In the last few moments of tonight’s (Sunday 21st February 2016) episode of The Walking Dead, the only show that’s currently appointment TV for me (though American Crime is trying to shoulder its way in there of late), I found myself covering my eyes, screaming, and bouncing up and down. No this wasn’t in reaction to a zombie kill or a favourite character getting his face eaten off by a zombie. This was in reaction to Rick, the show’s hero and sometimes anti-hero, and badass katana wielder Michonne finally…kissing…just that.
You’d get it if you understood how much of a slow build it has been. A slow, excrutiating build that finally had me screaming Yes! like I was getting some (sadly) when it finally came to pass.
Rick and Michonne live in a post apocalyptic world (or the part of the world that is America and specifically the backroads of rural America) decimated by a virus that turns everyone, on dying, into zombies.
When they meet, Rick’s wife has recently died and Michonne is a locked up tight survivor hardened against her own pain and losses. There are trust issues – and Governor issues, then Terminus issues, then insert issue here issues.
Point being, unless you’re Glen and Maggie, there really is no time for love when you have to sleep with one eye open to guard against not only the walking dead but the living.
Michonne works her way back to human – bonding with Rick’s children, his teenage son and baby girl – even as Rick begins to go all mountain man, beard and all.
Still even with all the obstacles – including a Becky the writers tried to shoe horn in there, when blonde and with no survival skills has never been Rick’s type – their friendship blooms like a weed, persistent in hostile circumstances.
But it seemed pretty obvious that either the writers weren’t willing to go there (is interracial love on TV even still taboo?), or Rick and Michonne were too deep in to the friend zone to find their way back to the palpable chemistry any viewer with eyes and a beating heart saw between them. I mean, characters have fallen in to bed with less going on between them – confidantes who can call each other on their bullsh*t and laugh together in a single conversation, who have heat, PLUS the kids like her. But Richonne (Rick and Michonne) seemed destined to remain the stuff of fan fiction.
And then tonight happened.
It opened with a light domestic scene – Michonne robed fussing about the absence of her favourite toothpaste, Rick preparing to go out for the day and promising to pick her up some on his run, and Carl looking alive and smiling which after his eye popping (sorry, couldn’t resist) experience in the last episode stirs a sigh of relief. Are the writers trolling us though? We can’t help but wonder. After all they’ve teased the closeness between these two before but seemed inclined to leave it non-sexual. And this ep seemed to fit the template. Rick and Michonne went their separate ways – had separate adventures – and ended where they’d begun, in this little domestic bubble that seemed, soft lighting notwithstanding, destined to remain as platonic as ever. And then…the kiss.
And so I feel compelled as a fan of this series from season 1 episode 1 to remind all who side eye Walking Dead fans as being lovers of gore, that what we really live for is the moments when humanity shines through the bloodfest and reminds us that a heart is not just for pumping blood…and there’s more to living than merely surviving.
Well played, Walking Dead team, for saving the real Valentine’s Day episode for the week after the mid-season Valentine’s Day return. Well played.
And to my friends who still think this is just a zombie show, tonight’s episode is one of many that I could present as a counter-argument. But actually to feel the full effect of it you’d probably need to go back a few seasons, to Michonne limping up to the fence at the prison toward Rick and his raw and wary band with her bleeding leg, and track the slow character and relationship build that made this moment of genuine human connection truly meaningful, sweet…and hot.