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The Ones Who Live Finale

SPOILER ALERT: This article contains details of tonight’s The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Season 1 finale.

“There was always something about the connection of these two characters,” Danai Gurira says of The Walking Dead’s Michonne and Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and the reunion of the lovers over near insurmountable odds and legions of Walkers in spinoff The Ones Who Live. “The plan was always that we would complete this love story in a new form.”

It is fitting in many ways that Michonne and Rick’s love story comes full circle on a day of renewal like Easter Sunday. While there is no official word if there will be more The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live or Michonne and Rick, certainly the saving of swaths of humanity and the reunion with their children Judith (Cailey Fleming) and R.J. (Antony Azor) at the end of tonight’s Season 1 finale is as fulfilling as any fan of the zombie apocalypse franchise could ask for.

Having debuted on February 25 after what seemed like years of delays, the six spinoffs in the TWDverse saw Grimes a cog in the machine of the Civic Republic Military in what used to be Philadelphia and Michonne trekking up the East Coast of what used to be the United States of America to finally find him. Initially set as a series of Rick Grimes movies, the ‘The Last Time’ finale of the first season of the six-episode Scott Gimple, Gurira and Lincoln created Ones Who Live literally held not just the fate of Rick and Michonne in its hand but the whole human race.

With the now one handed Grimes and Michonne racing against time to stop Beale (Terry O’Quinn) the  Major General of the Civic Republic Military, from his grand plan to wipe out Portland and all other remaining independent city states, the Gimple and Channing Powell penned episode successfully pulle doff the near impossible task of tying together the profusion of narrative threads that have weaved through the lives of the characters since TWD’s 2010 premiere.

Regardless of if humanity has just 14 years left, as Beale tells Grimes that scientists estimate as the Walker disease spreads, ‘The Last Time’ leaves us knowing Rick and Michonne have brought their family together in the purest expression of what it is to be human.

In that context, Black Panther alum Gurira spoke with me about tonight’s finale, if there will be more Richonne, and what love means at the end of the world.

DEADLINE: There is a line in tonight’s finale, “love doesn’t die,” which kind of says it all of what Michonne and Rick have been through and are going through in The Ones Who Live. What does that line mean to you?

DANAI GURIRA: It really is what she’s been through and how she struggled.

By that I mean the level of struggle she’s had to go through and even the trauma he’s been through, it didn’t kill anything. It didn’t take anything away from what they have and who they are to each other. It didn’t take away from how much their love survives anything. How their love has actually triumphed over all that they’ve been through. So, the idea that you give up on love is just is just not something that you that she would ever do, and it doesn’t make sense to do. It’s really standing I guess, in the triumph of the combination of their journey.

DEADLINE: ‘The Last Time’ ends with Rick and Michonne having saved Portland from annihilation, having overthrown the tyranny of the CRM, and having at last reunited with their children R.J. and Judith. On many levels it is a complete ending to their saga, but …

GURIRA: There’s a but…

DEADLINE: There’s a but, but this is why they call it show business and not show family, and Ones Who Live has been a pretty big hit for AMC, a strong arm of the Walking Dead universe, so, will there be a Season 2?

GURIRA: (LAUGHS) Well, as you know, there can be no response to such a question.


GURIRA: You know, my job is to constantly misdirect you. But, I can tell you it was a beautiful thing to film and it was just so glorious to watch Antony with Andy. He was he’s usually a bit more reserved, but there was something about them meeting as it was the same for RJ meeting Rick. Here is this looming powerful character that has been a presence around him but never there, you know. And so just seeing them connect and seeing how much that RJ, Anthony, lit up they just had such an amazing rapport.  It was it was really special.

DEADLINE: Was this how you envisioned Rick and Michonne and the childrens’ story ending, cause it got a bit dicey for Rick a few times in this finale – one time in particular where it looked like he was Walker meat…

GURIRA: It’s really has been an incredible journey and, the journey into we knew we had to accomplish what we were proposing with how we both left the original Walking Dead. It was actually an unconventional journey and unconventional pairing, but it was organic.

DEADLINE: How do you mean?

GURIRA: There was always something about the connection of these two characters The plan was always that we would complete this love story in a new form. I’m really thankful for how it’s turned out.

Also, I just wanted to shout out a lot of love to our amazing crew, the new folks who came in and took this journey with us, definitely to the OGS we had with us. Thank you to all.

DEADLINE: We’ve seen this love story amidst the horror of the zombie apocalypse play out for years and years on screen. But in The Ones Who Live, we also saw you not only coming up with the story for the season with Gimple and Andy, but writing the fourth episode ‘What We.’ An episode that is franchise defining in many ways, especially with Michonne finally stripping away Rick’s barriers, for lack of a better expression, and allowing the trauma of the death of his son Carl back in The Walking Dead years to be expressed, the way it figuratively and emotionally blinded him.

With all that, did your perspective on the show, on Michonne change with that additional role behind the scenes?

GURIRA: Oh yes.

You have a limited set, you have a limited space, you have limited people and you have to keep the ball in the air, you know what I mean? That’s the sweet spot for play, right? It was very intense.


GURIRA: I was trying to thread the needle of pushing them as far away from their normal selves as we could while keeping them themselves and also allowing it to be threaded through the idea of what is holding Rick back. Making that reason, something that resonates emotionally. Not something that’s logical because wounds are never logical, they’re emotional. They need to be understood by our humanity, human understanding.

So, when we finally do get in there, when Michonne finally gets him to the place where he can, express the thing that’s inside him that is stopping him from doing what he knows is the thing to do. You know, that we really get it, and it’s that sort of expected surprise, like, oh, okay, I get that. We understand why he’s been so difficult.

DEADLINE: Of course, Carl comes up in the finale, when Andy’s Rick talks about him in that tense briefing scene with Terry O’Quinn’s Beale, where the attack on Portland and the plan for martial law and military rule is unveiled. There’s also the larger briefing that Michonne attends, where it is laid out how the CRM has had moles in the Portland school system and how 10% of the children will be scurried away before the attack, kidnapped to be part of the CRM machine so to speak. This felt to me like Russia’s abduction of children from Ukraine, this felt to me like the abduction of people for the slave trade.

You’re masked, but there is so much in your eyes as you see the images of the children, especially the little boy who could be RJ … what was that like for you, because God, you were so present in that moment from what I saw.

GURIRA: Thank you.

Yeah, there’s a difficulty of being under a mask, but you know, the reality of the horror she’s witnessing, these plans and looking at the photos of the faces –  that’s the connection.

She’s a very humane person who’s who does fight for good of others, and this is apparent here, how she’s knows she must stop this attack from happening, You see that actually the choice that she had made at the end of her time on the mothership show, when she goes through that trippy experience where she sees who she could have been. She’s chosen to be someone very different from that possible darkness that she had once had inside her.

I mean, the frightening thing is yes, there are real life resonances that that scene really provokes. And that’s what’s so frightening about it. And that’s so yeah, it was very much about those sorts of things running through her. Michonne was like I can’t there’s no way I can live with that. Yeah, I can’t just walk away. I’m glad if it resonated like that with you, especially the fact that there are some real day issues that we face today that unfortunately, look similar.

And of course, she’s thinking of her own children, and what it would mean to lose them like that.
That’s why the last picture is what it was. and I chose that one.

DEADLINE: That’s a that’s a very powerful choice, both as a creator and an actor to have to respond to that, I mean it’s your own child…

GURIRA: Yeah,  I told them on the set to have her see that young boy at the end, because that’s was going to tip her over. Completely.

DEADLINE: With that, what has this journey to this point been like for you?

GURIRA: It’s really been a gift and a blessing to be a part of this franchise, Dominic, really.

The way it was built from the ground up was very appealing to me. I was in the thick of being a playwright and when this role came around, and I had turned down other job opportunities because I just wasn’t ready to commit myself to something the way TV requires you.

But when this came along, I just kind of knew watching these actors on screen from Jon Bernthal to Andy to Steven, Yeun all of them, it was really inspiring. I thought these guys are going for it like they’re not leaving anything at home. There’s real sweat, you know, and I loved that. So, I committed, but you know, it was a famous character from the comic book, it was the sword, which was great. But the journey I’ve gotten to take with her, and the way she was able to evolve and we were really able to make her something grounded in the comic book, into her own thing, that was something so special.

DEADLINE: I know that we can’t talk about future seasons or there not being future seasons, but, let’s work on the assumption that this might be the end …

GURIRA: Let’s…

DEADLINE:  Looking back on your time as a part of this franchise, your time playing Michonne,  what are your feelings about this final episode, these final scenes these final moments of what might be your final episode in this role that you played for so many years?

GURIRA: I wish I had my sword for longer.

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