The Walking Dead
Sometimes it feels like a momentum killer when TWD sends a character on a side quest, diverting attention from what we really want to see play out in the central storyline. At first, I was concerned that Michonne’s trek to Bloodsworth Island would take away from all the heart-pounding action and surprises lately. But this episode turned out to be more like a ballad in the middle of a rock concert — a necessary change of pace, a moment to indulge in a different emotional journey. Yes, what I’m trying to say is that this was the “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” of The Walking Dead. Was it the most satisfying sendoff for everyone’s favorite self-taught swordmaster? Probably not. But in keeping with the show’s love of nostalgic good-byes and in opening the door to a much larger world beyond the walls of Alexandria, it worked (and finally showed us what would happen if you mashed up this show with The Big Lebowski).
The opening sequence had me wondering if someone slipped a psychedelic into my dinner. There’s Michonne, in what seems to be a flashback to when she was still rocking her full-length hoodie and rolling with her pets. Then there’s Andrea (!), chased (rather slowly) by a pack of hungry undead. Michonne watches her fall to the ground and scream in terror as a walker claws at her. Unmoved, Michonne walks away. Is this some alternative timeline? Yes it is, well, sort of: We eventually learn that the scene is part of a serious hallucination that sends Michonne on a “what if” adventure, exploring what she could have become if her darker survival instincts took over.
Michonne has Virgil to thank for her Timothy Leary adventure. Consider her relative insanity in following a very suspect individual to a secluded place called Bloodsworth Island (and once you’re there, creeping around dead-infested buildings alone, in the darkness). Yet there’s munitions in them thar hills, and dagnabbit, Michonne reckons to find ’em! Virgil’s story unravels mighty fast — his wife and kids are zombies now, and what he really wants is for Michonne to do what he can’t, which is put them out of their misery. Virgil proves he’s unable to do so much as walk silently through a hallway, and he’s even worse at zombie combat. Yet for a moment, when they find his family among a room filled with walkers dangling from nooses, it’s hard not to feel for this lost soul; even Michonne gets choked up.
Yet there’s always one more thing that Virgil neglects to mention, and when you think things can’t get weirder, Michonne finds the room where three of his ex-co-workers have been imprisoned. Long story short: A bunch of strangers came to the island, ruined everything, turned into biters, killed nearly everyone including Virgil’s family, and Virgil blamed himself for the mess. He snapped, locked up his pals, and now decides it’s best to dose Michonne with jimsonweed, one of the herbs he plucked from his garden. “I want you to see you’re in pain,” he says. “Like me.” I think it’s really because the writers need to figure out a way to stroll down memory lane again, but okay, Virgil, show us your pain. The floor turns all swirly and purple, his voice echoes, and Michonne is suddenly tripping balls.
Like A Christmas Carol on ’shrooms, Michonne’s visions begin with the ghost of Siddiq, who blames her for not saving the departed and morphs into a walker. Cut to Andrea, or what’s left of her body. In this alternate universe, Michonne tries to hitch a ride with Daryl, who speeds away and leaves her to encounter Negan. Impressed by her “big ol’ massive lady nuts,” Negan takes her in and gives her a fantastic black leather getup just so it’s 100 percent clear she’s gone bad. She shoots Glenn and Heath (remember him?), is on the wrong side of a Rick shootout with the Saviors, and then takes over execution duty from Negan during the infamous “eenie meenie miney moe” scene. Michone has become his “right hand gal,” and as she gets ready to swing the barbed wire bat, we see she’s about to kill her other self. The coupe de grace comes in the form of a Daryl crossbow bolt to the chest, followed by a bullet from Rick himself. Heavy shit, dude!
Of course, once Michonne barfs and sobers up, she turns the tables and Virgil ends up in the hands of both her and his captives. Once again, the almighty Rick’s teachings are recalled as Michonne convinces the co-workers to spare Virgil: “Taking his life, you lose more of yourself,” she says. “It doesn’t settle it. But your mercy gives you something. You get something — peace.” Exhibit A to support her case: revenge-obsessed Carol.
As Michonne gathers her gear, she notices a familiar pair of boots among Virgil’s stockpile, and does what any of us would — immediately gives them a deep, full-body sniff. Things get weirder on the second boat that’s available, as she reads the ship’s log and sees what could be Rick’s handwriting. (In a sign that Rick might be in mental distress, he appears to want to travel to New Jersey.) There’s also an iPhone with carvings of Judith, Michonne, and Rick’s name on its screen. Virgil posits that perhaps this is the real reason they met — to show her the way to find her husband again.
It’s fair to question whether Michonne has now vaulted to the top of the list of “Worst Moms of the Apocalypse,” right up there with Carol and Alpha. Yes, Rick is the love of your life and you hope there will one day be an Andrew Lincoln Memorial built to honor the new world’s founding father. But you have an adopted daughter and a biological son, Michonne. Don’t you believe the children are our future?
Instead of returning home to her kids, she gets Judith on the horn — the Shoto (short sword) to her Daito (long sword), adorable call signs only matched by R.J.’s (“Little Brave Man”). In her preternatural wisdom, Judith suggests Rick might need Michonne even more than her children do; note that these kids just barely survived the Whisperers onslaught and will now be wards of Uncle Daryl, who’s got a lot on his plate at the moment. It doesn’t take much for Michonne to declare she’s headed north, as Judith signs off, “Go get him. Shoto out.” Who’s the responsible adult here?
Michonne’s goodbye ends as she comes full circle — now with new zombie pets and an unwavering devotion to showing mercy wherever it’s needed. In this case, she’s discovered a young couple that’s fallen behind their group and desperately needs to catch up. Who would just leave these two in the dust because a guy has a bum wheel? The answer: a massive caravan of six huge formations of people, rolling off toward the horizon. In a meta way, this makes sense — the TWD universe is about to expand with The Walking Dead: World Beyond and those Rick movies, which could now lead to a Michonne reunion. This new group, Rick’s captors, and Georgie’s mysterious clan provide a lot of dots that could connect in surprising ways. But Michonne’s spirit and her katanas will be sorely missed.