'The Walking Dead' Looks to the Past to Usher in Michonne's Future (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Eliza Morse/AMC

[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 Episode 13, “What We Become.”]

Much as it did for Rick’s final episode, AMC made it no secret that “What We Become” would be Michonne’s final installment on The Walking Dead. And, much like Rick’s final episode, this final chapter is dedicated to her character — to her beginnings, her development and, of course, who she became.

Plot-wise, the episode centers around Michonne’s travels to Tangier Sound with Virgil, who — as you probably guessed — definitely isn’t what he seems. She finds herself in a precarious situation with no good options, and must fight both her captor and her own demons in order to break free… and find a hint that might lead her on an unexpected voyage.

Alternate History

The episode opens with a flashback that takes us allllll the way back to Season 2. Michonne imagines what would’ve happened if she hadn’t responded to Andrea (Laurie Holden)’s cries for help, instead leaving her to be torn apart by walkers. Yeah, that’s our first clue that at some point in the next 45-ish minutes, Michonne will find herself in a very dark mental place.

And she most certainly does. As many suspected, Virgil is not what he seems. He’s oddly evasive once they reach the island, and as it turns out, his family has long been dead: He wanted Michonne’s help in setting them free by killing their walker selves. Why can’t Virgil do it? Well, for one thing, they’re stuck inside a building. And for another, Virgil says he doesn’t know how to kill walkers — he’s relying on Michonne’s katana skills.

You Ruined Everything

Luckily for him, Michonne’s a total bada**. Although there are some close calls, she accomplishes the mission, and Virgil is able to bury his wife. But again, when she asks, Virgil skirts around his end of the bargain. He says it’s too late to get the missiles now, and they agree to go get them “first thing in the morning.”

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Except Michonne doesn’t wait that long. While Virgil sleeps, she sneaks into a different building and finds herself in what appears to be a testing facility… and then, she’s locked inside a room with no means of escape. “You ruined everything!” Virgil yells at her, while she pleads with him to free her, all to no avail.

Orange Backpack… Michonne?!

Michonne falls asleep and wakes up, horrified to find it’s daytime and there’s fresh food sitting in front of her. She hears voices on the other side of the wall, and they explain they were Virgil’s research assistants and friends. He used to be a kind man who ran a community on the island, but when supplies ran short and people revolted, he unknowingly caused his family’s deaths by locking them in the building where Michonne found them earlier. That caused him to snap. Michonne introduces herself to the people, and she starts to eat the food.

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Yeah… eating the food — or rather, the tea — wasn’t a great idea. Virgil explains to her that the tea on the island has “a gift” that can help her the way it helped him, and as a result, Michonne starts to have vivid hallucinations. First comes Siddiq (Avi Nash), who blames her for his death and her inability to protect the people she loves. Then she returns to the episode’s opening scene, pulls a knife off of Andrea’s barely identifiable body, and starts pushing through the woods. She turns into the infamous “Orange Backpack Guy” from Season 3, and Daryl leaves her behind, ignoring her cries for help. Injured, she finds herself surrounded by walkers. She finds an unexpected savior (ha!) in Negan, who takes her in as a member of his group.

Negan’s Right-Hand Gal

Michonne experiences the attack on the Savior satellite outpost from the other side, barely surviving while her friends are killed by the likes of Glenn (Steven Yeun), Rick and Heath (Corey Hawkins). She then finds herself looking down at her friends — former pals like Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and even Carl (Chandler Riggs) — during the lineup scene, where Negan gives his “right-hand gal” the Lucille kill. Kneeling in front of a terrified Rick, Michonne reprimands them for what they did to her companions, saying, “You didn’t know s**t about them, but you came in the dead of night and slaughtered them anyway.” She eventually Lucille’s herself; the “good” version of her who kneeled on the ground. Eventually, during All Out War, she takes an arrow to the chest and Rick puts her out of her misery.

Back in the real world, Michonne comes to her senses. She attacks Virgil, stabbing him in the leg and setting the people in the other room free. They all escape together, but they don’t make it far, because Virgil got out too and set fire to the boat. When they and Virgil collide, Michonne convinces the angry trio not to kill him. “Your mercy gives you something,” she says. “Peace.”

A Shocking Discovery

They lock up Virgil just as he’d locked them up, and Michonne interrogates him, saying there’s no weapons on the island. He says he didn’t lie to her — and his grand plan was to have Michonne as his “bodyguard” when he let the rest of the people out, in case they tried to kill him. Michonne orders him to find her stuff, and they make it to a storage room where she finds Rick’s boots. Virgil got them from a washed-up boat, which he leads her to. There she finds undeniable evidence Rick is — or at least was — alive, carved into an iPhone screen: a drawing of herself and Judith, with “Rick” written at the top.

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No matter how Michonne threatens or screams at Virgil, he maintains he doesn’t know anything about Rick. Virgil points out they can get the engine working again, and with a functioning mode of transportation, Michonne can try to find him. They do just that, and Michonne sets out with the others while Virgil chooses to stay behind.

Tracking Down CRM

Michonne then radios Judith and RJ, and she tells them there’s a chance “the brave man” is still alive. At first she isn’t willing to leave them, but Judith pushes her to do so, saying they’ll be fine and that the Whisperers have been defeated. Michonne, determined to bring their dad home, relents and says she’ll radio them every morning. “I love you both so much,” she says.

The boat reaches the coast, and Team Michonne steps onto land. She takes two walker “pets” and starts investigating, only to run into two people struggling to make it to a huge, military-ish procession. “Please,” the woman says. “They won’t wait for us.” In that way, Michonne’s story ends as it began. Remembering when Rick saved her at the prison, she dispatches her walkers with a flourish of her katana and takes the man’s hand. “Come on,” she says, and she starts to move toward the group — and, presumably, toward the man she loves.

Other Observations

  • This might be a controversial episode, but I enjoyed it. Was it as good as Rick’s last episode? Maybe not, but I’ll take it. There were very few ways to realistically write Michonne out of the show and have her leave her kids behind without killing her off. With her not realizing the extent of the Whisperer threat, she’s simply following her daughter’s encouragement.
  • Much as I felt Rick’s episode summed up his character, thematically, I think “What We Become” was a great tribute to Michonne. Many of us had probably forgotten Michonne used to be very different than the person she became, and this episode paid tribute to the vengeful, angry streak that led her to keep those first walker pets, as well as the forgiving, strong woman she became. Plus, how cool was it to see all the old cast members? Rick? Sasha? Glenn!
  • Bear McCreary’s score this episode was phenomenally moving. While it’s possible nothing will ever beat the music accompanying the pikes reveal, the score for this episode’s final moments was utterly beautiful.
  • Danai Gurira was, as always, phenomenal. The Walking Dead just won’t be the same without her.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC