‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’ Wraps Up Too Neatly

The Big Picture

  • The finale of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is anticlimactic and leaves viewers waiting for a twist.
  • The love story between Rick and Michonne is beautifully concluded but unrealistic for the franchise.
  • The quick downfall of the Civic Republic Military in the finale is disappointing after a prolonged buildup.

The Walking Dead The Ones Who Live' Wraps Up Too Neatly

During every heart-warming second of the closing scenes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’s finale, were you also waiting for the other shoe to drop? With The Walking Dead being known for its outrageous cliffhangers and gimmicky shock value moments, the spin-off opted for a squeaky-clean conclusion that ended up becoming anticlimactic and almost dull. While there is no harm in giving Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) love story a deservedly beautiful ending, every single storyline doesn’t need to be this permanently resolved. Within the span of six episodes, the show rid The Walking Dead universe of a highly anticipated antagonist, new interesting characters, and any hope of a credible path forward. Instead, their spin-off felt like an emotionally-charged, intricately-written romance that was simply drudging its way through the post-apocalyptic plot points.

The love story between Rick and Michonne. Changed by a world that is constantly changing, will they find themselves in a war against the living or will they discover that they too are The Walking Dead?

‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’s Finale Is Anticlimactic

Throughout the season, there is a gradual build-up of anticipation for the inevitable face-off between the power couple and the Civic Republic Military (CRM). From the first glimpses of their political structure in Episode 1 of The Ones Who Live, to a (mustard) taste of their inhumanity in Episode 2, we are teased with the prospect of the ultimate antagonist that has access to inconceivable technology and a vast military base. But the CRM build-up is not restricted to this spin-off. The Walking Dead had been hinting at it from Season 7 of the original show, fully introduced it in The Walking Dead: World Beyond and indicated connections to it in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon. After building up anticipation of this magnitude, firmly concluding their storyline in a mere season is not only ludicrous, but also disappointing.

This anticlimactic feeling also extends to Rick and Michonne’s resolved love story. Like the CRM, their reunion was six years in the making and there was no larger fanfare than when Lincoln was announced to return to the franchise. After six years of physical and emotional torment, resilience, and grit, the two absolutely deserved their “happily ever after.” Like any good romance or fairy tale, The Ones Who Live definitely made their happy ending earned and satisfying while featuring a classic romantic arc. But this is The Walking Dead. Happy resolutions tend to be far and few between, while cliffhangers and lingering threats reign supreme. Ironically, creating a fulfilling conclusion ended up becoming unfulfilling simply because we were tensed up waiting for the final twist. It feels like Terminus all over again; if you’re going to build up that much excitement for something, do it justice.

Why Are Rick and Michonne the Only Ones Who Live?

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Danai Gurira as Michonne in Episode 2 of Season 1 of AMC's The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

Naturally, Rick and Michonne are immune to death, especially in their own spin-off, but being quite literally the only ones left alive by the finale is slightly ridiculous. If Rick can survive a Glenn (Steven Yeun)-inspired fake-out death by a grenade that explodes a couple of walker’s bodies away from him, surely other characters could survive their more mundane deaths too. Not to mention the lack of continuity between Michonne being grounded for a year after being exposed to a couple of missiles of mustard gas, but hundreds of them could be countered with a wet piece of fabric?

Aside from the credibility aspect (which we admittedly often dismiss in The Walking Dead), would it really be a crime to let a couple of interesting allies (Jadis) make it to the finale, or leave remnants of the corrupt CRM to lurk around in the shadows of the closing scenes? There was never really a doubt that the unstoppable duo would survive, and thus it would have been far more interesting to see if anyone else made the cut, too.

While it’s perfectly okay to highlight the couple’s romance, creating such permanent resolutions for other characters is a waste of potential. From the Croat in The Walking Dead: Dead City to the killer nuns in Daryl Dixon, each spin-off left us with an array of new personalities to fawn over or despise. As such, with the god-like Rick returning to the world, we would expect impressive concepts and immense stakes to arise as well. But Rick and Michonne refuse to share the spotlight with anyone else for too long, forcing any potential for captivating characters, communities, or villains off the screen.

The CRM Falls Too Quickly in ‘The Ones Who Live’s Finale

Major General Beale looking at Rick in a scene from The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

The hurried resolution of plot lines is especially pertinent to the CRM. As mentioned before, the anticipation generated for this particular antagonist was far more intricate and long-running than anything we have seen in the franchise. But apart from the build-up, the magnitude of CRM itself was also awe-inspiring and hit its peak in The Ones Who Live‘s finale during the “Echelon briefing.” After all these hints, we finally understood the full power and intentions of the military group. Rick’s emotional flashbacks insinuate that the CRM has been around since the pilot episode and Daryl Dixon hints that it has international connections. Moreover, General Beale (Terry O’Quinn) reveals that their ultimate goal is literal world domination, making the CRM the most ambitious, influential, and dangerous group in the franchise so far.

The-Walking-Dead-Michonne-The-Governor

And twenty minutes later, they are reduced to rubble. While Rick and Michonne have been known to pull off impossible tasks, the CRM was essentially the definition of unbeatable, particularly in the finale. Yet all it took was a short-tempered Rick, a couple of well-placed grenades, and the power of love for the CRM to meet its demise. While the bird’s eye shot of the re-animated high officials swarming around the compound was striking, the impact immediately whimpers out as the grainy announcement echoes in the background, narrating the Civic Republic’s intentions to reform the remaining militants and offer their citizens’ freedom. With such a dry and arbitrary way to wrap up such a spectacle, it dampens the rest of the more heart-warming scenes of the finale.

‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’ Is Closer to Fanfiction

As the glowing closing scenes light up the screen, there is a definite dream-like quality to the family unit’s reunion. We can almost imagine hearing the words “and it was all just a dream,” and seeing it snap back to Rick still entrapped in the CRM and Michonne still recovering from the mustard gas. With such an out-of-character whimsical ending for The Walking Dead, it really solidifies the fanfiction connotations the series was evoking. From the magnificent fan service of chopping off Rick’s hand to the finale’s callbacks and Easter eggs to the flagship show, The Ones Who Live was less about constructing a unique story and more of a homage to its predecessor.

Filled with fun yet incredulous action sequences, poor narrative choices, and random proclamations of love, we realize that the spin-off was just a romantic fairytale framed by a post-apocalyptic setting. Adopting an “us against the world” mentality and beautifully-written emotional arcs, the romance between Rick and Michonne is cleverly balanced between being grounded and intimate. And strictly from this fanfiction perspective, The Ones Who Live had an incredible and gratifying ending. Yet by neglecting the plot, it ends up doing a disservice to its romance anyway, leaving us only partially satisfied.

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