I like Rick and Michonne as a couple in theory. Hell, I even like it most of the time in practice. Putting them together gave Michonne, one of the longest running characters on the series (and one of the best) something to do; and it made a lot more sense than just trying to pair Rick off with some random new character. The actors have chemistry, and I appreciate how comfortable the show is at letting them be physical—the montage of hunting, gathering, and fooling around that opens tonight’s episode is, if not exactly graphic, then definitely not hiding the fact that the two are really, really into each other. And hey, sad as it is, an interracial couple on TV is still a nice change of pace, especially on a series that’s had certain problems in the past.

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The best parts of “Say Yes” focus on Michonne and Rick as they go on a gun-hunting mission, traveling the countryside, showing off how badass they are, and nearly almost getting killed. Back in Alexandria, we see Tara struggling with the ethical dilemma of Oceanside, and Rosita is still pissed off about everything. Rosita’s anger is getting tedious, and while the episode builds to her asking Sasha for a team-up to go after Negan, her character remains frustratingly static. The writers have figured out one note to play for her, and they’re leaning into it, hard; presumably they’re going to keep leaning into it until she gets herself killed (which she seems to sort of want to happen), or… I dunno. Something else happens.

The point is, she’s not all that interesting to watch right now. Tara is more sympathetic, and her decision has a more immediate impact on future events (I mean, it’s possible that Sasha and Rosita will pull off their plan, but war seems a lot more likely), but it’s still a relief that we didn’t have to spend too much time with her worrying about what to do. She wrings a few laughs out of the material, has a nice scene with Baby Judith that reminds us that Rick has a baby, and then she makes her choice at the end of the hour.

We’ll have to wait to see where that leads. For now, it’s all about Rick and Michonne having adventures. On the plus side, it’s a relief to have an episode as comparatively laid-back as this one. Sure, Rick nearly gets himself killed by being a dumbass, and that leads to a serious conversation about what it all means and how Michonne needs to be prepared to lead the group if Rick dies in the fight against Negan, but this is still mostly about hanging out, planning for the future, and doing goofy shit with zombies. Last week was low stakes, too (unless you were heavily invested in Eugene’s soul), but no one ends up on the Dark Side this time around. It’s just good people having mostly good times.

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And hey, I’m here for that. Like I said, Rick and Michonne is a not-terrible idea, and the intimacy between them is plausible and, honestly, a relief after watching so many hours of people being absolute shit to one another. There’s something almost charmingly normal about all this; they go hunting, they find a couple of Saviors and steal their shit (and kill them, I’m guessing, though we don’t see it happen). Later, they find the remains of a fairground and army hold-up with a bunch of stored food, and a lot of walkers wandering around with guns strapped to their backs. As Michonne says, it feels like a sign. For once, not everything turns to shit.

Even the zombie fights work well. While I’m sure it’s frustrating for some folks to see Rick make a dumb mistake—while they’re in the middle of clearing out the small herd, he sees a deer and falls off a Ferris wheel—it’s at least thematically relevant. One of the longest running concerns of the series (and of zombie fiction in general) is the idea that the things that make us human are also what make us vulnerable; Rick tries to go after the deer because he loves Michonne and he wants to make her happy, and in doing so, he leaves himself open to getting eaten alive.

He lives, of course, but that doesn’t stop the episode from milking the near-death as much as they can, mostly as a way to show how upset Michonne is when she thinks Rick is gone, and how close she comes to just giving up completely. Which is where my biggest problem with their relationship comes in. Michonne has been one of the series most independent figures since her first appearance, but her connection with Rick has reduced that independence. Sure, she went off on her own at the start of the season, but that didn’t really go anywhere, and now she spends an embarrassing amount of time telling Rick how great he is, which… eh.

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It’s not that Michonne shouldn’t be upset at the thought of losing Rick, but the idea that she’d simply let herself die if anything happened to him does her a disservice. Hearing Rick tell her how it’s important that they be ready to go on no matter what happens is both inspiring and also oddly inappropriate coming from him. Michonne has suffered as much as Rick has, more or less, and she’s shown time and again that she’s a survivor, that she’ll do what it takes to keep moving forward. Having Rick try and teach her some life lesson, valid though that lesson may be, is too much like burnishing his character by sacrificing some of hers, no matter how vehemently he says that she inspired him to keep fighting.

They make sense as a couple—it’s one of the smartest narrative choices the show has made in recent years. But that choice isn’t worth it if it forces Michonne into a place where she’s just there to reinforce how great Rick is, how necessary he is, how much they need him as a leader. At one point in the episode, he tells her to watch her step on a roof, as though she’d need to be reminded. It’s a tossed off moment, but one that seems indicative of the flaws in both their pairing and Rick’s character as a whole. Rick always knows best, even when the people around him should know better.

Stray observations

  • The only reason we know the two men Michonne and Rick find are Saviors is because one of them says, “If I hear one more word about Fat Joey…” Nice piece of subtle exposition there.
  • I love how the work of clearing away the zombies starts off exciting, then gets darkly funny for a while, before finally turning (briefly) serious.
  • It’s going to be hilarious if Rick finally arms all of Jadis’ people and they turn out not to be able to shoot for shit.
  • I keep saying this, but I really wish someone would at least show us a map of where all these places are supposed to be in relation to one another. How is it possible no one found this massive stash of guns and food before?

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