difference one choice can make in a person’s journey.”
Those alternate history sequences largely involved inserting new footage of Gurira into old scenes, either through editing trickery or CGI trickery. So, for example, we had a new version of a bit from the Season 7 premiere — you know, the one where Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brutally executed Glenn and Abraham. But this time, instead of doing it himself, Negan gave the murderous honor to his second-in-command, which in this universe is Michonne.
Gurira described this scene as “disturbing and trippy.”
“When I saw Michonne and Rick staring eyeball to eyeball, that was very freaky. They did a great job with that,” she said.