The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live review: a little life left

Husband-and-wife team Rick and Michonne reuinite in the latest spin-off – which includes a cool artificial fist with a stabby spike.

The original hook for The Walking Dead, back when it was just a comic, was ‘what if there was a zombie movie that just kept going?’ Eleven lengthy seasons of the original Walking Dead television series and five spin-offs later, you might think we’ve got our answer. Clearly the producers disagree: enter The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

What separates spin-off number six from the pack is the return of husband-and-wife team Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). He was last seen in The Walking Dead being secretly carried away by a helicopter belonging to the then-mysterious Civic Republic Military. Two seasons and six years later, Michonne figured out he didn’t really die in a big zombie-killing explosion like they all thought and decided to go looking for him.

All you really need to know beyond that is that other spin-offs have since revealed that while the Civic Republic (an alliance of the only three functioning cities in America and possibly the world) is a lot better than the outside world, the CRM are basically brutal enforcers with an agenda that’s often outright murderous.

Six years

So what was Rick doing during those six years? That’s where The Ones Who Live comes in. Turns out that to get citizenship in the CR, first you have to spend six years killing zombies and not trying to escape. Rick’s good at the first, not so good at the second. Within the first ten minutes his latest escape attempt – which involved him cutting off his own hand – has once again failed.

Why do they still keep him around? Seems CRM Lieutenant Colonel Okafor (Craig Tate) has big plans for him and fellow surly grump Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt), and those plans might run counter to the objectives of current CRM leader Beale (Terry O’Quinn, who’s always fun to see).

Rick still wants to escape to be with Michonne, so he decides the only way out is to pretend to team up with the CRM. They give him a cool artificial fist with a bonus stabby spike, and after a few further twists and turns – plus a number of dreams he has starring Michonne, where their romance plays out on a park bench in a pre-zombie world – he gives up on life and decides to work with the CRM for real. So he never sees Michonne again? That would be telling … but c’mon.

Michonne’s side

Future episodes give Michonne’s side of things, while the CRM (who in a previous spin-off basically gassed an entire living human city) clearly aren’t going anywhere in a hurry. But all the plotting and scheming and references to ‘secrets within secrets’ are really just window-dressing. Unless you’re somehow still interested in lots of tough people talking through gritted teeth about pain and suffering and loss and making hard choices in a world where you have to kill what you love to survive, there’s only two reasons to watch this:

One: the zombies. While it’s early days yet, this episode does do a solid job of laying out the basic rule of (mostly) slow moving zombies: one-on-one they’re easy to kill, then you let your guard down and suddenly there’s a bunch of them and you’re screwed. It’s hard to imagine anyone who hasn’t had their fill of zombie action over the last decade, but if you’re still hungry for more gore (including at one point, an exploding human) this is a nice appetiser.

Two: Rick and Michonne. The first episode is pretty much all Rick, but it’s a solid reminder that Lincoln really was a big part of the series’ original success. Michonne doesn’t get much to do in episode one, but she’s another strong presence in a series that for whatever reason really struggles to come up with truly memorable characters.

Make no mistake, The Ones Who Live is pretty much just more of the same, only now the (living) bad guys have tactical armour and helicopters and the zombies are more decayed (and occasionally, on fire) than ever. But having two memorable leads makes a big difference, especially when the story’s packed into a tight six episodes.

By now most people have walked away from The Walking Dead; this series proves there’s still a little life left in the franchise.

Episode one of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live is now on Stan, with new episodes available each Monday.


3.5 out of 5 stars


Andrew Lincoln, Danai Gurira, Pollyanna McIntosh


Format: TV Series


Release: 25 February 2024

Anthony Morris is a freelance film and television writer. He’s been a regular contributor to The Big Issue, Empire Magazine, Junkee, Broadsheet, The Wheeler Centre and Forte Magazine, where he’s currently the film editor. Other publications he’s contributed to include Vice, The Vine, Kill Your Darlings (where he was their online film columnist), The Lifted Brow, Urban Walkabout and Spook Magazine. He’s the co-author of hit romantic comedy novel The Hot Guy, and he’s also written some short stories he’d rather you didn’t mention. You can follow him on Twitter @morrbeat and read some of his reviews on the blog It’s Better in the Dark.