The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is the franchise’s most anticipated spinoff yet. With strong reception for both The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon and The Walking Dead: Dead City, fans have high expectations for the Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) spinoff. The new synopsis double-downs on the love story focus. In most cases, this would be something to rejoice in, but the franchise’s rocky history with love stories raises some concerns for The Ones Who Live romance.
There’s a reason why a huge chunk of the fanbase stopped watching after Glenn’s death. Not only did it mark the end of a fan-favorite character, but it severed one of the few romantic relationships on The Walking Dead that actually worked. Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Glenn (Steven Yeun) treated fans to a friends-to-lovers story that developed organically. It marked a bright spot in an otherwise dark series. Michonne and Rick took over that role in later seasons but didn’t get quite as much exploration as a couple. The Ones Who Live romance can change all that if it avoids past pitfalls.
Romances Lack Proper Development on The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead knows how to handle platonic relationships. Carol and Daryl. Rosita and Eugene. Daryl and Rick. These are relationships done right. They got enough time in the oven. They had fans laughing, crying, and everything in between. Unfortunately, that same care didn’t always translate to its romances. Couples like Tara and Denise and Aldin and Eden primarily operated in the background. Newer additions like Princess and Mercer also felt forced and rushed despite being comic-compliant.
With the exception of Maggie and Glenn, a good chunk of romances began off-screen. In an effort to move the plot along, The Walking Dead frequently relied on the tell, not show, mentality when it came to relationships. It’s understandable to a point. The series has a lot of characters to grapple with, but off-screen romance development did it no favors. Many disliked Carol and Ezekiel’s relationship for this very reason, while Gabriel and Rosita’s sudden coupling left fans scratching their heads.
Negan endured a similar misdoing. His feelings for Lucille were compelling and moving but were mostly regulated to a flashback. His relationship with Annie also occurred off-screen, only for his supposedly beloved wife to disappear entirely in Dead City. While Annie could have been an intriguing character, she was regulated to a plot device to remind fans of Negan’s redemption once again. Then, the series brushed the half-baked romance aside entirely come Dead City, seemingly to allow Negan to make goo-goo eyes at Maggie. As a result, the franchise remains almost hypocritical. It wants fans to ship the characters, but it doesn’t always provide enough emotional and physical development to give them a reason to.
The Ones Who Live Romance Cannot Repeat Past Mistakes
On paper, Rick and Michonne’s romance makes sense. Both are fan-favorite survivors who excel in the post-apocalyptic landscape. Yet, even they fell victim to The Walking Dead’s bad habit of rushing romantic development. Despite the build-up in Season 6, it seemed sudden, especially after Rick’s romantic preoccupation with Jessie. Audiences didn’t get the same time they got with Maggie and Glenn.
Michonne and Rick navigated the bad, the difficult and the ugly. They offered strength when the other needed it. They worked as traveling companions. They excelled as friends. It was the transition to lovers that felt lacking. Still, fans love “Richonne,” and if you’re like me, you want better for them in The Ones Who Live.
The spinoff has a lot of information to tackle. The mystery of what Rick’s been up to and the CRM remains at the forefront of questions needing answers. Michonne also left her kids behind in her search for Rick, an impossibly difficult decision that will no doubt affect her character. With the show being another one of The Walking Dead‘s limited series, it faces the challenge of balance.
Rick and Michonne’s love story cannot be sacrificed for plot and vice versa. Just like The Ones Who Live romance can’t just begin with “Oh, here they are. They love each other, remember?” A lot has happened since they’ve been apart, and trying to catch the characters (and fans) up with off-screen development will surely fail. With The Walking Dead already skipping much of their romantic build-up, Rick and Michonne’s romance needs time to shine.