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THE WALKING DEAD, THE ONES WHO LIVE, Season 1, Episode 5, BECOME

Written By:

Rich Cross
THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE, Season 1, Episode 5, BECOME

There’s a conscious change of mood in the opening sequences of Become, as Rick and Michonne relax into their extended road trip home. With the ruptures in their relationship now healed by the cathartic events of What We, there’s something approaching a honeymoon atmosphere as the pair continue their journey into the verdant, sprawling forests of Wyoming to reach Yellowstone National Park.

Convinced that the CRM will now write them off as killed in the helicopter crash and building collapse that Michonne ensured they would survive, their natural wariness recedes as they enjoy time in each other’s company. Hiking for a night’s respite at Three Pines Cabin, they encounter and neutralise a hapless trio of bandits. But a romantic time-out in a secluded retreat ends abruptly when their lie-in is interrupted by the unwelcome arrival of an old adversary.

It’s easy to understand the role that producers Scott Gimple, Andrew Lincoln, and Danai Gurira wanted Become to play in the season’s six-episode run. With Rick and Michonne now reunited, reconnected, and reinvigorated, the show has earned a moment in which to slow the pace and remind audiences why they should care about the fate of two characters who’ve rekindled their love for one another. That’s the dramatic reward for the stress and antagonism that followed their unexpected collision in Episode One, and it’s a moment to take a breath before the inevitable high-stakes, life-and-death drama of Episode Six.

A more surprising dramatic choice involves the focus on latter-day CRM enforcer Jadis, who is given a thoughtful backstory (courtesy of repeated annual timeshifts) in which she stumbles through the attempt to atone for her past crimes. It feels fitting that her confessor and confidant on this pilgrimage should be ‘Father’ Gabriel Stokes, played with signature astuteness by Seth Gilliam. Those flashbacks, in which Jadis reveals her fallibility and self-doubt, contrast rather well with the ruthlessness she embodies in the present day as the hunter closing in on her prey. Together, those two plot strands allow writers Gabriel Llanas and Matt Negrete to focus on affirming Michonne and Rick’s commitment to each other and, at the same time, settling accounts with Jadis. That all makes sense, given the compressed rhythms required by a mini-series. But there are elements of the execution of Become which disappoint.

Coincidence is stretched to breaking point by the way that different characters arrive at the exact same coordinates in the middle of hundreds of miles of wilderness, just because the plot needs them to. That’s made worse when one of them explains that they followed a trail of carelessly discarded litter to track those they were pursuing.

The feeling that the writers were distracted by their preoccupation with the main emotional storyline is compounded by the fumbled introduction of a calcified walker variant. The threat posed by this interesting new type, and of another (unseen) related mutation, evaporates almost as soon as it is introduced. And while it’s touching to watch the growing intimacy of Rick and Michonne, the reset of their courtship has already been established by the ending of What We. That sense of repetition is not helped by Rick’s strange defence of the mental paralysis that Michonne broke him out of. “I never let go,” he insists of his connection to her – while the counter-evidence of previous episodes clearly suggests otherwise.

As for the impact of Jadis’ reach for redemption, a lot depends on how strongly any individual Walking Dead fan feels invested in her fate. Pollyanna McIntosh has had a particularly challenging character journey to navigate since Jadis’ introduction, and she’s been a focused and observant actor throughout – as she’s evolved from malevolent scrapyard oddball to scheming military careerist. McIntosh brings that same sense of conviction to Jadis’ departure from the series, although it’s her quieter, reflective scenes with Gabriel that have the impact, rather than the more predictable bloody showdown with Rick and Michonne. She does, however, share an unparalleled parting gift: knowledge that could mean salvation for the pair.

Now equipped with a cunning plan, the duo prepare for a decisive reckoning with the Civil Military Republic. If they can complete their mission undetected, the road home re-opens. But disquieting whispers about the CRM’s Echelon Briefing may compel them to reconsider. Become is the least accomplished episode in this particular TWD spin-off to date. But the show’s wider story arc remains sound, and there’s no disputing the extraordinary chemistry between Lincoln and Gurira nor the resilience of their characters’ partnership.

stars

New episodes of THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE premiere on AMC and AMC+ in the US each Sunday

Read our previous reviews of THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE below:

Season 1, Episode 1, YEARS
Season 1, Episode 2, GONE
Season 1, Episode 3, BYE
Season 1, Episode 4, WHAT WE

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