Danai Gurira Departs The Walking Dead — and Sends Michonne on a Whole New Mission
WARNING: This article contains spoilers from Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead.
Danai Gurira swung her katana as Michonne one last time — for now, anyway — on The Walking Dead in Sunday night’s “What We Become.” But her departure after seven seasons may just send her on an adventure that will be featured in those upcoming flicks.
The episode began with a flashback to Michonne’s introduction on the show, when she wore a hood and walked with a pair of armless, mouthless walkers on a chain behind her as protection, and watched as Andrea (Laurie Holden) stumbled while running for her life.
Next we see Michonne and Virgil (Kevil Carroll) arriving on his home island from Oceanside, where Virgil was promising a cache of supplies and weapons. Immediately, something seems off, and Michonne begins to poke around what appears to be a Navy research center in the middle of the night. Turns out, she was right, and Virgil traps her and drugs her. During a lucid moment, she begins to communicate with three others — former colleagues of Virgil’s to describe him snapping after the death of his wife and kids — who are also trapped in an adjacent room.
During one especially terrifying trip, Siddiq (Avi Nash), who died earlier this season, visits Michonne and blames her for his death, as well as Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) and Carl’s (Chandler Riggs). During another, longer vision, Michonne imagines an alternate reality where she let Andrea die in that field, was ignored when Daryl (Norman Reedus) drove by her, and was picked up by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and the Saviors. Making matters ever more chilling, Savior Michonne witnessed Rick and Glenn (Steven Yeun) during the Savior outpost massacre and ascended the ranks to become Negan’s right-hand woman. In this reality, it was up to her to decide who lived or died during the infamous “eeny meeny” moment — and instead of choosing Glenn and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), she seemingly chooses a version of herself. Ultimately, Savior Michonne is killed when Daryl shoots her with an arrow in the chest, followed by a bullet in the head at the hands of Rick and his iconic pistol.
“It was very chilling for me,” Gurira said on Talking Dead of filming the Savior Michonne scenes. “The idea that she ends up with Negan felt plausible in a scary way… It was so freaky.”
She sobers up just in time for Virgil to visit her — and she attacks. When she manages to exit the building (after saving the three other captives), the boat which could’ve meant a swift escape is in flames. Michonne then urges the other three to spare Virgil. “Your mercy gives you something. You get something,” she says. “What?” one of them asks. “Peace,” she promises.
That winds up offering Michonne much more than peace though. As she’s collecting her stuff, she stumbles upon a very familiar pair of cowboy boots. Oh my god, they’re Rick’s!
When she demands that Virgil explain, he takes her to another boat that’s washed up onshore. There, she finds an old mobile phone and etched into its face is drawings of Michonne and (a strangely current-aged) Judith and a Japanese phrase. Another clear sign of life for Rick, who has been missing ever since he led a horde of walkers onto a bridge that later exploded with him still on it in season 9 (he was picked up by a helicopter, but Michonne doesn’t know that, and a six-year time jump followed).
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She, Virgil and the four islanders get the boat fixed, but Virgil remains on the island as Michonne and the trio set sail. While aboard, Michonne checks in with her kids, Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Rick Jr. (Antony Azor). Judith paints a not-quite accurate picture for her mom about how things are going on the mainland with the Whisperers, but assures her they are fine. When Michonne tells Judith about signs that “The Brave Man” may be alive, Judith insists that mom go looking for him.
“If you think he’s alive then you have to go find him,” Judith says. “You have to. We’re ok. What if he needs you more? What if he’s trying to come home to you but no one will help?”
“Okay. Okay, baby girl,” Michonne concedes. “I’m going to try. I’m going to head north.”
“It was really only Judith who could give Michonne that permission,” Gurira explained on Talking Dead.
In the final moments of the episode, Michonne finds herself a pair of walkers, slices off their arms and mouths and begins to use them as protection, much like we saw her in her first moments back in season 3. Soon, she meets a couple who’ve been injured and are falling behind their pack of people, which is massive and appears to be migrating. She agrees to help them, and off they go.
So, will we see Michonne’s mission to find Rick in the movies? We shall see. But it sure seems likely, doesn’t it?
“Both Rick Grimes and Andy Lincoln would not give up those boots very easily,” Walking Dead franchise chief Scott M. Gimple teased on Talking Dead. “The etching: there’s the Japanese phrase there, there’s Michonne, there’s what looks to be a more current Judith than perhaps Rick… All I can say is obviously those are clues that something’s going on there and that there’s a whole story unfolding somewhere and Michonne might be moving towards it.”
As for that Japanese phrase, showrunner Angela Kang told Entertainment Weekly it said something like “Believe a little longer.” “It was a message to Rick from somebody, somehow on this boat,” Kang continued. “By steering Virgil, it’s sort of the universe rewarded her with finding these clues that Rick is indeed alive somewhere, or he was not too long ago.”
Later on Talking Dead, Gimple confirmed Michonne’s “story isn’t done… There’s more to do with Michonne.”
Gurira announced she would be leaving The Walking Dead during San Diego Comic-Con in July 2019. “I would just like to say this has been one of the purest joys in my life,” the Black Panther star said, referring to her decision to leave the show as “very difficult.”
“I am very very thankful for the experience I’ve had in ways that I can’t even express right now,” she continued. “My heart does not leave … it doesn’t ever end, the connection between us never ends. It was a very difficult decision. It was about my calling and other things I feel called to… as a creator of work. All I’m filled with is a lot of pain about leaving and a lot of gratitude and to all of you. I love you guys. TWD family is forever.”
The first Walking Dead spinoff movie is expected to arrive in movie theaters but has not begun filming. In the meantime, Gurira is hard at work writing and producing the HBO Max series adaptation of Americanah.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.