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Sunday, April 21, 2024

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live |1x06| The Last Time (/w Jadis' Contingency)

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We took our time to isolate the full spectrum of our impressions on the conclusion to Rick Grimes & Michonne's fraught journey. Even if you had issues with Richonne's #TWDfamily reunion with RJ Grimes & Judith Grimes, the people have spoken in the form of chart-topping ratings.
🎬So much was edited out of the final episode - inside jokes, incorrect facts, technical difficulties, insider and behinds-the-scenes conversations that occurred before, during, and after the show, etc. Stream the raw version of this episode by either tipping us on Ko-fi and/or joining a membership tier on either Ko-fi or Patreon!

David Cameo:
Rachael Burt:
Sherrandy Swift:
Bridget Mason-Gray:

Shaunna Bellis-Nottingham:

  • Shaunna is receiving the 🎖SURVIVORS TIER Member treatment as a result of her winning a round in our Rockin' Round Robin charity event for our dearly departed friend, Robin Overton (AKA The Black and White Guy).
  • We snuck it into our coverage of the last episode, and in our last published blog, but we have some new merch store designs for your enjoyment!

  • Contentious Ending and Challenges with Child Actors: To be clear, most of us really loved the final episode, but also most of us had an issue with the way they closed it out (whether it colored our overall impression of the episode is mixed). Shaunna felt the ending was rushed and would've swapped Judith Grimes & RJ Grimes in terms of speaking order because we're more familiar with the former (her character was built up across all of The Walking Dead's timeline) and have far more emotional investment. Dave has nothing against child actors, but has never liked Antony Azor's acting; however, he spreads the blame predominantly among those in charge. Bridget still liked the ending because Andrew Lincoln picked up the slack. Sherrandy thought the dialogue was dumb. Although she enjoyed the ending, Rachael more or less concurs with Dave on Antony's facial expression throughout the scene.

  • The Impact of a Global Pandemic on Children: Bridget launches off of Rachael's last comment to convey an additional factor that may have impacted Antony's performance. Children are socialized by way of their parents, teachers, and other figures of authority. Especially in the film and television industry, COVID-19 masking requirements robbed children of the ability to mimic proper facial expressions.
  • Less is More: After the rest of the gang run cover for Antony, Dave thought that they could've either done a little less with the end scene or cut it out completely. If the rumors were true about a montage sequence that was edited out of the final scene, they could've easily spliced it into the end scene to convey the enormity of this moment. That aside, if the end scene felt a little phony, it may be because it was filmed on a sound stage rather than outdoors. In addition, the blocking (choice of shots) weren't nearly as great when you compare them to the amazing choices throughout this episode. Lastly, and who can blame them, the end scene might've been edit, reshot, re-edited, etc, so many times that this was the best version they could muster up.

  • Absence of a Major Twist: Sherrandy thinks the stakes could've been raised, in light of our protagonists' perceived plot armor. Her example of this would be in the form of a huge plot twist, like Rick Grimes actually dying when he was surrounded by walkers and pulls the frag grenade pin to try to save himself (but not limited to that extreme scenario). To Sherrandy's example and overall point, Dave never thought for one second that Rick and Michonne were ever in any real danger. Whether it's because the folks in charge have recognized the level of investment the hardcore have had in The Walking Dead Universe or not, these series have clearly lost their edge: we longer worry the folks in charge will end the lives of the survivors we've grown to love.

  • Desire for Depth and Grit: To further the point, not only does Richonne have plot armor, but at times it seems like they have superhuman powers. It's in stark contrast from the characters we met on TWD where we learned death comes for us all, indiscriminately. As much as we were made aware that this was predominantly a love story, it still has to fit adequately in the universe well enough for everyone to have the ability to buy into it.
  • The legible parts of Jadis / Anne Stokes contingency. Please note that we expand on this more in our discussion (completing certain words and expanding on certain phrases), so please be sure to listen to our podcast to get the full gist. Also note that ellipses (...) indicate illegible parts and [brackets] are where I editorialized some the gaps:
    • To whom it may concern...
      if you are reading this it means that I, Warrant Officer Anne Stokes...
      I have left this letter to reveal crucial information...
      provide you with the knowledge necessary to...
      information will be used to maintain the stability...
    • My arrangement with Rick Grimes: During my time...
      community, I secretly brokered a deal with "the collector"...
      Elsick, I traded the injured Rick Grimes, who I portrayed as a friend...
      someone I didn't know well but had crossed in the wilderness and had saved.
      ...not a B. And I have a much deeper relationship than I had previously portrayed.
      ...[com]munity had battled his in an alliance with a third, hostile community that had
      ...consolidating power in the area. Rick led his own alliance of communities to defeat us
      ...further had paved the way for peace between all the parties concerned. He has
      demonstrated himself to be an A, and his community, Alexandria Safe Zone, has a number of
      A's living within its walls. Further, Ricks wife, Michonne, is the individual known as Dana
      Bethune. She had searched for Rick, not knowing he was aboard, she had shot down his helicopter
      ...mission 3263827, killing Lieutenant Colonel Donald Okafor.
    • CRM's vulnerability: My omissions have created a critical vulnerability for the Civic Republic
      ...I firmly believe that Alexandria, Rick, and Michonne must be destroyed to ensure the
      ...continued dominance. Rick and Michonne will return to the Alexandria Safe Zone
      ...people of this place, and that information could potentially spread to other
      ...location security is one of the paramount tenets of CRM operations, and
      ...compromised our force form the start of my arrival in the Civic Republic.
    • ...Alexandria, Rick, and Michonne: It is essential to understand the nature of the
      ...represent. Rick Grimes is a natural born leader who has managed to
      ...survivors under a single banner. His strategic abilities and strong
      ...formidable opponent. Michonne, Rick's wife, is a highly
      ...Her unwavering loyalty to Rick and her relentless
      determination make her an equally dangerous adversary. The Alexandria Safe Zone, the
      community they have built, is well organized and resourceful, with a proven track record
      of overcoming threats both human and undead.
    • The Necessity of Their Destruction Should be[...] To secure the CRM's position and prevent our
      vulnerability from being exposed, it is crucial to eliminate Alexandria, Rick, and
      Michonne. Their survival and potential discovery of our organizations weaknesses
      would pose a grave threat to our operations and long-term objectives. The
      success of our mission depends on the eradication of these indi[viduals and] their
  • Secrecy may be crucial to The Civic Republic Military's operations; however, Sherrandy asks why they are making deals with random trash ladies. Major General Beale reminds us in his smaller conversation with Rick - near the wall where he was taking down walkers with his kill stick - that for the past decade they were amassing resources with the help of partnerships they've made, like the one with Jadis, and gathering test subjects in their attempt to end the virus. The Echelon Briefing is just a new phase where they roam across the continent, amassing more resources while culling the populace (non-necrotic or otherwise).

  • Testing Our Suspension of Disbelief: Sherrandy also had a problem with Beale not being more suspicious of Rick's return; however, Dave says it's easy to see how Beale interpreted his return as a sign, considering the lengths Rick took in order to escape throughout his time with them. This brings us to how Rick, Michonne, and even Command Sergeant Major Pearl Thorne survived the explosion of the heads-up meeting. Thorne was far enough away from the blast and had enough time to put on her gas mask, while Rick and Michonne had even more cover from the actual blast behind the steel cargo containers. They also followed guidelines to prevent smoke inhalation and enhance fire retardation by soaking themselves with water and placing wet rags over their nose and mouth. Shaunna took issue with some of this because of the way the walkers looked in the second episode, Gone, where it looked like the gas being exposed to skin looked made their faces appear to melt off; however, Dave explains that the dangers of Chlorine Gas exposure is limited to just the airways: once compromised, only then will they irritate/inflame the mucous membranes.

    Editor's Note: It's possible that the particular victim Shaunna's referencing were in extremely close proximity to where the cannister's exploded, the concussive force and even shrapnel which would've caused these facial injuries (on top of the copious excretion of  mucous from the eyes, nose, and mouth).
  • Dave Takes a Beat: With as much disagreement there's been on this show, it's easy to lose sight of how many of us actually loved this series. Still, it deserves to be said that we welcome disagreement so that more of the feelings of those who take the time to listen to what we have to say are represented. Furthermore, that we try our best to do it in a way that is respectful to the hard work of the individuals involved in bringing these incredible shows to our homes honors our mission statement of providing you with value over taking potshots at their expense. Dave thanks everyone hosting for making that dream a reality.
  • In Praise of Bunnies and The Walking Dead: World Beyond: In Rick's Echelon Briefing induction, Beale mentions that humanity will end in 14 years, which is lifted directly from World Beyond's Elton Ortiz, based on research conducted by his motherAmelia Ortiz. Stuffed rabbits or bunnies are commonly depicted across TWDU to represent innocence or innocence lost.

  • Having Mixed Opinions: Sherrandy also references an article written in Forbes which resonated with her own feelings towards this series. Bridget is fed up because we've spent more time discussing the things that didn't work over the things that actually worked in this episode. Shaunna cried at the end scene, regardless of her own criticisms. Sherrandy wanted to like this series. Dave extolls the mantra of  you may not get what you want, but you'll like what you get to shift his perspective towards the positive. Bridget does rattle off some of her criticisms to show that she feels similarly, but in the same breath proclaims that she preferred this series over The Walking Dead: Dead City.

  • Season or Season Finale: With nary a loose end, this season was wrapped up so well, it's hard to imagine there being a second. With the title being The Last Time, Dave feels like they're telling us in plain English, even though most of the ladies explain that it's the last time Rick will ever be apart from the ones he loves. It's more likely that they and their story will continue through other spin-offs. Case in point, Dave suggests this overwhelming evidence that Carol Peletier was attempting to relay to Daryl Dixon over the walkie - in The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon - that Rick was the one who returned.

  • Praising the Strong Writing and Intense Scenes: Now that we've tilted towards the positive, in contrast to what Dave & Sherrandy said about the lack of raised stakes, Rachael felt anxious throughout the entire episode and really believed either one of our protagonists could've been taken away from us during a number of intense scenes (Rick's fight with the frontliner in the elevator, in particular). To drive the point home further, like Sherrandy, Richonne isn't one of Rachael's favorite couples either, but the show managed to pleasantly surprise her with getting them back together in the first episode. That their entire family is together at the end made her feel something.

  • The Significance of Flashbacks and Sacrifice: Bridget highlights how the flashbacks allowed the audience into Richonne's thought process in a manner that couldn't be expressed in the actual world, where they had to remain mute and expressionless. She highlights the one depicting the scene where Rick ends the life of his best friend, Shane Walsh, to protect himself (in order to protect the ones he loved, down the road). Dave also chimes in because their thought process/flashbacks also revealed all the horrible things they thought they had to do, at the time, like the slaughter of The Saviors at The Satellite Station. Bridget uses this example to respond to Sherrandy's criticism: they're not super heroes, they're just certifiably insane. Pair that level of intensity with their endless capacity to survive and it holds water that they can accomplish anything, especially having shed so much of their former selves over time.

  • I don't always utilize Terry O'Quinn, but when I do: From the dialogue, his interpretation of walker Beale, to the way the shots with him were blocked, Bridget thought every scene he was in was her favorite. The way the camera moved from his face to the tapping of General Hugh Mercer's sword was her favorite part: not only because of the camera movement, but the way it cut to Rick's knife made her instantly think (for some unknown reason) that Rick was going to give this sword to Michonne. And contrary to what Dave & Bridget say, Sherrandy and Shaunna were right and Michonne must've retrieved her katana from Jadis' room in Cascadia Forward Operating Base because it's on her back in the end scene.

  • Mercer's Sword Symbolizing Michonne: Dave mentions that it wouldn't have mattered whether Michonne found her katana because Beale's/Mercer's sword far better represents her growth as a character. Along with our characters shedding their former selves to become a more powerful, when Dave saw Beale tapping the sword, it made what Beale said during the funeral of Lt. Col. Donald Okafor make much more sense than it had, originally. Beale likened Okafor to Gen. Mercer, who sacrificed his life until the very end for George Washington's war of independence: who Beale most definitely sees himself as, especially after the depiction of his campaign with the National Guard against Federal Forces (which resembled Washington's in New York, during the revolutionary war). Isn't it more fitting that Michonne carries that legacy considering the tremendous sacrifices she had to make to bring Rick home? It makes her shedding the katana, a relic of her former self that she wanted to hang up permanently on TWD anyway, that much more fitting (and adds one more log in the fire to those of us who hold the opinion that the end scene was pure fan service).

  • Historical Parallels of Sacrifice: On top comparing Beale to Washington and their similar campaigns, Beale proclaims that he never did his six for citizenship, intimating to Rick that he never really became a citizen of The Civic Republic. Why that might be is the lengths to which he would go on behalf of The CR, all the way down the road to his final solutionesque machinations described in The Echelon Briefing. It's a lot like Moses leading the Israelites all the way to the promised land of Israel but cannot cross the border or King David only laying the groundwork for the first Holy Temple in Jerusalem, but the privilege went to his son, Solomon. Sherrandy had mentioned this in a previous episode, but it's a lot like Frodo having to leave with the elves to the Gray Havens and not return to The Shire in Lord of the Rings. The bottom line is that Beale wants to be the only one to feel the weight of his decisions: to become the monster to defeat the monsters.

  • The Complexity of Beales Principles: Occam's Razor suggests that the simplest solution is the best one and one can easily summarize Beale as being evil. But good stories, like this one, inject enough nuance and humanity into it for his actions to be far more compelling. On a purely utilitarian level, Beale is attempting to solve The Trolly Problem. What makes things even more compelling is noticing that, where Okafor refuses to follow orders to bomb Philadelphia and turns against his government to therefore create The Civic Republic, Beale becomes the very thing Rick must turn against in order to save what is, effectively, the world. Also, Thorne is super nosey.

  • The Fates of Mason (General) Beale(?) and Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek: Sherrandy asks whether TWDU might resurrect Beale's son to take over his father's work or, to Rachael's point, whether he even knew the lengths his father was prepared to go for The CR. By the same token and as a result of the utter decimation and toppling of The CRM's command and frontliners, Bridget says that Kublek could manipulate her way back into The CR's good graces to take over The CRM. Sherrandy suggests that maybe Jadis pet, Silas Plaskett, could be the one to fill Beale's shoes, but that would necessitate a lot of upward movement on his part for that to be possible.

  • Anne Stokes' Memory Lives On: On the note of Kublek, it appears as though she's depicted on one canvas, among many of (Father Gabriel Stokes') portraits in Anne's bedroom. It should be noted that we undercounted the amount of Gabriel portraits: the total was 4, with two additional sketches that we could make out on her corkboard.

  • One More Easter Egg Solved: The mystery of the tubes we noticed in the title sequence has been solved because the chlorine and Project Votus gas tubes were setup in the same manner (down to the labeling on the shelves). This reminded us of the way Better Call Saul's title sequence, in its final season, would introduce a small snippet of B-Roll from the episode as an indicator of what it was about.

  • The Revenge of Pharmakon: Much in the way the link between Mercer's sword and its connection to Beale was made a lot more clear in this episode, so too was Beale's mention of Pharmakon in the 3rd episode, Bye. Beale was willing to share the weight of his decisions with Rick - to the extent that he tells him that he could run The Civic Republic (Military) due to his incredible story. Looking back at the scene where he mentions Pharmakon to Grimes & Thorne, he was simultaneously showing his cards (because he is the very embodiment of Pharmakon = the poison and the cure) but also teasing them in order to throw their scent off what the Echelon Briefing is all about: the sword that kills is the sword that brings life. In other words, he already knew Rick, at the very least, was already the kind of person who would understand him, and especially after Rick tells the story of how his own father had to burn all his crops to bring them all back again. The only difference is that Rick & Michonne had to burn down The CRM to restore The Civic Republic and, perhaps, the world.

  • Okafor Would've Been Proud(?): Takeerah tweeted out that Okafor would've been proud of what Richonne accomplished, but considering how they essentially genocided what were effectively his brothers and sisters in arms, we're not entirely sure! What we know for certain is that Okafor wanted Rick to swear on the sword but don't let it take. We also know that he wanted to, at the very least, curate the induction of 'A's in order to fundamentally change The CR(M) because he believed it wouldn't last in its present form (only admitting 'B's). It's possible that this was always what Okafor hoped for since Rick does repeat his origin story by doing the same thing he did - turning against his own malevolent commanders - only this time it was against the upper echelon of The CRM to save Portland. Why that makes even more sense is watching Thorne effectively become a 'B' which leads us to believe that maybe both she and Okafor reverted to becoming 'B's after their own Echelon Briefing and hoping that Rick could retain enough of his A-ness to do what he no longer can. No more Omahas.
  • Remains of a Threat: To clear up a question Sherrandy had asked, the entire the upper echelon (Command and Frontliners) of The CRM had essentially been destroyed at Cascadia Forward Operating Base, save for perhaps Thorne (we didn't see a body) and all the Embeds (spies The CRM has in settlements across the globe). Shaunna asks a very interesting question: would Rick have followed through and become what Beale envisioned for the sake of The CR had Michonne not intervened? We think so: he says Carl Grimes saved him, the memory of whom was something Michonne was able to provide that not only saved their relationship but, effectively, the world.

  • Recycling Words for Greater Effect: Many of the phrases used by not only Richonne, but Beale, were lifted from Rick's (and Michonne's interweaved) monologue in The Walking Dead's Series Finale. E.g., Rick says one unstoppable love just after driving his own sword through Beale's hand and Beale, himself, says The Next World, which is not only something Rick has said on TWD, but also the title to a very pivotal episode (6x10) as it pertains to Richonne.

  • Beale's Mask Slips: What made me angry (it's unclear whether it incensed Rick, because of his poker face) is when Beale makes an offer he can't refuse by granting Rick the privilege of allowing anyone he wants to join The CR. After successfully chopping his hand off just to escape years of captivity by the hands of The CRM - since protocol dictates there is to be no contact with the outside world - only to discover that he's become an exception to all the rules, that has to drive a man insane. It shows that Beale is willing to curb his own rules to advance his righteous agenda, but in that moment, Rick was prepared to listen as we see him turn the knife under the table to right side up (from upside down and ready to strike).

  • (Mostly) Unraveling the Mystery of the PPP Cards: Thorne enters an office that overlooks the heads up meeting, which reveals a whiteboard containing a visual representation of N1W, which is essentially the manner in which they plan on conducting the extraction of the children and subsequent gassing of Portland. On the board we see a phrase PPP Exception just under the words Reclamation. To recap, we've seen two PPP cards in TWDU. The first one was the only thing Tara Chambler found on the ground in the spot where Heath basically disappeared from the series. The second was in Tales of The Walking Dead's 5th episode, Davon, and was among the belongings of the man he shot in the woods outside of the Acadian community that took him in and nursed him back to health.

  • Is Heath a Spy?: Given that PPP cardholders are exceptions to what the reclamation team is usually assigned to do - kill people to protect the existence of The CR(M) - does that mean Heath is an Embed? Or was that Jadis' card? Might we discover other community members who were embeds the entire time? So does it stand for it Personnel Protection Protocol?
  • The Significance of Fort Benning: Beale mentions that he was stationed in Fort Benning which, in the real world, was changed to Fort Moore in the last decade because Henry L. Benning was a General in the Confederate Army. You're not crazy if you've heard the name Fort Benning before: it became a refugee camp in Columbus, GA just after the outbreak and was mentioned in the First Season of The Walking Dead. That aside, the emblem of Fort Benning is an uptight sword that looked similar to Gen. Hugh Mercer's with the words Follow Me emblazoned at the top.

  • The Power of Submission: Rachael asks how it's even possible that Richonne could elaborately rig all those frag grenades without a single soldier detecting them. Dave answers her question by way of describing Thorne's official transition to full B-ness by way of her telling Rick that he lived and Okafor died because it's what was supposed to happen, which sounds a lot like It was God's plan. That being said, of course Richonne got away with it: not only does it accurately depict the culture of followers The CRM has been cultivating over the last decade (the very problem Okafor was attempting to solve), but (as Shaunna explains her father's experience prior to his impending deployment to Operation Desert Storm) the mental discipline the military expects from its soldiers.
  • Eagle Eye Easter Egg: The author of one of the books in Anne Stokes' bookshelf is Kevin Koniewicz. Although his name has no documented association to The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, he happens to be involved in the camera and electrical departments in many productions in the New York Tri-State Area.

  • People and Walkers Changing: We know that The CRM used 'A's in their experiments. Maybe they were hoping that exposure to the undead throughout might yield a cure. But, of course, we know Variants exist, too. Dave brings up something Genet says on TWD: Daryl Dixon, which was how the elites created this mess. She could be referring to the outbreak, but she could also be referring to having knowledge of The CRM and how they might be making things worse. Maybe they'll eventually face off, since The CRM is global? Dang gov't...

  • Make Like a Tree and Get The Hell Outta Here: As Rick stabs Beale in the heart he starts saying, We're not dead... and, after a brief pause, most of us thought he would say the actual words ...we're the ones who live since they've been recycling the monologue he had at the end of TWD throughout this entire episode. He ends up saying're dead, which may have been unintentionally hilarious. Shaunna was wondering how it was even possible that he had any weapons on him after Beale made sure he remanded them. What you may not have noticed until Thorne spots it in Rick's room was that the blade on his prosthetic arm was removed, which was what he ended up throwing at Beale's chest

  • Prophetically Depicting The Series: The art Dave created for our merch store reflecting TWD:TOWL was unintentionally prophetic. Michonne's katana on fire stabbing the map from Season Five with the words The World's Gonna Need Rick Grimes, flanked by a kill stick and a CRM trident bayonet assault rifle, loosely reflects Rick & Michonne saving the world and ending The CRM's reign of terror. Of course, Shaunna gives credit to everyone but him. He gets no respect (he is me).

  • Unintentional Humor: Just as Rick stabs Beale in the heart, we could've sworn he was going to say the title of the show (just after saying We're not dead...) but, instead, what he actually says ('re dead) had the same effect of Biff, from Back to the Future, saying Make like a tree and get the hell out of here. It least it wasn't ...we are The Walking Dead.

  • You Could Be Swearing on a Sword: Would you have refused to do it? Some of the things Beale says is factually accurate, like walkers changing and crop yields. And of course, if there's a critical dead mass gathering to wipe out the nation, his plan does make utilitarian sense.

  • People as a Resource? Not Quite: Only Jadis refers to people as a resource, as it pertains to the tipping point and the Echelon Briefing (in both this series and World Beyond). It's what Kublek says in World Beyond that accurately reflects how The CRM wants The Civic Republic to be the last light of the world and explains how Campus Colony would've become a threat to their supremacy were they left to their own devices.
  • But You Can Call Me Dad: Rachael wanted Michonne to do more of the wrangling and introducing of Rick to his children, but by far the most unintentionally funny line was the hokey, after-school special way Rick tells RJ - in response to Are you the brave man? - but you can call me Dad. To cap it off, she derived enjoyment watching Rick embrace Shane Walsh's (biological) daughter.

  • Trampling Across Our Settlements: During Rick's Echelon Briefing, when Beale mentioned the part where The CRM would be trampling across the countryside, flashes of Alexandria, Tank Town (from Fear The Walking Dead), and one of The Commonwealth's trains flashed across the screen. And speaking of FearTWD, we loved how Althea Szewczyk-Przygocki's origin story - her most valued possession of her brother Jesse's tape depicting The (Pennsylvannia) National Guard squaring off against the (Federal) Armed Forces - is so relevant in this series. So Rick didn't really see the fall of Atlanta, Althea did (he just saw the aftermath).

  • Turning Faster: Everyone else but Dave fumbles the ball on why The CRM soldiers turned faster. Not only was the Chlorine gas released after Richonne's explosion, but the Project Votus gas, as well. The latter was The CRM's attempt to prevent the dead from reanimating upon passing, but we discover in World Beyond that it simply doesn't work and guarantees reanimation, instead.

  • Acknowledgements: Not only do we acknowledge the listeners for all the tremendous views and feedback, but the hosts for eliciting the full spectrum of feeling towards this series (thus far?). Finally, we give a shout-out to our dearly departed friend, Robin, (who most definitely is not watching/listening to this podcast in heaven) whom we miss very much.

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