TWD: The Ones Who Live Was Better Than Its Finale

The series as a whole was a thrilling return to form for The Walking Dead despite the rushed final episode.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live ended up being a very good TV series but the sum of its parts was better than its final 48-minute episode. The series finally brought Andrew Lincoln back to the zombie universe for fans clamoring for Rick Grimes, along with Danai Gurira's Michonne who left The Walking Dead more than a full season after Lincoln. However, while the first five episodes delivered a compelling return to its best form for The Walking Dead universe, the finale of the series felt like a race to the finish line as hopes for a Season 2 started to feel more and more dashed as it went on. Spoilers for The Ones Who Live follow. 

Ultimately, The Ones Who Live answered its most important questions and was quite successful while doing so. We now know what happened to Rick Grimes. We know what happened to Michonne. We know they eventually found each other and both reunited with their children. We know what the CRM is (or more accurately phrased; was). We even know about Jadis' fate and some details about what Father Gabriel was up to with her that we didn't even know to ask about. However, all of the answers came within six episodes, while bigger questions were both introduced and resolved in quick succession along the way.

The series ended up being very good, despite what felt like a mostly safe and largely rushed finale. The first five entries spent time introducing new characters, expanding the world and lore with history and plans from the CRM. Terry O'Quinn's General Beale seemed primed to be a Thanos-type of villain for The Walking Dead universe, as Daryl and Carol are off exploring Europe and Negan is in New York with Maggie. The threat of the CRM with the lives of those in Alexandria, the safety of the Commonwealth, and everyone else the spinoff shows are introducing at stake... it was a very exciting prospect! Instead, Beale was killed by a knife and a sword while he had a gun in his hand (and he wasn't the only character in the finale taken down by a blade while armed with a gun). 

Focusing on the good, it was simply awesome to see Rick and Michonne reunite with Judith and RJ. The moment was beautiful and it felt like the happy ending no one expected to ever get from a franchise like The Walking Dead. Rick and Michonne in action together has been a chef's kiss touch throughout the entire series (not in the bedtime kind of way, which there has been plenty of, too). The musical score in the finale and entire series was tremendous. The flashbacks, especially those which flashed when Rick Grimes was asked about the worst thing he had done to survive, were shots to the feels for those of us on this Walking Dead journey for 14 years. Not that it's new footage, but seeing Shane Walsh again? Always a treat, especially when used so poignantly. The alignment of Rick and Michonne having to do what it takes to survive, emphatically declaring without just saying it that they're the ones who live, often because of the lengths they go to survive... all fantastic stuff!

(Photo: The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live / AMC)

Then, there are the parts that didn't make much sense. The aforementioned pair of characters killed by knives and swords while armed with guns was a bummer to see. Michonne sneaking into the CRM with such ease made the place look weak. Beale trusting Rick Grimes after so many escape attempts, questionable. However, the biggest suspension of disbelief came after Rick and Michonne popped off the massive chlorine bombs in the CRM. We saw the devastating effects these same bombs had on Michonne's group in the show's second episode. Nat and Michonne had to recover for a year because they were exposed to the yellow gas. Rick, however, was able to have an entire fight with Thorne with only a cloth over his mouth and never felt the negative effects of that same chlorine bomb. It's one thing to suspend disbelief for the sake of believing in a zombie series... it's another for the rules laid out by said zombie series to contradict themselves all within six episodes.

The pace of the episode was also far too quick. Perhaps, if there was never going to be a second season, there could have been a seventh episode. Infiltrating, plotting, and executing a takedown of the massive threat which the CRM was framed as all within the final episode itself was a bummer. Thinking back to the Governor story, one which an argument can be made that it had the opposite problem of what we're discussing here about the CRM in The Ones Who Live, there was a level of anticipation when we knew the group was taking the fight to Governor and vice versa. Some of the best scenes had no action, like Rick and the Governor sitting together talking and negotiating. This made the action more meaningful. Now, the finale was set for an explosive end where thousands of unnamed CRM soldiers were killed and Thorne had to attack Rick before having a change of heart and handing him a gas mask that he didn't need, anyway. Not to mention, the love story of this series was fantastic and truly drove it forward, but the line of "love never dies," in the middle of a life-or-death fight felt a little out of place. All of this and more is covered in this week's video review and breakdown.

All of that said, this is all just a bunch of criticism of an otherwise excellent series. The finale certainly felt like it moved through all of the interesting and emotional elements more quickly than anyone could have expected or wanted but it moved through them, nonetheless. There was a time when fans started to doubt whether or not we would ever see Rick Grimes again at all when the movie trilogy turned to one movie and then the movie turned to a series and years went on with no updates. Now, both Rick and Michonne made their exciting returns and truly gave fans what they clamored for in the end. The duo find themselves engaged, back home, and living with their family.

All of this is not to say the finale was outright bad. Above, there is plenty of points made for the great elements and some of its lackluster elements. However, it is definitely to say that the series as a whole was better than the finale. The tension, the emotions, the performances, the writing (including the impressively crafted Episode 4 from Gurira's pen), and the cliffhangers built into something tremendously interesting through the first five episodes. It was a pressure cooker which might have just been released a little too quickly, something which seems to be an all too common trend with six-episode shows these days. 

There is, of course, room for more story to tell. Rick and Michonne could now head up the CRM and start spreading all of the resources and aid to the rest of the world as the finale implied was happening. A continuation with Daryl and Carol seems more likely, as Norman Reedus and Melissa McBride seem to be more game for continuing with their respective roles than some other cast members in the franchise and their show is already on its way to releasing a second season with a third on the way. Meanwhile, Dead City is also set to bring Maggie and Negan back for at least one more batch of episodes. Whether or not we ever see Rick and Michonne again seems to be anybody's guess, possibly a sentiment echoed within the creative teams behind the Walking Dead universe, as well. So, playing it safe and giving the characters an emotionally satisfying, albeit rushed to the finish line conclusion... this might be what the franchise always need, in the end.