Let’s be clear: “What We Become” would be a bad episode of “The Walking Dead” even if it didn’t turn out to be the final in-series appearance of one of the show’s most enduring and beloved characters. It’s dull and lifeless, with no character development to speak of, and its centerpiece is an extended, drama-free hallucination that serves no obvious purpose. What’s more, it’s got a stock antagonist who serves exclusively as a plot device to get Michonne from point A to point B, with point B being the Rick Grimes Sunday Mystery Movies. Unfortunately, that journey is utterly tedious and lacks any sense of import.
Virgil (Kevin Carroll) is quickly revealed to be a standard “driven mad by the death of his family” character who’s brought Michonne to his facility to do what he can’t and kill off his zombified wife and children. Michonne, rightfully suspicious of this obvious weirdo, snoops around a bit and gets quickly locked in a cell by Virgil, next to some other island residents he’s also been keeping prisoner. Turns out Virgil regularly ingests hallucinogens (in this case jimsonweed) to see his dead family and figures that Michonne’s in pain and could use a good dose herself. This is when things go from rote to dire.
First, she imagines Siddiq — complete with half-baked “trippy” effects — who accuses her of letting him and many others die. Nothing groundbreaking here, but Michonne having lingering guilt about letting Dante infiltrate Alexandria at least makes logical sense. Then things take a turn.
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Michonne dreams up an entire alternate timeline, kicking off with her refusing to save Andrea way back in Season 2, which leads to her becoming Negan’s second-in-command and eventually getting killed by Daryl and Rick. All of this is conveyed by awkwardly inserting Danai Gurira into scenes from old episodes, including the Ricketeers’ initial attack on the Saviors (remember when our heroes murdered a bunch of people in their sleep?) and Negan’s introduction when he beat a few cast members to death, only this time Michonne gets to do the honors. If these scenes are meant to mirror Rick’s hallucinatory conversations with old cast members from “What Comes After,” that was at least new material with returning actors we hadn’t seen in some time. This Michonne vision just feels like everyone spent a few days goofing around with a green screen.
The real question is, why is this what Michonne sees? She’s never seemed haunted or conflicted about saving Andrea all those years ago. Heck, when was the last time she even mentioned Andrea? If it’s tied to the guilt she feels about losing Siddiq, Rick, and Carl, the episode does very little to connect those dots. If it’s there to remind her of the value of her adopted family and serve as inspiration to embark on the quest she begins at the end of the episode, then is her subconscious clairvoyant? Whatever the reason, it’s hard to justify the whole thing as anything more than a bizarre time-filler to stall before the episode’s true purpose is revealed: writing Michonne out of the show.
Turns out Virgil has Rick’s boots, scavenged from a ship that washed up on the island recently. Michonne searches the boat and finds a cell phone with a little drawing of Michonne and Judith on it. Michonne calls back home to check in with Judith, who tells a little white lie about the Whisperers no longer being a problem (sure, Alpha is dead, but if Beta’s still out there, there’s still danger). This assuages Michonne’s concerns enough that she broaches the subject of having found clues that Rick’s alive and she’s considering going after him. Judith, since she’s a 45-year-old in an nine-year-old’s body, encourages Michonne to go, noting that Rick might be in danger. Of course, it’s wildly implausible that a child would tell her mother to head into the zombie-infested wilderness based on some pretty vague locational clues, but this incarnation of Judith has never acted like a normal kid, so her decision actually tacks. RJ, meanwhile, doesn’t get a vote. Nor does Daryl, who’s now stuck with these kids indefinitely. Probably would have been polite to give him a heads up.
So that’s it. Michonne’s role in Season 10 was to cool her heels until she could be written off as seeming to abandon her children and friends in the middle of a war. Hopefully the movie will be a great showcase for both Michonne and Danai Gurira, but her final season of “The Walking Dead” proper turned out to be nothing but anti-climax, and the show could barely muster up any sense of import for her exit, no matter how hard the final moments of Michonne being a cool badass try to sell it. Michonne’s story isn’t over, but a lot more effort could have been put into this transitory chapter.
• No clue why anyone felt that this episode needed extra time. Supposedly the idea is that Michonne’s exit deserved some regard but no one came up with how to fill that time effectively.
• The fact that we have to wait another week to follow up on the last episode’s paradigm-shifting cliffhanger for this nonsense only makes this entry more frustrating.
• Virgil: “If I come in there, you’ll kill me.” Also Virgil: “Ah, you’re puking up the drugs. Probably safe for me to come inside now.”
• Boy was this arc a waste of Kevin Carroll.
• Virgil’s prisoners — who include Whit Stillman regular Taylor Nichols — are hilariously stilted, to the point where it seems like they may also be hallucinations. They press Michonne to kill Virgil, but their level of vitriol is “this guy stole my parking spot,” not “murderous revenge.”
• Those are some powerful walkie talkies Michonne and Judith have.
• Michonne and Judith’s call signs — “daitō” and “shōtō” (big and small Japanese swords) — are very cute.
• Seems silly to show Michonne making new zombie familiars only to have her instantly kill them when she encounters the stragglers. Why bother? Sure, it’s a great image, but you already showed it to us multiple times this episode.
• Oh yeah, Michonne finds a huge caravan of people traveling somewhere for some reason. Stay tuned for the Rick Grimes movie or movies coming… [check the news] uh, someday, probably.