“What We Become” sees off Danai Gurira’s Michonne in a… bizarre farewell episode that felt like a bit of a disservice to a long-time fan-favorite character.
This recap of The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 13, “What We Become”, contains spoilers. You can check out our thoughts on the previous episode by clicking these words.
Since Angela Kang took over The Walking Dead the show has been much, much better — I think that’s indisputable. And we’ve had a couple of strong sendoffs since then, most notably the departure of Rick Grimes in a blaze of glory and a spin-off-ready cliffhanger. Secondary characters died in service of the plot, at least, and while Lauren Cohan’s Maggie vanished off-screen, she’s apparently coming back. Danai Gurira, as far as we know, isn’t, at least not to the show. “What We Become” was her final episode, a swansong for a fan-favorite character who has enjoyed a long and storied tenure all throughout the show’s many ups and downs. And for the most part, it was garbage.
Not to overstate the matter, obviously. The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 13 had some decent moments, the best of which were able to leverage the show’s history and finally address a couple of things that never sat right in the first place. In some ways, it felt like Kang trying to redress some of the show’s worst decisions and impulses, which is fine, but the manner in which she chose to do it — in a drug-induced delirium, on a secluded island nothing to do with anything — left a lot to be desired.
From the opening of “What We Become”, in which Michonne in her classic hood, sword, and jawless, armless zombie pet getup, watches Andrea (Laurie Holden) be eaten by zombies, it’s obvious that this is going to be an hour about what might have been. This theme is reflected later, once Michonne is imprisoned and given spiked tea by Virgil (Kevin Carroll), who it turns out isn’t quite as trustworthy as you’d expect a random weirdo living on an island during a zombie apocalypse to be. Fancy that!
But we take our time getting to that point. Virgil talks ominously of “others” who came to the island, brought violence and killed his family, but the local history isn’t something that the episode is willing to really unpack. What matters is that Virgil was lying in order to entice Michonne to the island, which is in large part overrun. His family is dead, many of the other residents have offed themselves in a chilling group suicide that Michonne discovers while clearing out a local lab, and there don’t seem to be any weapons anywhere. Virgil wants Michonne to stay, but she’s reluctant and eventually goes exploring on her own, at which point Virgil locks her inside a cell; three of his former friends occupy another, and explain that, since losing his wife and kids, Virgil has snapped.
Michonne naively eats the food and drinks the tea provided by Virgil, which sends her spiralling down a rabbit hole of delirium. She sees Siddiq (Avi Nash) and her past self. She’s dragged into the forest from the beginning and once again witnesses Andrea being snaffled by walkers. She sees Daryl (Norman Reedus), and cries out for help, only to be ignored. The most interesting sequence in The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 13 is when Michonne is recruited by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and becomes a Saviour, in large part because of how Rick and the Survivors compromised themselves during the conflict, murdering people in cold blood, in their sleep. The callback to Abraham and Glenn’s deaths, during which she menacingly wields Lucille, is great what-if territory that feels as though it has some kind of point to make about the direction this show has taken over the years.
But “What We Become” abandons this idea just as it starts getting interesting. Michonne’s able to stab Virgil and free both herself and the other survivors, and while Virgil has set their boat on fire, another has washed up in the shallows. It’s all rather convenient, and that’s before Michonne starts to discover Rick’s possessions. She at first suspects that Virgil went to Oceanside specifically to find her, after having seen her on Rick’s phone, but he’s too pitiable a figure for that kind of thing. This is all just coincidence. And it’s a coincidence that leads Michonne to pursue these sparse clues in lieu of returning to her children, who’re currently in the midst of a war.
It feels out of character for Michonne to make this choice, even after an admittedly touching radio conversation with Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor) tells her explicitly to do so. Fleming is great here, a solitary tear betraying her true feelings as she urges her mother to go after “the brave man” who perhaps needs her more than they do. She’s just working with material that, in large part, doesn’t make much sense. Michonne wouldn’t do this, and no kids in their right mind would allow her to anyway. Nevertheless, Michonne is heading north. And she’s doing so in her classic gear, which is a nice touch until it’s immediately abandoned so she can help two strangers return to their travelling, surprisingly well-organized community. If this is a metaphor for Michonne abandoning her old persona to embrace her newer, more altruistic one, it doesn’t really work. And if it’s foreshadowing for this sizeable new group, it’s too nebulous to work on that level, either.
Our farewell to such a well-established character shouldn’t be fraught with this many questions. It shouldn’t have occurred in complete isolation from the rest of the regular cast, none of whom she got a chance to properly interact with. It was a disappointing and largely illogical way of handling Danai Gurira’s exit, and one can’t help but hope she does appear in either Rick’s movie or some other project if only to get the sendoff she deserves. “What We Become”, however, certainly wasn’t it.
We are fast becoming the number one independent website for streaming coverage. Please support Ready Steady Cut today. Secure its future — we need you!
Jonathon is the Co-Founder of Ready Steady Cut and has been Senior Editor and Chief Critic of the outlet since 2017.