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The Walking Dead - Scars - Review



The Walking Dead “Scars” was written by Corey Reed and Vivian Tse and was directed by Millicent Shelton, whose incredibly long list of credits includes Californication, Empire, and Luke Cage. This was a particularly brutal episode as we finally learn how Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) got those matching scars – which clearly left even deeper emotional scars. Gurira gives one of her best performances. I loved the comparisons between the past and present storylines and how the past explains so much of what has been happening as well as underscores what is happening in the present.

The episode begins with a series of scenes as Michonne looks for Rick. She finds his gun. She starts wearing the gun – and then we see that she is heavily pregnant and still searching along the river for him, checking every walker to make sure it isn’t Rick. She’s not alone, however, as Daryl is also searching. He’s already followed the river to the ocean and back. I loved how this demonstrated the close bond between both Rick and Michonne and Rick and Daryl: wife and brother.

Daryl has yet to acquire the scar over his eye, and Michonne tells him that Judith (Chloe Garcia-Frizzi) is asking about him. Daryl is still planning on going back to Alexandria at this point – as soon as he finds something. Michonne tells him that there are more reasons to come back. Daryl points to her stomach and says that he’s going to be the only one out there for a while – Michonne will have to stay home to look after the baby. And Michonne tells him that he doesn’t have to stay out there. Daryl tells her that he’s not ever going to stop looking. Michonne asks him if he’s ok being alone. He hesitates and nods – it’s a lie, of course. If he was ok being alone, he’d stop looking for Rick. Daryl asks the same of her, and she rubs her belly and points out that she’s not alone – she has the baby, who is a part of Rick too. She’ll always have that connection – and it underscores the importance of this baby to Michonne.

In the present, Michonne cleans Rick’s gun and places it in a box labelled Judith – who is also a piece of Rick – regardless of who her biological father might have been. Michonne sees Aaron (Ross Marquand) coming and leaves the house to meet him – she tells Judith (Cailey Fleming) to watch RJ (Antony Azor), who is playing on a bike. Aaron tells Michonne that Daryl is at the gate. Michonne is shocked that he didn’t let him in, but Aaron tells her that he’s not alone – which is a nice lead in to the flashback and the dangers of letting in people you know – or think you do.

Daryl tells Michonne that Henry (Matt Lintz) is hurt, Alexandria was the closest, and they had nowhere else to go. Michonne asks about Lydia (Cassidy McClincy), and stupid Henry insists that she’s with them. Aaron also insists that they can’t trust her – but Michonne insists that they can trust Daryl.

I loved that the scene cuts between present and past as the gate opens. In the present, we see that they have heavily fortified the gate to Alexandria. In the past, we see people outside the gate also going about their business. They’ve found these people wandering and brought them to Alexandria. It’s a group of children lead by a very old and dear friend of Michonne’s – Jocelyn (Rutina Wesley – who most people will remember from True Blood, but who was also in Hannibal and Queen Sugar. Her horror roots are deep!). Michonne and Jocelyn recognize each other – and of course, Michonne is susceptible to a friend from the past with the loss of Rick – and the children because she is pregnant.

In the present, baby Henry fusses while he gets his leg sewn up and Lydia comforts him. Michonne checks in with Daryl, and he tells her that they’ll head to the Kingdom next because Carol (Melissa McBride) should know. Oh, Daryl. Like Carol is ever going to let her kid go off alone – even with Daryl…. I loved that Connie (Lauren Ridloff) apologizes to Michonne by saying that “This wasn’t the plan but I’d to it all again.” She’s sorry they had to come, but it was their only option. Michonne can’t argue with that – and I loved Gurira’s face as she clearly understands exactly what Connie is saying. Then Connie connects even more with Michonne by adding a joke – “with different shoes” – guys? If you didn’t get it, it’s totally an in-joke with women… Connie thanks Michonne, but Michonne is still wary and tells Laura (Lindsley Register) to watch Lydia.

Aaron tells Michonne that it doesn’t look like they were followed – Daryl covered their tracks – well, duh. But Aaron also knows that the “skin-jobs” are looking and will find them.

Flash again to the past – and a very injured Jocelyn is insisting that she has to go back out and find the others. Aaron is there – concerned about who the others are. Michonne tries to reconnect with her friend, reminding her of their former relationship – it also underscores why she is cold to Connie and reluctant to connect. Jocelyn, who is injured and asking for help, doesn’t seem like a threat. The old gang – Scott (Kenric Green), Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Aaron, Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Rosita (Christian Serratos), and Michonne – has gone after Jocelyn’s other creepy kids with one of the oldest – Mitchell (Joey Simon) and Winnie (Elle Graham) – and when isn’t a small blonde girl creepy as hell? They also find a school of sorts as the walls are full of posters on how to kill and skin animals.

In the present, we see creepy Lydia fondling and liking Henry’s stiches – trust me, it’s worse in the comics. Henry is worried about the scar. But Lydia has a much greater understanding of scars – he’ll never forget what he did – and neither will she. She, like Michonne, understands the importance of scars. Michonne interrupts them to talk to Lydia. Henry thanks Michonne for letting people go to the fair – and she tells him that if she’d known about Lydia and “all this,” she wouldn’t have. Stupid Henry is taken aback.

The scene between Gurira and McClinchey is terrific. I loved how it was shot from both in front of the pair on the stairs and from behind them to underscore that there was a lot more under the surface that Michonne was saying to Lydia. Michonne starts by confirming that Lydia cares about Henry – and she says she does too. However, there’s a difference between knowing a kid for years and watching him grow up and teenage hormones. Plus, is Lydia even capable of caring for anyone? Regardless, Michonne uses this as a starting point of common ground.

Michonne tells Lydia that she’s done things that she’d like to forget to keep Alexandria safe. To save her people, she’s had to risk others. It hasn’t been easy, but it was what she had to do. Michonne tells her that it might have been easier if the only life she had to risk was her own. And this is brilliant – Lydia really only has her own life to risk – she doesn’t have children or any other family with her. And Gurira gives a brilliant side eye here to gauge Lydia’s reaction. She’s clearly thoughtful as Michonne says “to walk away and if that could somehow make everyone else safe.” Michonne would sacrifice herself in a heartbeat – I don’t think there’s any doubt about that. She tells Lydia that that wouldn’t be a hard sacrifice and that she should think about it. Lydia clearly is thinking – but about what, we can’t be sure.

The scene between Judith and Daryl on the bridge is also brilliant. Let’s not forget Daryl’s ties to that water – could we forget the rocket launcher? But with the water wheels now installed, the water is even more of a symbol of water’s life-giving power – and this is also a sign of how much Alexandria has changed and adapted. Daryl and Judith are mirrored as they sit – just as Michonne and Lydia were in the last scene. Except in this scene we only see them from the front or the side.

Judith starts by asking if Hilltop is in danger. Daryl answers truthfully – he’s not sure. Judith cuts right to the heart of the matter. Daryl helped Lydia even if it did endanger others. Daryl says he went for Henry and Lydia just tagged along. But Judith knows that by bringing her, Daryl is demonstrating that he wants to help – and Judith wants to help others too. Judith asks if Daryl would stay if Michonne said it was ok, and again, Daryl is truthful when he says no. Keeping Judith and RJ safe – Rick’s kids – that’s what’s most important to Daryl too. But Judith disagrees. That’s not the whole story. She tells him that she’s heard the stories – how everyone fought the Saviors and won – they can do that again. I loved how the camera pulled out here and emphasized them down the bridge and the water pouring over the bridge – there has been a lot of water over the bridge since the Saviors were defeated. And Daryl insists that she hasn’t heard all the stories.

Judith asks, “What would my Dad do?” She’s not even remotely stupid. She knows that Michonne and Daryl do everything because of Rick. But she also knows that they’ve lost sight of what Rick would want. Daryl immediately knows what she’s getting at. Rick would help.

In the past, Jocelyn’s kids are all in a circle. They’ve got some freshly killed deer that are hanging to skinned and are gathered around a campfire, playing the quiet game – with some of the adults from Alexandria. Michonne and Aaron watch from the house, and Michonne wishes Rick could see it. Michonne then goes back into the kitchen with Jocelyn.

Michonne is impressed by the kids hunting skills, but she doesn’t know how Jocelyn deals with so many kids – she’d to nuts! Jocelyn insists that the kids take care of her. And didn’t everyone think it was highly suspicious that NONE of the adults made it? That they all “broke?” Jocelyn tells Michonne that kids are capable of anything – and she’s not kidding or messing around! – that kids learn and grow – apparently into little psycho-killers if you raise them right! But it is a sharp contrast to both Judith and Lydia – two more different parenting methods…

It was highly improbable for Michonne to run into a childhood friend, but it did provide us with at least some backstory on Michonne. Jocelyn knows by Michonne’s “look” that she’s going back out to look for Rick. She reminisces about Michonne’s tenacity in getting a petition signed in Junior High School. The two share a laugh, but Jocelyn tells Michonne to enjoy the night because she knows she’s going. And Jocelyn knows she’s about to steal Michonne’s daughter! Jocelyn encourages Michonne to go – she really just wants Michonne out of the way.

Back in the present, Aaron sees Daryl’s group to the gate. I loved that he reminded Daryl of helping to change Grace’s diapers – and that he told Daryl he’d make a great father. Let’s not forget that Judith’s bond also goes back to her being a newborn and Daryl dubbing her “Little Asskicker.” Daryl reminds Aaron that back then they were still building bridges – like the one Daryl was sitting on with Judith….

Michonne and Daryl hug goodbye, but Judith waves from afar. Michonne says that Judith is mad at her – and Daryl encourages Michonne to “tell her.” Michonne insists that Judith is just a kid and wants her to be one as long as possible. Daryl points out that she’s not just a little kid. Being a kid in the zombie apocalypse isn’t the same as being a kid in the regular world – and especially not if you are Rick Grimes’ kid! As the gate closes and Judith walks away, Michonne’s eyes fall on the manhole cover that now has a locked bar over it…

We flash back to the manhole cover with no bar and the parents going to Jocelyn’s house to pick up their kids after a sleepover. Gracie is with Aaron – too young for a sleepover. They quickly discover that the house is empty and supplies are gone. Jocelyn has gone like an apocalyptic Fagan with their children. I loved Michonne waddling about as she panics over Judith. They find a dead Alexandrian, and there are small bloody running shoe prints leading from the body to an open manhole cover. We already have evidence that these are not normal children. They’ve been taught and conditioned to act this way – rather like Lydia…

Back in the present, we get a very awkward family dinner with Michonne, RJ, and Judith. Judith isn’t hungry and wants to go to her room. Michonne asks her to wrap her food first. Michonne is lying in bed, not able to sleep, and when she gets up, we are reminded of her scar. She gets up to go and talk to Judith, only to find her gone.

Michonne goes to see Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) – and these two are just terrific in every scene they share. She wants to know if Judith has been to see Negan that day. He tells her that he hasn’t seen Judith since yesterday, and Michonne wants to know what they talk about. Negan tells her homework; sometimes they talk about how much Judith misses Daryl, and she likes hearing stories about her Dad. Michonne accuses him of telling her bullshit – and Negan proves he’s gotten to know Judith because he knows that she’d “smoke out the bullshit.”

Negan hasn’t pulled any punches in talking to Judith. He tells Michonne that he tells Judith that she’s as much a badass as Carl was and has told her about Carl breaking into the Sanctuary and killing a bunch of his men. He’s even told her about Rick “slicing his jugular ninja-style.” Michonne wants to know why he tells her these things – is it because he knows that Michonne hasn’t told Judith or is it because he’s trying to earn Judith’s trust? He says she likes hearing him talk, and Michonne counters that Negan likes hearing himself talk. I loved his answer that they have that in common! Negan points out that she comes to him because he tells her the truth and suggests that if Michonne did the same, she’d be talking to Judith and not him. Michonne is actually shocked when Negan tells her that when Judith asked, he told her about Glenn and the others.

Negan tells her that Judith hates that Michonne isn’t letting new people in and that she thinks things should be the way Carl wanted in his letter. Michonne gets furious and tells Negan that he can’t tell her what Judith wants or feels because she is her daughter – not his. Yet it’s undeniable that he has played a significant role in how Judith has grown up. Would she be such a badass without his encouragement or knowing the history? Negan, however, also points out that Judith IS Michonne’s daughter – and like Michonne has her own ideas about how things should be. Negan realizes that Michonne is there because she doesn’t know where Judith is – and he tells her that Judith might be just like her mother and be out “there” not taking shit lying down – which would mean going after either Daryl or the Whisperers… Sure enough, in place of the gun, Michonne finds a note from Judith. She’s sorry, but she has to go and help their friends.

In the past, which is slightly sepia-toned, Daryl and Michonne take a break from searching for the missing kids on an old swing set – pretty fitting – it’s abandoned and empty, just like childhood in the apocalypse. Michonne tells Daryl that she can’t believe it – Jocelyn was a friend – like a “real” one, which is a bit of a sad commentary on how she feels about her friends now! Gurira is fantastic in this scene as we get another tiny glimpse into Michonne’s past. She shared everything with Jocelyn, including the grief over losing her mother – which Michonne clearly still feels – and which ties in so brilliantly to the theme of the episode. Was she Michonne’s role model and therefore also Judith’s? Isn’t it more poignant to have lost your own mother when you are about to become a mother, knowing that your mother will never meet your children?

Michonne is both devastated not to be able to have that kind of unguarded friendship again, especially now as she’s still grieving over Rick as she grieved over her mother, but she’s also furious that she let her guard down – and suddenly, Michonne’s current stance seems completely reasonable. Daryl tries to comfort her. He tells her that Michonne trusted her friend – it’s understandable. He also points out that some people just have so much evil in their hearts and are able to hide it – like they’re wearing a mask or something. Sound like the Whisperers? I thought it was a bit on the nose. Daryl insists that they’ll find them and that they will pay.

Michonne and Daryl catch up with Jocelyn and the children at what looks to be an abandoned school – again, fitting. One of the kids shoots Daryl in the shoulder with an arrow and then another knocks Michonne out. The two wake up tied up and hanging like a deer to be gutted. Once Michonne is awake, Linus (Luke David Blumm) at Winnie’s direction and Jocelyn’s urging, brands Daryl and then Winnie brands Michonne with the X – their physical – and emotional - scars. The group has a little mantra – the strong survive and thrive. Jocelyn reminds Michonne that she told her what kids can be capable of. She taught them because they can’t be soft – not now – and not like she was. And is this what Jocelyn also taught Michonne?

Daryl gets loose and takes out their guard – but only smothers him unconscious as he ties them up before they go looking for the Alexandrian kids. Winnie alerts the others and Jocelyn has her kids attack Michonne – with her own katana! Jocelyn tells Michonne that she’s living in the past with a ghost – Judith is better off with her.

Michonne makes it very clear that she doesn’t want to hurt the kids and tries to only wound them. This entire scene is the reason there was a strong warning at the beginning of the episode. It’s also clear why this incident was placed in the timeline where it was. Would Michonne have killed them all if it wasn’t clear that they were not concerned about killing her baby? Once Linus slashes her belly, it’s clear that the stakes are not just Michonne – it’s Michonne and the baby. Rick’s baby.

When Jocelyn starts beating her with a board, Michonne barely hesitates in not only stabbing her in the leg, but stabbing her through the heart. The children are all still prepared to fight, but Michonne tells them that they are all still welcome to come back to Alexandria. But it’s too late for them. Mitchell takes over and tells them to kill all of her children and then attacks Michonne with the rest of the children.

In the present, Michonne rides out to find Judith. She finds the bike – clearly Judith’s mode of transportation – and hears walkers. Michonne runs to help Judith, screaming her name. Michonne chopping her way through the walkers is intercut with Michonne chopping her way through the children in the past. The children in the past are already dead inside – Jocelyn has made them evil and they only wear a mask of childhood. It also underscores that Michonne is only protecting her own children in both scenarios.

In the past, we don’t actually see Michonne kill any of the children, we cut to walkers in the present. In the past, Michonne begs the children to stop. She’s covered in blood as she approaches Winnie and begs her not to kill the other children. Daryl emerges from the school – his knives are bloody, but we never see him kill a child. Winnie relents and runs away – and can that be good? Why do I think she’s going to turn up again like a bad penny?

        Judith appears in the doorway. She hesitates – has the brainwashing taken effect? But then she says Mommy and runs into Michonne’s arms. Daryl puts his knives away and also goes to greet the Alexandrian kids – it’s hilarious as Garcia-Frizzi is clearly jumping her cue to run to Reedus! However, Daryl is also clearly devastated by what’s just happened. Let’s not forget his feelings over Sophia…

In the present, Judith with her mini-katana and Michonne fight their way together, but we get a quick scare when Michonne suddenly has to jump in and save Judith. Rather than being angry, Michonne finally tells Judith that they need to talk. Clearly, Michonne is finally beginning to know her own daughter.

Judith and Michonne sit on a pile of rocks – did this remind anyone else of a cairn? A monument to the dead? Michonne dresses a wound on Judith’s arm, using pieces of her own shirt. And it’s interesting that this isn’t the type of shirt we’ve typically seen Michonne in this season, but looks more like the blood-stained shirt from the past scenes. Michonne talks about the past and tells Judith that when she first came out of the trailer, she thought she’d lost Judith because she hesitated. Judith tells her that Michonne didn’t look like herself because she was covered in blood. This was something that Judith had been sheltered from – the violence and that part of Michonne. But somewhere there is a happy medium between completely sheltering kids and turning them into evil killing machines.

Judith tells her that once she recognized her, she was happy that Michonne had rescued her. Michonne is stunned that Judith remembers. But Judith remembers all of it. Jocelyn and the kids were nice the whole time and treated it like a game – but they were all bad people. She knows that’s why Michonne did what she did. Judith hadn’t mentioned it because it made Michonne sad. Michonne says that she thought that Judith just didn’t understand what she was doing at Alexandria which is based on what happened because Judith didn’t remember.

Judith tells her that their friends need their help. Michonne insists that it’s not that simple, and Judith insists that it is. She tells Michonne that she’s her mom – because she chose to be. They love each other, and loving someone means doing whatever it takes to keep them safe. And then Fleming knocks it out of the park – and breaks my heart – as she asks, “When did we stop loving Daryl? And Maggie? And Carol? The King?” Michonne insists that they didn’t, but Judith says it feels that way.

In the past, Michonne and Daryl return with the children and are greeted at the gate by their friends and the parents.

Back in the present, Michonne and Judith visit Carl’s grave – marked simply with white stones in the shape of a C. Michonne explains to Judith that she dug the grave with Rick and that Michonne vowed at the time to never bury another child again. Michonne admits to Judith that she was lost after Rick was gone – and then Judith was gone and Michonne was more scared than she had ever been. Michonne tells her that she wasn’t the only one to be scared, so they decided to put everyone in Alexandria first. It wasn’t what Rick and Carl wanted but it kept Judith and RJ safe. She tells Judith that that’s all she wanted. Again, the two actors are just fantastic, digging deep for this emotional scene. Michonne tells Judith that she’s right. They will protect all the people that they love.

In the final scene, Michonne and Judith drive out. Judith wonders if her cut will leave a scar – she a lot less of a baby about the whole thing than Henry is. Michonne tells her that it likely won’t, but it’s ok if it does. Scars are like memories, reminding us of past events and what’s important – but scars are also the symbol of a wound that has healed. They pick up Daryl’s group to drive them to Kingdom – while Whisperers watch from the woods as wagons enter the Kingdom….

I thought this was a difficult episode to watch, but it was brilliantly written, directed, and acted. Gurira, Reedus and Fleming were particular standouts. I loved the theme of scars as well as the nature vs nurture theme. Are people born evil or do they become evil due to circumstances? Can they be redeemed in either case? I suspect that these themes will continue to play out this season – but only two episodes left! I also loved all the parallel scenes, including seeing Michonne's healed scar and raw one. What did you think of the episode? Thanks for reading to the end – if you did! – of this very long review! Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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