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Written By:

Rich Cross
The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, Season 1, Episode 6, The Last Time

The season finale of The Ones Who Live resolves the dramatic dilemmas of this pacy and entertaining miniseries with a mix of self-confidence and spectacle. To fully enjoy the experience on offer, it is necessary to buy into the high-stakes melodrama that shapes both the action sequences and the heart-in-the-mouth moments of emotional jeopardy.

Few of the plot twists of The Last Time would stand up to serious critical scrutiny, while the script at times teeters on the edge of sentimentality. But any viewer willing to temper their natural incredulity will enjoy a rollicking race towards a resolution that includes multiple punch-the-air stop-offs along the way.

Following Jadis’ last-minute recantation, Rick and Michonne know that they must risk everything and return to the CRM’s Cascadia Base. Michonne will search for and destroy the evidence Jadis has hidden in her quarters, information that would reveal the existence and location of their settlements. At the same time, Rick will try to uncover the secrets of the CRM’s Echelon Briefing. If they can neutralise both threats, the pair will finally be able to return home and reunite with their children.

Writers Scott Gimple and Channing Powell put together a thrilling real-time account of the pair’s infiltration of the CRM base (one through the front gate, the other over the wire). Seasoned Walking Dead director Michael Satrazemis injects impressive tension into the parallel action sequences that follow. A set-piece that unfolds in a service elevator is particularly well executed, but it’s just one of several visceral encounters that the pair navigate as they make their way through the complex.

A key turning point in their investigation comes with the sit-down between Rick and Major General Beale – the moment that the Echelon Briefing is shared. Until now, there had been a question mark over whether Terry O’Quinn would get the screen time his character clearly warranted. In The Last Time, he finally gets the chance to pay back his retainer. Beale’s intense two-hander with Lincoln is one of the high points of the finale, as the General flatters and cajoles Rick to accept the imperatives of the CRM programme.

The horror of what Beale reveals is reinforced by the revelations Michonne uncovers in an alarming orientation film. It provides the justification for the pair to prepare to destroy the military capacity of the CRM’s Frontliners before they can begin their genocidal colonisation campaign far beyond their Philadelphia base. In the final showdown, Michonne and Rick construct a fiendish improvised explosive device, only to have their plans interrupted seconds from detonation by the redoubtable Sergeant Major Thorne. It’s from this point on that plausibility gets trampled in the rush to deliver entertaining pay-offs (which we won’t spoil here).

The Last Time delivers the kind of clear-cut narrative closure that satisfies and which many other genre series struggle with. The closing voiceover, which explains the reform and reorientation of the Civic Republic’s efforts, has to carry a lot of dramatic weight. But there’s the clear sense that matters of substance are being settled at the personal and at the societal level. There’s been no word yet as to whether The Ones Who Live will return for a second season. Anything is possible in a world of the endless undead, but this particular Walking Dead spin-off ends with all of the pieces on the board back in place and all key antagonisms resolved.

Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira, whose creative input into the series’ arc has been decisive, might well have decided from the start that this was the way that their characters would bow out. The inclusion of numerous flashbacks to their earlier life stories does suggest that this is being framed as ‘the end’. But if Scott Gimple were to convince them to join him in pushing for a recommission, everything would need to begin again from a cold restart. As things stand, these six episodes have combined to deliver a taut and effectively plotted thriller, as well as an emotionally grounded character study built upon the unbreakable bonds between Rick and Michonne. No fan of their enduring love affair will finish The Ones Who Live feeling short-changed.


The first season of THE WALKING DEAD: THE ONES WHO LIVE premiered on AMC and AMC+ in the US

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
Season 1, Episode 5, BECOME

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