Michonne’s Exit From ‘The Walking Dead’ Explained

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Warning: Spoilers for the tenth The Walking Dead season, including this week’s episode, “Walk with Us,” will be found below.

We have known now for over a year that Danai Gurira would be leaving The Walking Dead (after eight seasons on the series as Michonne) to pursue other opportunities, namely her role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and that as a showrunner of HBO Max’s Americanah (which will star fellow TWDer Corey Hawkins). After being on the show for 125 episodes, in this week’s “What We Become,” Michonne has finally exited the series.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: Michonne is not killed off of the series. As expected, her exit is written in such a way that she will be able to join the Rick Grimes’ movies. In fact, her search for Rick Grimes’ will play prominently in one of those movies, if not the first one. So, we do not have to say goodbye to Michonne, just “see you later.” Potentially much later, given how long it has taken to get the Rick Grimes’ movies off the ground and the disruption caused by the pandemic to the original schedule Scott Gimple may have had in mind (it has already resulted in AMC pushing back the spin-off series, The World Beyond).

As for the actual exit? I have mixed feelings. Michonne does get the meaty exit that Angela Kang promised, but the episode (written by Vivian Tse) may as well have been co-written by Scott Gimple, because the episode is not really a The Walking Dead episode. It’s a “The Walking Dead universe” episode, and one that is almost completely separate from the main show and its storyline, which delivered one of the best episodes in recent years last week. To be honest, “What We Become” feels a little like Thor’s weird cave bath in Avengers: Age of Ultron. It was less about the movie than it was about the MCU. The same can be said for this episode.

The episode sees Michonne travel to the naval base with Virgil, as expected, but once she arrives, nothing is as she expected. There are no munitions. There are no weapons. There is no stash. There is nothing on the island that can help Alexandria with The Whisperers. Moreover, Virgils’ family is actually dead. On the island, Virgil had little experience with zombies, as it turns out. When they brought in a newcomer, things went haywire, and Virgil locked all the doors to the base without realizing his family was locked inside. Virgil brought Michonne back to the island to kill his zombiefied family.

Michonne is a better sport about it than she should be, and actually agrees to the favor (because at this point, she still believes there’s a cache of hidden weapons somewhere). However, after accomplishing the task, Virgil — who is a bit off his nut — locks Michonne inside the base. He gives her tea that makes Michonne hallucinate. This is best part of the episode, although it doesn’t move the plot forward so much as it acknowledges Michonne’s contributions to Alexandria and the series. Basically, under a hallucinatory spell, Michonne dabbles in some It’s a Wonderful Life revisionism and envisions what might have happened if she had never saved Andrea. Mixing Danai Gurira with some old The Walking Dead footage, as well as a few new scenes (with Negan), we basically see scenarios in which Michonne not only becomes a Savior, but Negan’s “right-hand gal,” the person who uses Lucille in the execution scene. Eventually, we also see Michonne felled by an arrow from Daryl’s bow and put down by Rick, borrowing that iconic shot in which Rick shoots Sophia.

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It’s a brilliant sequence, and well performed by Gurira and directed by Sharat Raju, but with all due respect, no one thought for a moment that Michonne would not have escaped this. After eight seasons, Michonne wasn’t going to be killed off The Walking Dead by a rando named Virgil. Indeed, Michonne does free herself, as well as the other people Virgil had held captive inside the base. She also convinces the others to spare Virgil’s life, because Michonne is still on Rick’s mercy kick. They agree not to kill him, as long as they are allowed to leave.

Meanwhile, Michonne takes one last look around for weapons inside a naval ship, and that’s where she finds evidence that Rick is still alive, in the form of his cowboy boots and an iPhone.

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Michonne confronts Virgil about the items, but Virgil has no idea where Rick’s stuff came from. However, he encourages Michonne to look for him. Michonne radios back home to Judith, and briefs her on the possibility that Rick is alive. It’s Judith that insists that Michonne look for Rick. “If there’s a chance he’s alive, then you have to go find him,” Judith tells her. “You have to go. You have to. What if he needs you more? What if he’s trying to come home to you but no one will help him?” Michonne accedes to Judith’s wishes, not that there was ever any doubt. “I’m going to head north,” Michonne tells her before signing off.

Some time passes, and at the end of the episode, we see Michonne — wearing her cloak again, and dragging defanged zombies behind her on leashes — approached by two people, begging Michonne to help them. “Help us. They’ll leave without us,” they say. “Who?” Michonne asks. Beyond them, there is a huge community in military formation, marching away. “Come on,” Michonne says to them, reaching out her hand.

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And that’s it. Michonne has left The Walking Dead and officially entered The Walking Dead universe. There’s a lot still unknown, and lots more to explore, and I’m sure we will in the days and weeks and months to come.

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