Spoiler Warning for Season 7, Episode 12 of “The Walking Dead.”
Love is in the air on the latest episode of “The Walking Dead” as Rick and Michonne go on a post-apocalyptic honeymoon/supply run as they figure out their future. As a self-confessed Richonne shipper (for those that don’t know, “shipping” is the term for supporting a particular relationship whether it is canon or not), this episode knocked it out of the park in terms of further developing not just the romance between Rick and Michonne, but also their individual characters. Other characters are forced to ponder the moral dilemmas that lie ahead of them, significantly progressing the plot in multiple directions. While this episode does offer a great bit of levity, there are problems present that prevent it from being completely perfect. Still, the expert world-building and character development, combined with the growing tension associated with the upcoming war, makes for a top-notch and memorable episode.
After striking up the deal to provide supplies and firearms for the Scavengers, Rick and Michonne head out to see what they can find; it’s important to note that they also must collect enough to meet their obligations with the Saviors and have enough to sustain Alexandria. The opening montage shows Rick and Michonne rummaging through abandoned houses, finding only a few cans of food and guns. They’re also shown stealing batteries, pretzels, beer (possibly a callback to last week’s episode where Dwight left behind pretzels and beer for Sherry) and other supplies from a group of Saviors who have stopped in a field for a game of golf. While driving, Michonne states that they need to return home after spending the previous two days scavenging, but Rick isn’t quite ready to go back and suggests that they spend a few more days on the road. There’s a brief scene where Rick falls asleep as Michonne is driving, showcasing the fact that there is a clear mutual trust between the two that allows him to be vulnerable and take a rest, even considering the fact that situations can turn bad at a moment’s notice.
After finding a place to pull over and stop, Michonne allows Rick to sleep, but notices a deer in the distance. By the time she grabs her gun, the deer has wandered away and Rick has woken up from his nap; he pokes fun at the fact that he “owes her a deer,” referring to the one that she was forced to hand over to the Saviors during their first visit to Alexandria in “Service.” The presence of the deer also serves as a bit of symbolism and a callback to the Season 2 premiere “What Lies Ahead,” wherein Carl spotted the deer in the forest just before he was accidentally shot by Otis, leading the group to Hershel’s farm; one could say that deer in this series represent the idea of new doors opening. This particular deer steers Rick and Michonne to an abandoned high school, where they find a walker soldier with a machine-gun strapped to its back. They also find shell casings on the ground, allowing them to deduce that there must be more guns nearby. After hearing the eerie moans of walkers, they make their way onto the roof of the school to give them a view of the area. Next to the school, a dilapidated carnival sits among dozens of stumbling walkers; Rick and Michonne point out that some of the walkers are soldiers while others are civilians. Something bad went down here, but it isn’t entirely clear what exactly. The show’s writing really stands out in the ability to expand the world subtlety like this; there are other survivors on there and the world takes and gives from them, even if we only see the aftermath. While examining the situation, Michonne takes out her rifle and jokingly fires a few shots, wasting the precious ammo in the process; this is a bit out of character, especially considering both Rick and Michonne realize how low they are running on everything. Suddenly, the roof collapses and the two fall into the building, laughing as they hit the ground. In an episode full of callbacks to previous episodes, this really reminds me of the Season 4 premiere “30 Days Without an Accident,” where the walkers fell through the roof of the Big Spot store.
After realizing that they haven’t just fallen into a pit full of walkers, but rather into an untouched room of food supplies, Rick and Michonne laugh at their convenient luck. Opening up the supply boxes, they excitedly discover huge rations of cans and ready-to-eat meals. Night falls and the two share their visions for the future while eating some of the food they have found; Michonne believes that after they defeat Negan, Rick will be the perfect choice for leading the communities, but he doesn’t agree. This is obviously an important position and he believes that it isn’t something that he would be able to do alone. If they both manage to survive the impending battles, it would make sense for them to co-lead Alexandria, seeing as their leadership styles would compliment each other and allow for differing viewpoints. The group would likely never have ended up in Alexandria if it weren’t for Michonne taking charge and forcing them to trust Aaron, even though Rick was extremely suspicious. This proves that she is ready to step into a more prominent leadership role, a stark difference from her lone-wolf mentality when she was first introduced.
Back in Alexandria, the episode takes a far more rushed approach to the war efforts as Rosita’s anger hits a boiling point. Tending to her stitches, Rosita speaks with Tara about her inability to just sit around and wait rather than striking back against the Saviors. This clearly hits a nerve with Tara, who reminds her that they won’t be successful until they have enough guns and ammo; one person isn’t enough to take down the Savior army, but Rosita isn’t listening to anyone but herself. Thankfully, Tara calls Rosita out and tells her to reel in her attitude and save her anger for the Saviors instead of being rude to everyone. Rosita leaves and comes across a mobile home containing an absolutely disgusting walker that is reminiscent of the famous “well walker” from the Season 2 episode “Cherokee Rose.” She manages to kill the walker, but only finds a toy gun in the home, prompting her to return to Alexandria and lash out at Father Gabriel in his church.
Rosita’s line of thought is clearly frazzled because she essentially blames Gabriel for Eugene being taken, as well as Olivia and Spencer being killed. By her logic, Gabriel’s decision to dissuade Rosita from killing Negan led her to shoot him and miss. Understanding the pain that she is in, Gabriel tries to explain his reasoning for providing guidance to her; once again, Gabriel inches his way up my list of favorite characters as he proves himself to be a pragmatic pillar in the community. There is also a touching scene as Tara watches over Judith and opens up about her internal conflict with revealing the existence of Oceanside to Rick and the others. On one hand, it would give Alexandria a furthered strategic advantage with the additional guns and fighters that they would provide. On the other hand, dragging the women of Oceanside into the fight would break the promise that Tara made to Cyndie and would most likely cause several more deaths on their side; “what makes our life worth more than theirs?” she asks. While Tara speaking to a very confused and uninterested Judith is a rather simplistic way to allow viewers to see her inner thoughts, it does provide viewers with a powerful bit of juxtaposition; the innocence of Judith is placed side-by-side with the life and death decision that Tara must make. Countless lives lay in her hands, leading to extreme stress, whereas Judith is not yet burdened with the harshness of apocalyptic life.
Back at the school, Rick and Michonne come up with a plan to kill some of the nearby walkers to allow them to gain access to the main carnival area. Michonne flawlessly kills several walkers with her katana as Rick struggles to remove a lone soldier walker from a car. After sickeningly tearing the walker in half, Rick pushes the car forward to block off an entrance. Michonne helps as Rick realizes that the car’s breaks are not working; there is a ridiculous and unnecessary moment where a walker with an automatic rifle strapped to it becomes caught on a piece of rebar, causing the gun to shoot off multiple rounds. While this is a minor moment, it did take me out of the scene as I tried to figure out what exactly was happening, with my first thought being that walkers had magically developed the ability to fire guns. Michonne jumps into the car as it rolls into a small herd of walkers and becomes swarmed with the two inside. Thanks to the incredibly convenient luck that the car has a sunroof, they manage to escape and make their way into the carnival area as the walkers trail behind them. Rick and Michonne separate in an attempt to disperse the now large group of walkers. This makes for an insanely epic walker-slaying sequence as the two rush to dispatch all of the undead within their reach. Rick notices the deer from earlier nearby and decides to climb the Ferris wheel to take a shot at it. His weight, plus the fact that carnival rides are horribly unstable, causes Rick to fall to the ground as more walkers fill into the field. As with the obvious green-screen junkyard shot from a few episodes ago, I have to point out how pathetically fake the deer looks during these scenes; it honestly looks more like a brown cow than a deer. Considering how incredible the carnival set looks, I’ll just try to remove the deer-cow from my memory.
Michonne erupts into a panic-induced sprint after witnessing Rick fall from the Ferris wheel. Rick is able to recollect his revolver and shoot some walkers as they surround him. Michonne arrives as Rick is seemingly torn apart by a dozen or so walkers; the world collapses around her and she freezes up, dropping her katana to the ground as tears form in her eyes. Suddenly, Rick jumps out of one of the ride seats and grabs the katana, tossing it to Michonne as a smile lights up her face. They team up and kill the remaining walkers before embracing in a cathartic hug of relief. With the carnival area now clear of walkers, they go around and collect all of the guns from the “battlefield.” This is an unsettling bit of foreshadowing that points to the upcoming war that will be fought. Years from now, survivors may be walking around a battlefield and collecting weapons off of fallen Alexandrians, Hilltoppers, Kingdommers, Oceansiders, Scavengers and Saviors. While driving home, Rick states to a shaken-up Michonne that they will likely loose many people in the coming battles, possibly even each other. They will be fighting for a future, not just for themselves, but for everyone. Rick states that he hasn’t been sleeping well lately, haunted by the fact that he wasn’t able to save Glenn even after Glenn saved him back at the very beginning of the series. Losing people is part of war and Rick is now coming to terms with this. Seeing him open up to Michonne about his guilt surrounding Glenn’s murder once again showcases their strength as a couple.
At the junkyard, Rick, Michonne, Rosita, Tara and Gabriel hand over the 63 guns that they have collected to Jadis and the Scavengers. This leaves Jadis unsatisfied and she states that they will require more guns before they will get involved in the Savior conflict. Rosita butts in and wants to end the deal, but Rick strikes up an agreement with Jadis that will allow them to keep some of the guns so that they can go out and collect more for the Scavengers. He also negotiates to keep the metal cat that he stole for Michonne; if that isn’t some next level true love, I don’t know what is. After returning to Alexandria, Tara makes her way to meet with Rick to possibly reveal the existence of Oceanside to him. Also, Rosita has carelessly left her watchpost and made her way to the Hilltop, reuniting with Sasha to gain a partner for a reckless and ill-timed assault on Negan’s compound. On the condition that she will be the one to take the final shot at Negan, Sasha agrees to join up with Rosita. She hands Sasha a sniper rifle and mentions that she has Carl and Daryl’s recollections of the Sanctuary memorized in her head. Sasha declares that they cannot be taken alive by the Saviors during their attack and Rosita reiterates this by proclaiming “It’s a one way ticket for both of us.” Both know that this is a suicide mission, but the chance of eliminating Negan proves to be enough for them to sacrifice everything. While this development does make me feel better about Rosita’s irritating storyline, I now have to make a grim prediction that one or both will meet their end before the season is over. While Rosita has been more blunt with her rage, Sasha has been slyly preparing herself for an independent retaliation, even going so far as to tell Enid to take care of Maggie. While Sasha has proven time and time again that she is a near-perfect shot, Negan just may be the one shot that she misses. I’m reminded of what Michonne told Tyreese back in Season 4 after he lost Karen; “Anger makes you stupid, stupid gets you killed.”
“Say Yes” does have a handful of problems, mostly notably the triggerfinger walker and deer-cow, but still manages to stand out as one of the season’s stronger episodes; I would go so far as to say that this is my favorite from this half of the season. The Rick and Michonne scenes provide a much needed bit of humor and calm, but also brutal realism and pathos. I am furthered in my belief that Richonne is a completely necessary aspect of the series that has somewhat filled the void left behind by Glenn and Maggie’s romance. Death and war is just around the corner and the characters are realizing that not everyone will survive. This episode features absolutely fantastic performances from Andrew Lincoln as Rick, but also Danai Gurira as Michonne and Christian Serratos as Rosita, both giving off a variety of emotions, especially pain and grief; their eyes alone speak a million words. While this episode has several easter eggs littered throughout, the tone really reminds me of the 2nd Season’s “18 Miles Out” and last year’s Daryl/Rick roadtrip “The Next World.” It’s clear that the beloved “All Out War” storyline from the comics will likely not be adapted until next season, however the current march to war is proving to be harsh and traumatic enough. Next week’s episode looks to focus in on Carol’s relationship with the Kingdom. Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.