WARNING: The following article contains major spoilers for “Say Yes,” tonight’s episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead,” which as of publication hasn’t yet aired on the West Coast, as well as the Image Comics series.
I’m sure I’m not the first writer to use the term, but “The Walking Dead” has become fond of what I like to call the “detour” episode: where one or two of the main characters find themselves in a new location for an installment that reads more like a short story than a part of the longer narrative. These episodes tend to be quieter than usual, more concerned with character development and heavy plotting.
Granted, Rick and Michonne’s mission of scavenging supplies and weapons in “Say Yes” does relate to the bigger-picture arc of the series. But they still spend most of the episode at a derelict state fair or carnival, a location that feels just as satellite as Oceanside or Eastman’s cabin. There are tents, a ferris wheel, and other set pieces not typically seen on “The Walking Dead.” Although there’s still an impressive action sequence at the end as Rick and Michonne get swarmed by the fairground’s walkers (a mixture of undead civilians and soldiers), the bulk of “Say Yes” gives the couple a chance to show physical and emotional affection for each other, enjoy a quiet dinner, and traverse the (relatively) quiet countryside.
All of this goes a long way to solidify their romance, something we’ve mostly been told about rather than shown on “The Walking Dead.” It also shows a more trusting side of Michonne that adds depth to her character. At the same time, though, it feels a little too similar to Abraham and Sasha’s story in “Always Accountable,” where they, too, were tempted to play house for a little while during a mission that took longer than expected.
It’s not exactly a bad thing to see a slower, more romantic character-driven episode in “The Walking Dead.” It’s just that, as of late, the show has been doing a lot of these types of episodes. It’s maybe been slowing down a little too much. And with The Alexandrians secretly preparing for war, “Say Yes” results in a flatline of tension when it comes to the overall story.
And when the pace does pick up a bit in the final stretch, Michonne — one of the two people we’ve been spending the most time with in the past hour — acts decidedly out of character. After Rick ascends the ferris wheel to take aim at a deer they spotted earlier, he falls into the crowd of walkers below. As Michonne runs to the rescue, she sees the zombies disemboweling what she naturally assumes to be Rick. While they chow down on innards and handfuls of flesh, she backs away in a stupor, prepared to let the undead take her now that the new love of her life is gone. She seems resigned to her fate. Luckily, Rick emerges from a hiding spot, revealing that it wasn’t him being eaten by the walkers, but the deer.
While it’s a narrow escape in an appropriately high-stakes sequence (the only one of it’s kind in this episode), it also betrays a lot of what we’ve come to know about Michonne. Yes, she’s certainly softened a bit since we first saw her silently leading two chained walkers through the woods. But has she done so to the point where she feels that she can’t live without Rick? If so, that strips the character of so much of her strength. Of course she’d be beside herself if something happened to the man she loves. But I don’t buy that she’d give up completely.
The other tense moment (at least in comparison with the rest of the episode) arrives in the final scene. Even though Rick and Michonne successfully obtain the weapons, their “new best friends” still require more artillery before they help The Alexandrians move against The Saviors. Frustrated with how long everything’s taking, Rosita brings a sniper rifle to Sasha and proposes they take Negan out themselves. While standing over Abraham and Glenn’s graves, Sasha agrees, with both women recognizing that succeeding in their mission probably means not making it out alive. Rosita’s never been the most compelling character for me on “The Walking Dead,” so she’s a good candidate to take down Negan. Not only would it give her more to do; it could get us away from the (admittedly pleasant) detour and back on the main road to war with The Saviors.