The Walking Dead has had its fair share of bottle episodes, but “What We Become” – season 10's send-off to katana-wielding warrior queen Michonne – takes that concept to the next level, limiting events to a single island before spending its most important scenes entirely within the confines of a prison cell.
Virgil, it turns out, is not quite the beleaguered and weary soul that the season's first half made him out to be. A confused and cowardly hermit, the character is a far cry from his comic book equivalent, rendered into a state of near permanent delirium by the loss of his family – not to mention a regular prescription of plant-based hallucinogens.
His subsequent imprisonment and torturing of Michonne, though somewhat derivative of season 9's standout episode, “Scars”, nevertheless allows “What We Become” to walk us down memory lane, showcasing Danai Gurira's long and storied history with the show in a similar fashion to Rick Grimes' 2018 send-off.
Unlike that cop-out, however, we're treated to a dark and fascinating alternate history montage, exploring what might have happened if Michonne had never rescued Andrea – hello, Laurie Holden! – in the woods all those years ago. Via cleverly re-edited footage from seasons past, we see Michonne being rejected by Daryl, taken under Negan's wing, and killing Glenn and countless other Alexandrians before being murdered at point blank range by Rick himself.
It's a brilliantly choreographed sizzle reel that hammers home the message of the episode's title; that our actions define who we are, and set us on paths we cannot predict. Michonne-focused episodes have always highlighted The Walking Dead's strengths in the realm of character study, and while the entire island escapade reveals itself to be nothing more than a mechanical side-story designed purely to turn certain gears in AMC's ever expanding universe, Gurira shines once again in her portrayal of this fierce and relentlessly headstrong individual.
Of course, everyone knew that the showrunners weren't going to kill off Michonne, even though “What We Become” has been heavily touted as her "final episode" in the run up. Confirming the bookie's favourite fan theories, the post-apocalyptic samurai discovers Rick Grimes' boots (and a mysterious phone sketch), putting her back on the scent of her lost lover, forcing her to deal with the fact he may still be alive.
Michonne's radio farewell with Judith and R.J. is thus both genuinely heartbreaking and bittersweet, culminating with Judith's resolute permission to let her adoptive parent search for the Dad she only knew as a toddler. Judith's words also imply that The Whisperer Wars are over at this point in the timeline, with season 10's remaining episodes likely to fill us in, though her expressions suggest that victory hasn't come without its fair share of sacrifice. Either that, or the young Ms. Grimes isn't telling her mother the truth...
“What We Become” isn't finished there, however. In one final, last minute sting, Michonne comes across two strangers struggling to keep up with a caravan of settlers. The scene is like post-apocalyptic Oregon Trail, but the showrunners haven't left any clues for fans to identify the group itself. Could this be the Commonwealth? Eugene's mysterious radio contact? Or perhaps the mysterious 'A or B' group tied to The Walking Dead movies and spin-off show Fear the Walking Dead?
It's a teaser clearly designed to act like an MCU post-credits sequence, expanding The Walking Dead universe and keeping us hooked until the next big reveal. Either way, it's an exciting position to leave Michonne in for her inevitable reunion with Rick, but suggests that the next time we see her, it'll be far from the familiar sights and sounds of dystopian Virginia.