The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: A bold leap forward for the zombie franchise

Terry O'Quinn on The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.
Terry O’Quinn has played many villains. Pic credit: AMC/Gene Page

When Andrew Lincoln exited The Walking Dead in 2018, we were promised a trilogy of movies to tell us what came next for our hero.

Six years later, we’re getting The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, a six-episode limited series that will chart Rick’s story after being handed over by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) to the Civic Republic Military (CRM) and Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) harrowing quest to find him.

AMC shared the first four episodes with critics before the premiere, and after waiting so long for this story to come full circle, I can confidently say that it’s a resounding success.

In pre-series press, the cast has been vocal about the show being a love story with a post-apocalyptic backdrop, and that’s probably the best way to describe it.

That doesn’t mean the show has been watered down. The franchise is more cutthroat than ever in this latest spinoff because we’re dealing with the biggest and most armed group of villains yet.

Something happens in the first few minutes of the premiere that sets the tone for the rest of the series, and that sense of dread doesn’t let up throughout those first four episodes.

It would probably be a good idea to watch The Walking Dead: World Beyond

If you watched The Walking Dead: World Beyond, you know we got teased about how deadly this group is, and now, we’re seeing it firsthand as two beloved fan favorites try to make the right moves to survive and reunite.

Terry O’Quinn (Lost) is on board as Major General Beale, the group’s ruthless leader, with many soldiers and seemingly even more helicopters. O’Quinn is well-known for playing villains.

After hearing so much about this character on The Walking Dead: World Beyond, expectations were high.

The only concern is that we don’t see much of him in the four episodes, so the hope is that he gets much more screen time in the final two episodes because you don’t cast an actor of this caliber and underutilize him.

Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira are at the top of their game

Both Lincoln and Gurira slip back into their respective roles with unrestraint. It almost feels like they’ve never been away.

They’re both as comfortable ever as these characters. Fans will be excited to see them returning to this universe because everything can change for them at the drop of a hat.

We already checked back in with Jadis on The Walking Dead: World Beyond Season 2, but there’s still plenty of intrigue about how she fits into the CRM.

While there are a handful of familiar faces, plenty of new faces are in the mix, including Lesley-Ann Brandt’s Pearl, who is introduced into the universe through Rick’s storyline.

Seeing Brandt in a role worlds away from Maze on Lucifer is fascinating. If she was adamant about switching things up, she picked wisely.

Craig Tate is another solid choice as Donald Okafor, but I don’t want to delve too much into his character today because of those pesky AMC embargos!

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live has a lot of ground to cover

Thanks to the original series’ knack for time jumps in its final few seasons, there’s a lot of ground to cover about what happened to Rick and Michonne when their storylines splintered away from the main series.

It was hard not to worry that too much time had passed for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live to be satisfying, but the creative team (which includes Gurira!) has done a remarkable job of restarting the storylines of these characters while featuring plenty of nods to how they got to the point they’re at in the spinoff.

The result is a series that simultaneously feels both satisfying and climactic because everything that happens will severely impact the more expansive TWD universe.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live sets itself apart from the other shows

Many fans will look for critics to compare the show to recent spinoffs, The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon and The Walking Dead: Dead City. However, all of these shows are so different that comparing them to one another doesn’t do anyone any good.

The best way to look at it is this: The Walking Dead’s budget was constrained by the number of cast members, so ending the main show and following fan-favorite characters on new journies was the best foot forward.

The spinoffs have all featured awe-inspiring visuals and film-like production values, so although we’re not getting the Rick-led trilogy of movies, The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is the next best thing.

Is this the end of Rick and Michonne’s story?

There’s also been considerable debate about whether the show will be a limited series. Through four episodes, it feels like we’re reaching this sense of finality for Rick and Michonne.

This mission for Michonne to reunite her family pushes her to the limit. The stakes have never been higher for her; we see that through Gurira’s award-worthy performance.

We can’t rule anything out with rumors that all of the spinoffs will converge at some point down the line, but for now, I’m looking at this as the last chapter for Rick and Michonne until AMC tells us otherwise.

If it is the last chapter, it’s doing a remarkable job of making me feel like this is the end of something big.

Monsters and Critics will have interviews with the cast before the series debuts, so stay tuned.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premieres Sunday, February 25, at 9/8c on AMC.

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