The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: Believe a little bit longer

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is a love story for the ages. It is the continuation of the deep love saga between Michonne and Rick Grimes. In a world that is ever-changing they have to find themselves in a war against the living. What Rick Grimes will come to the surface? And will he even be the man she remembers anymore?

The Ones Who Live Key Art
The Ones Who Live Key Art /

The Ones Who Live is undoubtedly one of the most highly anticipated series in all television in 2024. It seems like it's been a century since people have been asking the million-dollar question, “Where is Rick Grimes?” This is an epic tale about star-crossed lovers who would do anything to get back to each other. There is great risk, but without it, there is no great reward. The world is theirs, and they may just end up saving the world to get back their own.

"Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time."

Maya Angelou

The story of Rick and Michonne is a crazy love story. But what makes this spinoff more significant than others is the emotion. Emotion for the characters and emotions as a fan. You travel on this journey with them, and you get to see all the unanswered questions we’ve had for years. There is no shortage of drama, tears, heartbreak, hopelessness, faith, belief, sacrifice, and above all else, love. It’s all about enduring and surviving. And most of all, what and who are you surviving for? How far can you go and still live with yourself? And what do you want your legacy to be?

The Ones Who Live is full of a group of complex characters, and they all play an integral part in each other's lives to survive and to get each other to the place they belong. Fate is a miraculous thing. And where there is love, there is hope.

There are some names in the cast that may not be recognizable, but the performances from top to bottom are supreme. Alongside Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln are Pollyanna McIntosh, Lesley Ann-Brandt, Terry O’Quinn, Matthew August Jeffers, Craig Tate, Breeda Wool, Andrew Bachelor, and Frankie Quinones.

A big round of applause goes out to Bert and Bertie who directed the first two episodes of The Ones Who Live, along with Matt Slovis who directed episodes 3 and 4. Longtime writer for The Walking Dead Matt Negrete was back to co-write Episode 3 “Bye.” We also would be remised if we didn’t give a big shoutout to Denise Huth who has been with The Walking Dead since day one and helped craft this love story as an executive producer with Danai Gurira, Scott Gimple, Andrew Lincoln, and Brian Bockrath.

Back in 2018, fans were devastated to learn about Andrew Lincoln’s departure as Rick Grimes. But the actor had a strong desire to return home to London to be with his family. Travel became hard for the star as his children got older, and he didn’t want to miss out on the little things. We can all understand that. But come February 25, fans will have to wait no longer. The GOAT has returned, but he will need a little help to not only get back to the man he used to be but to escape the biggest military in the world. Good things never come easy, but, history has told us when Rick and Michonne are propelled into any situation, there’s nothing they can’t overcome together.

I was fortunate enough to receive screeners for this epic tale for the first four episodes, and I can tell you there won’t be a dry eye in your home. It’s completely nostalgic having Rick Grimes back on the screen and the moment you see him your heart may break when you hear his perilous journey. Don’t think for a second that Rick Grimes is either just waking up from a coma, or grew accustomed to the CRM life and forgot about his family back home. Far from it. The love for his family is the driving force behind this entire series.

The intro is not my favorite of all three series, I still think that title goes to the Daryl Dixon show because the artistry and history within their intro is just challenging to beat. The Rick and Michonne silhouettes within The Ones Who Live intro are stunning and extremely intimate. It’s certain to be a crowd-pleaser.

Back in 2022 in The Walking Dead series finale, we got a glimpse of what to expect for this spinoff. The dynamic duo were in separate places. Rick was seemingly writing letters to Michonne and Michonne was writing one to Judith. When you watch this spinoff, you will quickly piece together all the clues we have gotten over the years ever since Danai Gurira’s finale episode in “What We Become” and Andrew Lincoln’s last episode, excluding the series finale in “What Comes After.” There is a sheer beauty to it when it all falls together.

In the finale of the flagship series, we saw Rick surrendering to the CRM on the beach. When we see Rick Grimes again, he is still keeping that same energy going strong. The moment the series launches, you can feel the pain that is radiating from Rick. The hopelessness and agony of loving so hard, that is still continuing to rule Rick’s life years later. His focus is never diminished, even if there are other fights and tasks that he has to accomplish.

The Ones Who Live: I tried..please know I tried

Rick’s story begins five years after the collapse of the bridge. There has always been a big question surrounding how we would learn what has happened to Rick after all these years. Though most fans wanted to see all the imagery of it, the way the premiere of the show created a way to tell the audience is both intimate and right on target with this romantic story.

I would have liked to learn a little more about Rick’s experiences within the CRM, but I believe those stories weren’t told because they are too painful for Rick to share. The man has been through so much that there are some wounds that are better to keep closed. But if there’s one door that remains open at all times, it’s his heart. He doesn’t know about RJ yet, so Michonne and Judith are his sole reason for not taking his life. Through the years of despair, I won’t lie to you that he has thought about it.

For Rick, it has always been about getting back to Michonne. She is the axis that keeps him spinning. There is a dream sequence in the opener that the shipping fans are going to eat up. What this series is about more than anything is sacrifice and belief. Rick may be confined within the rules of the CRM, but he has the full belief he will one day make it home. Michonne has full belief she will find him, and that he is alive. No matter how many people keep telling her to give up and go home. Many do think it’s a death march for her, but Michonne can sense he needs her. When souls are that connected, distance is not a barrier when true love exists.

Both Rick and Michonne are embarking on their journeys to find each other and there are unmistakable parallels between the two of them. Between heartache and yearning for one other to a revelation that will that will bring you sorrow.

My only issue with how the story unfolded was the inconsistency in some of the writing. I would love to go further into detail, but we are not permitted to. However, there are two different factors that will leave you questioning why they went that route because it didn’t make a lot of sense.

I know there will be some fans who don’t like the crestfallen mood of Rick Grimes. It will, at times, take you back to the days of Rick vs. Negan after the lineup. Where all hope was lost and Rick had succumbed to Negan’s rules for the safety of his people. The difference now is he has no choice but to accept it. Trapped in a world he cannot break free from.

I would have liked to see Major Beale more than we did. Beale is definitely a character who is well-respected, admired, and feared but hopefully in the last two episodes we get a profound look into how deep the CRM really goes to protect what they believe in.

The Ones Who Live: Newfound Bonds

In the second episode of The Ones Who Live, “Gone”, we meet the character of Nat, and he will steal your heart and make you immediately ship the friendship between him and Michonne. There is also a burning soldier walker who has become one of my favorite evolved walkers. And wait until you see how that walker reaches its ultimate demise. It’s insane and also incredibly funny. They are very different from the Daryl Dixon series, but there is a bad@$$ effect on them as well.

The off-screen relationship between Jeffers and Gurira really shines through in their scenes together. Quickly it becomes a beautiful friendship of two strangers who become like family after they survive some traumatic events together. Nat is one of the more unique characters I’ve seen in The Walking Dead universe. He doesn’t let anything hinder him and is one of the most capable people we come across.

It is surprising to see Michonne become so trustful with people she just met after the horrific ordeal she went through back in Alexandria years ago with Jocelyn. But on the other hand, it was good to see Michonne grow from that experience and open up her heart again.

Along with Nat, there are two other characters Michonne bonds with, married couple Aiden and Bailey. For instance, you think it would be hard for Michonne to see their love, but when you compare the two between Rick and Michonne it’s actually poetic. There is some irony because both couples are centered around their love for each other.

Lesley Ann-Brandt’s portrayal of Thorne is masterful. She is my favorite character behind Rick and Michonne. There is so much of Thorne that will remind you of Rick. Their stories aren’t so far off from one another. Pearl Thorne was a sailor for the South African Navy. A Cape Town native and she pulls no punches. There are times you don’t know if she’s a friend or a foe, but in the end, your heart may break for her. While she is close to Rick Grimes, she’s also had it up to here with his antics. Throughout the series, she sympathizes with Rick but also gives him advice. There is a much larger force at play, and she believes saving the world is more important than their wants and desires.

Donald Okafor is a Lieutenant Colonel of the Civic Republic and the biggest reason why Rick Grimes is still alive. He may appear to be a villain to some, but it all depends on how you look at it. Okafor had to make sacrifices for the greater good. He once fought for the opposite side when the apocalypse began, and he was also responsible for saving Thorne’s life when she was on the brink of death. Thorne at that point may have been ready to die, but he saw something in her. Something that could help change the world.

If you were ever confused about the differences between an A and B, you will learn all you need to know in the opening episode. Rick, of course, is an A. He’s a leader, and he has strength. You will learn why B’s are more wanted within the CRM and why A’s are so villainized.

Jadis Stokes is a high-ranking officer in the CRM. The moment Rick and Jadis come into each other’s orbits again, it’s like no time has been lost. All I can say is Jadis is always going to be Jadis. She has a humorously devious habit of getting under Rick’s skin with her unwanted flirting. And truly believes she did Rick a favor by saving his life, as if he should be grateful to a woman who trapped him for all eternity.

Jadis did save Rick, but she didn’t do it for the right reasons. Her motives behind it were too selfish to ask for gratitude. However, I love the scenes between Pollyanna McIntosh and Andrew Lincoln. She is ruthless and Rick is forced to conform to these rules. But it’s only a matter of time before she and everyone else involved in the CRM get a taste of the real Rick Grimes.

The end of episode 3 is an unexpected punch to the gut that you will not see coming. It will show you the lengths Rick is willing to go to protect what he loves, followed by a heart-stopping cliffhanger that really feels like a mid-season finale. The only problem is you won’t be able to know what to do with yourself for a whole week. Good luck.

In episode 4, “What We”, Danai Gurira takes us on a journey of the heart. This is indisputably the best-written episode of the series so far. It will be difficult for anything to surpass it with two episodes left to go. The long back-and-forth dialogue between Rick and Michonne is gut-wrenching, emotional, impactful, and at times even humorous. But there is such a rawness in this artistically crafted quest. As the years have passed, there is so much as a fan that you want to be laid out on the line. And Danai Gurira did a marvelous job at giving the fans what they have been asking about for so long.

There is so much Rick doesn’t know, so much Michonne doesn’t know, and it reaches a boiling point. This one is definitely for the hardcore Rick and Michonne shippers. However, in addition, there are moments that will take you back to the earlier days of The Walking Dead. Lines that Michonne says will directly pull your heartstrings. And a realization from Rick that lets you know yes, the King is back.

For anyone who never bought into this love story, this is an episode that reveals how deep it goes. How they are connected to each other’s souls. And how you can go on living apart, but you are only living half a life. To put into a few words, it’s heart-wrenching with quick-witted humor turned into a revival of happiness.

The Ones Who Live will premiere on February 25 on AMC and AMC Plus at 9:00 p.m. EST.

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