The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live – The Last Time


The final episode of the limited series of The Walking Dead The Ones Who Live, “The Last Time,” is above all else about belief. Michonne, his kids, and most in his community believe that Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is the “brave man.” Okafor, believes he is an ‘A,’ capable of driving change in the CRM from the inside. Major General Beale believes Rick may be a powerful symbol for Civic Republic citizens who will have their freedom restricted since he was the ‘one who returned’ after years of confinement by the CRM. For many fans, Rick Grimes is the character they have the greatest emotional stake in and believe should live. So, the show’s creators deserve all praise for, in a franchise-defying move, giving Rick and Michonne fans what they want—allowing them to live! Let’s see how we got there.

“The Last One” – THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE. Pictured: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Danai Gurira as Michonne. Photo: Gene Page/AMC ©2024 AMC Networks International. All Rights Reserved.

In S9:E5, “What Comes After,” Rick is seriously wounded attempting to salvage a bridge that symbolizes his son Carl’s vision for the future. In The Ones Who Live, Rick languishes emotionally wounded in the CRM for years. The episode, “The Last Time,” expands on the main show’s themes of healing and connecting to the future using the healing power of love, which is where Michonne comes in. Episode 1, “Years,” explores Rick’s struggle to live without Michonne and his family. He proclaims that he would die without her. In Braveheart, William Wallace said, “Every man dies, but not every man truly lives.” Rick’s circumstances are similar. Rick was alive, yet he was not truly living without Michonne’s love. She is his partner, his passion, and his purpose. Following hearing the Echelon Briefing, Rick immediately kills Beale while declaring, “We (he and Michonne) are one unstoppable life!” But I am getting ahead of myself.
The episode opens with Rick and Michonne in bed with character voiceovers from previous episodes. Rick slides a ring on Michonne’s finger. This act of love is meant to symbolize Rick’s full-circle healing. “Healers in all major traditions recognize that the power of love is the most potent healing force available to all human beings” (Arrien, 1993, p. 49). First, the flashbacks show Rick gaining strength from his past experiences. He remembers what he thought he had forgotten about how he protected Michonne, his children, and his community. Second, Rick has been partially restored to health by giving and receiving physical pleasure. It was not lost on me that Rick has taken the more dominant position in bed, and as they planned to breach the CRM’s Cascadia Forward Operating Base. This base is the location Okafor sent Rick and Thorne to set up and Thorne brought Dana (aka Michonne) to work. Their familiarity with the base partially explains the relative ease with which Rick and Michonne triumph over the mighty CRM. Also, the series dwelled on their physical acts of love to reinforce how the couple deepened their emotional bonds, trust, and vulnerability to become that “one unstoppable” force that eventually overwhelmed the CRM.

“The Last One” – THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE. Pictured: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Terry O’Quinn as Major General Beal. Photo: Gene Page/AMC ©2024 AMC Networks International. All Rights Reserved.

Rick and Michonne’s fight with the CRM corresponded to their fight with the Saviors. In S6:E12, “Not Tomorrow Yet,” after agreeing to help the Hilltop in exchange for food, Rick pitches to the Alexandrians that they need to conduct a first strike against the Saviors. He tells Alexandrians, “I know it sounds insane, but this is an insane world. We must come for them before they come for us.” This logic aligns with the same line of thinking that Beale reveals in the Echelon Briefing. During the briefing, Beale shares photos of hordes of millions of the dead as proof that the world is already dead. As a result, the remaining humans are competing for dwindling resources. Beale’s reasons that the CRM had to destroy Omaha and, in 18 hours, will destroy Portland, as well as any other community of significance in the future. He states, “The stakes are too high for freedom.” Beale has done the calculus and decided that the CRM will come for these locations before these locations come for them. Recognizing the fault in Beale’s logic, Rick kills him.

“The Last One” – THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE. Pictured: Danai Gurira as Michonne. Photo: Gene Page/AMC ©2024 AMC Networks International. All Rights Reserved.   

The weakest part of this episode is the fight with the CRM after Beale’s death. The CRM is a formidable force, 2,500 strong, and armed to the teeth. It strains credulity that, while Michonne and Rick are now one unstoppable life, they could singlehandedly outmaneuver the CRM. But they do. Fine. However, my complaint is they were too obvious in their effort. They both let their emotions get the better of them. Michonne storms out of the mandatory Portland briefing, and no one questions or stops her. Rick is in an elevator with Beale’s body. When a CRM soldier enters, Rick cannot stop glancing at the container, which draws the soldier’s attention. Was it that Rick was concerned that Beale would turn into a walker and give him away? I do not know, but the slow elevator ride created one of the most anxiety-producing moments in the episode. Michonne uses information gleaned from Nat to rig walkers to bombs. I would have found it more affecting if Michonne had lit the bombs using Nat’s lighter that Rick had returned to her – but that is just sentimental old me. When the bomb goes off, it miraculously kills everybody except Rick, Michonne, and Thorne. Thorne fights with both Rick and Michonne. Rick gets caught in a crowd of walkers until he uses a grenade to miraculously kill the walkers who surround him, but he emerges unscathed. Michonne ultimately uses Beale’s sword to kill Thorne, but not before lecturing her about how she and Rick live because they never let go of their love for each other. In the end, Thorne concedes that she hopes they are right, and Beale is not. In short, the takedown of the CRM was kind of unbelievable.


“The Last One” – THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE. Pictured: Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. Photo: Gene Page/AMC ©2024 AMC Networks International. All Rights Reserved. 

What is believable is that The Ones Who Live is an apocalyptic love letter to fans of Rick and Michonne. As viewers, we were asked to believe for 5 or 6 years that Rick Grimes would return. Rick returns in The Ones Who Live literally as the Walking Dead. While his physical body remains intact, his soul, which essentializes him as a human, is gone. Rick and Michonne overcome impossible odds to find each other in a hostile environment filled with the deadly living and non-living. Michonne once led Rick to Alexandria’s relative safety, and she led him home to himself. Because of Michonne, Rick learns to believe in life again. He learns to embrace what he most fears, which is losing her and Carl all over again while trying to continue to keep breathing. Michonne came back to Rick. She brings Carl back to Rick. Herschel foretold, “You get to come back.” And so, Rick and Michonne got to come back to their children. Upon meeting his son, RJ, for the first time, RJ asks: “You’re the brave man?” Rick says, “I am, but maybe you can call me Dad.” RJ says: “I knew you would come back.” “How?” Rick asks. “I believed.”


“The Last One” – THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE. Pictured: Danai Gurira as Michonne, Cailey Fleming as Judith, Anthony Azor as RJ and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. Photo: Gene Page/AMC ©2024 AMC Networks International. All Rights Reserved. 

It is not often that The Walking Dead has such a successful and joyous finale. I know some viewers were frustrated that the episode did not devote adequate time to unraveling all of the CRM’s secrets, such as what PPP means and who and where the sleeper CRM agents are. Some criticize the show’s handling of this aspect, comparing it to setting up a premise for a great joke and then failing to deliver the punchline. For them, the story fell flat. Sorry, but The Ones Who Live is not a CRM story. The creators used the CRM as a plot device to further Rick and Michonne’s love and reunification story. The creators of The Ones Who Live set out to accomplish something unique—to finish a great love story—and they more than succeeded. As a self-proclaimed romantic movie and fiction fan, the creators fulfilled the promise of this genre, which is a commitment to and belief in love. In summary, the story allows our lovers, Richonne, to connect deeply on both physical and emotional levels; they overcome obstacles to perceive the “dead” world as a place that is far less cynical, hopeless, and fearful; and they successfully return home. They found their way home, a place of warmth, acceptance, safety, and stability for themselves and their children. Belief in love WINS! So what did you think of the The Last Time? What are your thoughts about the series as a whole? Where do you see a potential for future Rick and Michonne story lines? Let me know and we’ll chat about it.

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