Where Michonne’s Story Left Off on The Walking Dead


This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live episode 1.

The first episode of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live ends with the moment that The Walking Dead fans have long been waiting for.

After Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) helicopter is shot out of the sky, he battles his attackers on the ground only to be bested by a superior foe. Said foe removes Rick’s CRM-issued helmet only to be taken aback by what they see. That’s because Rick’s would-be killer is none other than his wife Michonne (Danai Gurira). For the first time since Rick exited the flagship series in 2018, two of The Walking Dead‘s most important characters are finally back together.

Thanks to the time-hopping events of The Ones Who Live‘s premiere, we know the circuitous path that Rick took to get to this encounter. It all involved: surviving a bridge explosion, ending up with the Civic Republic Military as a consignee, and then spending years trying to get away before grimly accepting that there is no escape and he might as well fix this flawed institution from the inside. Still, we don’t quite know how Michonne ended up in that Pennsylvania field reunited with her man.

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Presumably The Ones Who Live‘s second episode “Gone” will delve into Mrs. Grimes’ side of the story. Before that, however, let’s take stock of where Michonne’s saga left off on The Walking Dead as a refresher.

What Happened to Michonne After Rick Left The Walking Dead?

Rick’s absence left a big leadership vacuum on The Walking Dead that many characters eventually stepped into, including Michonne. The first post-Rick episode picks up six years after the Kentucky sheriff’s departure. Michonne has given birth to their son Rick Jr. a.k.a. R.J. and looks after their first child Judith (Cailey Fleming). She also vets Magna’s small group when they attempt to join Alexandria.

Through the rest of season 9, Michonne serves a central storytelling role in the discovery of and eventual war with the group known as The Whisperers. Michonne is even essential in establishing a sort of NATO doctrine between Alexandria and Maggie’s Hilltop, mandating that a Whisperer attack against one community is an attack against all.

Michonne doesn’t turn up in many episodes of The Walking Dead season 10 as Gurira had already cut a deal to leave the series midway through the season. When Michonne does appear though, she operates as a voice of reason among Alexandria’s leaders, urging caution in dealing with the Whisperers so that their border conflict doesn’t escalate into a full scale war.

While delivering supplies to Oceanside, Michonne comes across a mysterious man named Virgil (Kevin Carroll), which kicks off a storyline that will lead to her leaving the series in season 10 episode 13.

Why Did Michonne Leave The Walking Dead?

Perhaps you’ve noticed that the first three episodes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live are titled “Years,” “Gone,” and “Bye” while episodes four and five are titled “What We,” and “Become.” The first batch of episodes spell out “Years Gone Bye,” which is an update of Rick’s first episode, the pilot “Days Gone Bye.” Similarly, “What We Become” is the name of season 10 episode 13 a.k.a. Michonne’s last episode on The Walking Dead.

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For most of its runtime, “What We Become” is a strange experience. It begins with Michonne and her new friend/captive Virgil arriving on Bloodsworth Island where Virgil claims they will find both his family and some useful weapons for Michonne to bring back to her community. They do find Virgil’s family – sort of. They’ve all been killed and Virgil asks for Michonne’s help in putting down their undead forms.

Later on when Michonne prowls around at night looking for the promised weapons, Virgil locks her in a cell and feeds her some hallucinogenic tea made with Jimsonweed (yes, that’s real and no, you shouldn’t touch it). This is how The Walking Dead cleverly turns Michonne’s final appearance into a sort of hallucinatory greatest hits clip show with the character reliving remixed moments from her time on the show. The memories of her family give her the strength to ambush and defeat Virgil. It turns out that Virgil was a researcher on Bloodsworth who went mad and imprisoned all of his colleagues after the apocalypse.

The episode’s last act, however, is where we get the most useful information for where The Ones Who Live might pick up with Michonne’s story. Before Michonne departs from the island, she spots a pair of Rick’s boots in a closet. The now-incarcerated Virgil tells her that he found the boots on a boat that washed ashore during a storm. Also on the boat is an iPhone (a pre-2010 model obviously) with an engraving of Judith on it. Michonne now knows that Rick is alive and sets off on the repaired boat to find him.

In her final scene on The Walking Dead, Michonne continues her mission to find Rick on foot when she comes across an injured man and woman. “They’ll leave without us,” the man says, to which Michonne asks “Who?” The duo gesture to a massive caravan of survivors traveling through the valley below them. So just like how Rick once allowed Michonne into his safe prison community, Michonne agrees to help these survivors rendezvous with their people.

If The Ones Who Live episode 2 plans to delve further into Michonne’s post-Walking Dead story, that’s undoubtedly where it will pick up.

New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premiere Sundays at 9 p.m. ET on AMC.

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