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‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’ Review: A Satisfying End To The Tale Of Rick Grimes

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The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live has unfortunately ended its six-week run following the finale (titled “The Last Time”) this past Sunday. I thought that The Ones Who Live was a solid installment in the evolving TWD Universe. The believed to be limited series answered many questions regarding the disappearance of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), and where Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) quest to find Rick took her.

[Warning: Major spoilers from The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live below! You can also go here for my review of the premiere episodes of the series.]

The Ones Who Live reveals answers about Rick Grimes

One crucial aspect of this show was to give fans answers about Rick’s disappearance in season nine of The Walking Dead. He was presumed dead after a large bridge explosion, and therefore most of the cast moved on with the presumption that Rick Grimes was gone forever. But as we now know, that is not the case. 

It turns out that Rick was airlifted with Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) by what we now know to be the CRM. Multiple TWD shows gave us hints and glimpses of what kind of civilization the CRM is, but it was not until The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, where we began to fully learn about the situation Rick Grimes has found himself in. The series finale of the main The Walking Dead series also gave us a little glimpse at Rick and revealed his attempts to escape. 

What The Ones Who Live gets right is the reintroduction to the character of Rick Grimes. While a large portion of The Walking Dead has always been the psychology of survivors in a horrible apocalypse, Rick Grimes has always been the most complex character, making him a well deserved fan-favorite.  For almost six years, fans theorized online about Grimes and where his story will pick up. Thankfully, the show delivers on answering all of our questions and theories about Rick. The first episode seamlessly reinstates him in the TWD universe in an episode that leads to my next topic. 

Rick Grimes The Ones Who Live
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live (AMC)

Episode 1 is one of the most illustrious The Walking Dead episodes of all time

I firmly believe that episode one, titled “Years,” is one of the greatest TWD episodes of all time. As I said, it’s a seamless reintroduction to Rick Grimes and delivers an episode that is chock-full of answers, action, and heart. “Years” delivers one of the most infamous TWD comic book moments in the first ten minutes of the episode, seeing Rick gruesomely chop off his own hand in an attempt to escape and return home.

The premiere episode takes us through every emotion and breaks down every shade of the character that is Rick Grimes. With little question, I consider this to be a top-10 TWD episode of all time, as it answers all of our questions in highly satisfying ways.

We’re also finally given our closest look into life at the Civic Republic and the CRM. It fully captures the classic fish out of water storyline, as Rick is thrust into an entirely new world. The Civic Republic is the closest thing we’ve seen to the old world in The Walking Dead. It fully encompasses the city of Philadelphia and even includes an entirely destroyed Lincoln Financial Field football stadium. 

“Years” is only about an hour of runtime, but it feels a lot closer to the runtime of a movie. It’s easily the most cinematic an episode of The Walking Dead has ever looked. I thought that The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon was going to be the peak of cinematography in the TWD universe, but The Ones Who Live managed to eclipse it in episode one. Overall, a major hats off to the cast and crew for pulling this one off. There was a time when it felt something of this level was unachievable. 

The show spends a lot of time with Rick and Michonne

I first want to start by saying that I believe it is justified for there to be a hyper focus on Rick and Michonne. After all, every fan is tuned in to see how their story turns out, everything else is extra. There are times, especially in episodes 3 and 5, where I do feel that the plot loses a bit of focus and becomes inconsistent, though. 

It at times felt as though the writers were torn between delivering a broad story or delivering a focused love story about Rick and Michonne. For instance, episodes 1 through 3 and 6 are all about the overarching story, while 4 and 5 are about the rekindling of Rick and Michonne’s relationship. Episodes 3 and 5 are where those two storylines start to get tangled up a bit, and it almost makes the episodes feel a bit streaky and inconsistent at times. 

Does it impact the show enough? Not necessarily, I still believe episodes 3 and 5  are solid. I believe 5 is saved by the scenes between Jadis and Father Gabriel, along with Jadis’ monologue at the end.

Danai Gurira as Michonne in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live
Danai Gurira as Michonne in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live (AMC)

The supporting cast of The Ones Who Live is sometimes underutilized

The Ones Who Live featured a number of new cast members as well, including Terry O’Quinn (Major General Beale), Lesley Ann Brandt (Pearl Thorne), Matthew Jeffers (Nat), and Craig Tate (Okafor). I believe that the cast makes use of its limited screen time by delivering a number of well-performed scenes. With that being said, I also believe that the supporting cast was severely underutilized due to a lack of time along with the intent to focus mostly on Rick and Michonne. Most scenes involved Rick or Michonne in some capacity, but there are moments where the supporting cast shines.

I felt killing off complex characters like Nat and Okafor after only one episode to be poor decision-making. Both of these characters added so much depth and complexity to the characters of Rick and Michonne and served as fantastic supporting characters. With the show’s intent of being a limited series, it’s to be assumed that these characters served their ultimate purpose to the plot for the writers. Killing off Nat and Okafor was the first moment where I realized that this show was going to be a limited series, as those characters certainly felt like they had longevity and a bigger role to play in a hypothetical expanded story.  

The limited series leaves little time to wrap up the story properly

This is more of a nitpick, but as I previously mentioned, episodes 1 through 3 focus on developing the overarching story while 4 and 5 completely depart from that to focus specifically on Rick and Michonne. It at times felt like two different shows, and I do wish the show had a bit more balance, or simply had more episodes in the series.

With only six episodes, it certainly felt at times like there was a lot of information and plot developments to get through in a short amount of time. The first three episodes build up to a huge conflict between Rick and Michonne vs. the CRM, but it waits all the way until the finale to pick back up on that development. 

I believe if The Ones Who Live had eight episodes there would have been more comfort room for the writers to balance out the overarching story and the love story. What we ended up getting is a somewhat rushed finale that kills off the two main villains and reshapes the CRM with little difficulty. AMC spent years propping up the CRM as the sort of final boss of The Walking Dead universe, and to see the CRM totally defeated in a span of thirty minutes certainly felt rushed. 

Even with its issues, The Ones Who Live is some of the best The Walking Dead we’ve seen

Overall, The Ones Who Live is highly satisfying to me and ultimately puts a nice end to the almost fifteen-year-story of Rick Grimes. Ever since his departure from the original series, fans have been waiting for the scene where he returns home to his family. Once that scene arrives it absolutely delivers a sincere and heartfelt reunion.

Seeing the two powerhouses that are Andrew Lincoln and Cailey Fleming together on screen as Rick Grimes and Judith Grimes was a truly special moment. Along with Rick reuniting with Judith, seeing him meet his son RJ for the first time is a feel good special moment as well. 

The Walking Dead has been over for about a year now and The Ones Who Live feels like the epilogue of The Walking Dead universe. As a nearly fifteen year fan it is certainly bittersweet to see it all sort of come to an end in a way. While the show certainly had some issues, I loved what we got and I am more than happy for TWD fans who waited so long for this event. 

Have you watched The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live? The full season is now on AMC. Let us know what you think of the show on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!

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Drew Reed

Hey I'm Drew Reed, Staff Writer here at The Cosmic Circus. I love Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Game of Thrones, The Lord of The Rings and many more fantasy and sci-fi universes. You can find me on twitter @ DrewReed1099

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