How are we feeling?

This event has been years in the making for fans of The Walking Dead, who’ve waited patiently for a follow-up to a mystery that hung over the original series until its conclusion.

And The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Season 1 Episode 1 was every bit worth the wait.

While we’ve known that we’d see a conclusion to Rick Grimes and Michonne’s stories, little was known about what that really meant.

Would we get concurrent storylines and an inevitable reunion? Or perhaps they’d throw us for an actual loop and work backward, showing us a blissful reunion and then everything that happened to get there.

It was closer to the former, with the first hour solely dedicated to filling in the years since the bridge collapsed, and Rick was whisked away against his will to find a new life in the Civic Republic.

Full disclosure: I wasn’t someone who could get through the entirety of The Walking Dead universe.

It’s a vast and complicated universe, but even if you have yet to watch every single episode or all the spinoffs, there’s enough explanation throughout the hour to keep you both invested and informed about what’s happening.

And the core of this story is Rick Grimes, and having watched 100 plus episodes, that’s a subject I feel well-versed in.

The hour started with Rick holding a piece of broken glass to his neck, a haunting image that will stick with you throughout the whole affair.

It was a very intense first image, and it set the tone for the hour, which saw a desperate Rick go through a myriad of emotions as he tried to figure out how to get back to his family.

And that’s really what was at the core of this installment.

We saw Michonne after the bridge collapse and got insight into her feelings and devotion to finding her husband, but this was the first time we gained insight into Rick. And it was years and years of information.

In fact, the hour can feel like a bit of an information dump at times, but it’s also wholly necessary with the season slated for six episodes. That’s six hours to explain years and years spent in a prison, and that’s only Rick’s experience.

During these hours, we also need to find Michonne.

The CRM has been an antagonist throughout the universe, and through Rick’s experience, we’re fully immersed within their Philadelphia walls as Rick tried and tried and tried to find a way to escape.

That’s the most Rick Grimes thing about the premiere. Since when was he content to lay back and take whatever thrown at him? He even cut his hand off to get away and return to the people he loved.

It was clever to show that scene early and gloss over many of the other earlier attempts. And it was obviously done as much for shock value as to reiterate just how much Rick wanted to choose for himself in a world where that was nearly impossible.

The CRM acts like an oversized prison, though to its citizens, it’s portrayed as the last shining hope for civilization. You pay your dues, and then you’re inducted into this thriving world, one they will never find again, amongst people working hard to sustain their way of life.

On the surface, that sure sounds nice, right?

Look at Esteban. He was happy as a clam earning his place and stepping into the city walls, but that was never, ever going to be Rick.

Life is about choices, right and wrong ones, and the CRM gave you no choice. Once you were in, you were in. And that’s something Rick had to learn, even if it took several years.

Rick’s story unfolded through voiceovers and flashbacks, which I feel will be very controversial with viewers. On the one hand, the information was very necessary, and again, with limited time, you had to find a way to get it all in there.

But some people view voiceovers as lazy. But they’re meant to clue the audience into the CRM and what’s been happening over the years, along with helping shape the longing Rick exudes out of every pore for the love of his life, Michonne.

I keep on telling you. People like us, there’s no escape for the living. I left the uniform in your apartment. It’s time to accept things for what they are. You cost your hand last time. Next time it’s your life. Do something with it.

Okafor [to Rick]

The most compelling part, outside of everything Richonne, was seeing Rick’s resolve weaken and weaken over time as he learned more about Okafor, the CRM, and what his future was being set up to look like.

Okafor was such a compelling character, by far the most interesting of those introduced. It was challenging to figure out if we were supposed to perceive him as a good or bad guy.

Or if he was destined to straddle that gray line so many in Walking Dead land always have.

He was someone who was thinking ten steps ahead, and his ultimate goal was to change the current CRM makeup into something better. And he saw Rick, and Thorne for that matter, as the people who could help him achieve that goal.

Now, why he was so obsessed with Rick and Thorne, two A’s with their own thoughts (something that’s always frowned upon by governments who don’t want to be questioned) wasn’t explicitly clear outside of feeling like they were leaders.

And Okafor was right about Thorne. She may have fought back in the beginning, but Rick cutting his hand off and still finding himself back in that drabby apartment seemed to set her straight.

She was all in on Okafor’s plan to the degree that she wouldn’t even help Rick when he had a golden opportunity to escape. Of course, Rick didn’t realize Okafor had a contingency plan to keep him in line.

The fight between Rick and Okafor, interspersed with Okafor’s horrifying tale of a man used to betrayal, hard decisions, and immense guilt, was the most absorbing moment of the hour.

Okafor bombed Atlanta. Okafor bombed Los Angeles. And he killed his own wife to stop a bigger wave of death.

He was devoted to his path of change within the RCM, and with that kind of determination born from a life’s worth of pain, he wouldn’t let Rick Grimes get away without a fight.

And Rick would have tried to leave again if Okafor hadn’t pulled out the Michonne card.

The Walking Dead was always a story about surviving, and Rick spent all those years just surviving in the Civic Republic so he could find his moment to leave. He joined the CRM for that exact reason.

But knowing and believing that Okafor had the means and the ability to take everything he fought so hard for from him if he left meant he ultimately turned into the leader Okafor wanted him to be.

I hated everything about those final few minutes until, you know, the reunion heard around the world.

Rick programmed himself to forget everything, from Michonne to Judith and Carl and his past, to devote himself to the mission someone else laid out for him. And he pushed those things deep down into his soul so he could protect them.

Rick: I don’t want power.
Okafor: That’s the thing. You already have it.

He became Thorne and Okafor, people who accepted their realities and wrote off their pasts.

That’s just not Rick Grimes. And now that he and Michonne are reunited, it’s scary to think what could come next for them with a Rick that’s so different from even the man we saw a year earlier trying to escape through a tunnel.

Seeing as this was truly Rick’s hour, showing Michonne in Rick’s dreams was a nice touch. She was there to remind him what he was living for, and the chemistry between Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira has never been better.

Even in his dreams, Michonne was his tether. She’s his north star and the one his mind goes to. All their little scenes were cute, with smitten Rick and Michonne increasingly letting her guard down.

To think, had she not blown that helicopter out of the sky, he may have conditioned himself to never dream about her again is not something I’m willing to entertain.

I’m sure the powers that be debated a lot about when to stage the Richonne reunion. It’s what everyone will be clambering for, and it deserves its moment, but staging it too late serves to alienate those who’ve waited years, and staging it too early lets the air out of the anticipation balloon.

Transitioning from Rick finally committing to Okafor, and seemingly being for real about it, to everything going to hell was shot incredibly well. It was tense and scary, and everything that makes The Walking Dead what it is.

Raise your hand if you saw Michonne revealing herself as the one who shot down the chopper.

I will proudly say I did not, and I’m glad I didn’t see it coming because that moment when Michonne ripped Rick’s mask off and they saw each other for the first time in years was as gasp-inducing as anything you’ll see on television.

The decision to end it there was perfect in the context of the hour. We now get to sit and ponder what comes next because the CRM backup will come, and decisions will need to be made.

But these decisions will come from Rick and Michonne making them together.

And seeing them figure out THIS version of their realities is precisely what we’ve been waiting for.

Everything Else You Need To Know

  • Beale wasn’t in this one a lot, but his face-off with Rick, where they tried to figure out what the other was up to, was such a solid moment between two great actors.

  • No Jadis here, but she’s got to show up eventually in all her annoying glory.

  • I felt bad for Thorne, but she was also so unwilling to see beyond her scope of things, which made her an exceptional A, I guess.

  • Speaking of the As, I understand a crocked government only wanting yes-man, but what does killing off all the freethinkers do in the long run? Shouldn’t you want both?

  • Esteban was the MVP of this hour. He was the lightness both we and Rick needed. I don’t make the rules.

  • With this one being Rick-centric, it’s easy to conclude the next hour will show Michonne’s journey since leaving the family and leading up to the crash. That should be exciting!

  • Rick was trying so hard not to be considered a leader, but it’s just in your DNA, Rick! You can’t escape it!

  • As a Philly girl myself, I couldn’t help but be happy that Philly made it!

There was a lot happening during this premiere, and I’m sure you guys have a lot of thoughts about seeing Rick and Michonne back! And what this means for the rest of this unfortunately short season.

So please let it all out in the comments below so we can discuss it!

Whitney Evans is a senior staff writer for TV Fanatic. She is a lover of all things TV. Follow her on X.

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