Skip to main content

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live ending explained (and what it means for TWD universe and the Daryl Dixon show)

AMC's much anticipated Rick and Michonne mini-series had its finale last night. But were they the ones who live?

Popverse's top stories of the day


When Andrew Lincoln left AMC mega-series The Walking Dead five episodes into 2018’s ninth season, it shocked fans, and also begged enormous questions. Who was the mysterious group with its own helicopters that had been seen in the sky from time to time since the series pilot? What did Anne (PolyAnna McIntosh), the former head of the Scavengers, have to do with them? And why did they agree to her request to save his life and take him back to their base?

A year and a half later, Danai Gurira left the comic book adaptation in an episode in which Michonne discovered Rick’s boots, a cell phone etched with Rick’s name and drawings of her and Judith, and a log book suggesting Rick might be in New Jersey. Promising this was not the last we’d hear of Rick and Michonne, Walking Dead chief content officer Scott M. Gimple said a film about them was in the works.

That film turned into the gripping six-part reunion miniseries The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, which aired its finale last night. Did Rick and Michonne both survive? Did they make it home? Do they have a home to go back to?

Warning: This article has spoilers as big as a horde of walkers.

What happened in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live ending?

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live miniseries is built around three big ideas. There's the dossier that Anne (now Jadis) is constantly holding over Rick’s head, saying if he leaves the CRM or she dies, it will reveal the existence and whereabouts of Alexandria to the Civic Republic Military (owners of the helicopters and armed forces for the Philadelphia-centered Civic Republic, the last remnants of a civilian government in the former U.S.). If they find out about Alexandria, Jadis says, the CRM will immediately fly there and kill everyone.

Then there's the love between Rick and Michonne, which characters repeatedly say is so damn strong, together they can defeat anything. The whole series really wrestles with the Walking Dead's (and Rick's) eternal question: Can anything good survive in this God/Gimple-forsaken world?

Lastly, there's the mysterious Echelon briefing that CRM commander Jonathan Beale (Terry O’Quinn) gives his most trusted soldiers, which most recently turned Rick’s South African buddy Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt, above) into a true believer.

Having learned from Jadis that she hid her dossier in the base in the Cascades where Beale is prepping for some sort of major military action, Rick and Michonne decide to go back to destroy the dossier, learn what the Echelon briefing contains, and stop the CRM. Wearing CRM armor—and having been previously welcomed into the CRM for a time as “Dana” (or Danai…?)—Michonne is quickly able to get into Jadis’ apartment. She finds the dossier in a steel wire cat statue—a deep cut callback to the colorful cat sculpture famously Michonne got Carl way back in season 3 when she went back to get the picture of his mother that he’d dropped, leading to one of the series' most famous lines.

Slightly more immediately, the sculpture points back to the wooden cat sculpture Rick took Michonne from one of the Scavengers’ trash heaps. (Jadis, man. The lady remembers.)

As promised, the dossiser gives the CRM all the information it would ever need to firebomb Alexandria into oblivion, including Jadis’ insistence that they do so and that Rick and Michonne together are infinitely dangerous. Stunned and disgusted, Michonne destroys it.

Meanwhile Rick receives the Echelon briefing from Beale, and it is even more horrifying than he could have imagined. Having discovered hordes over a million walkers strong, Beale says it’s very likely that humanity is going to be completely wiped out within 14 years. The only way to ensure the possibility of their salvation, he has decided, is to mass murder everyone but the kids in Portland, the other major city left in the United States, and then to slowly march across the country dominating or murdering everybody else. Beale also reveals they were responsible for the mysterious destruction of Omaha mentioned in the pilot.

Yeah, it’s not a great plan from Rick and Michonne’s point of view — nor Portland’s. In short order Rick murders Beale and concocts a plan with Michonne to use Walker Beale plus the rando CRM soldier he beats to death with his bare hand—earlier in the season Rick cut off one of his hands in a nod to the comics that Lincoln insisted on. The two grab a set of grenades, wire them to enough chlorine gas to murder the entire CRM forward operation, and wire up the wandering Beale and Rando as slow-motion triggers.

But just as they’re heading away from the ticking time-bomb they’ve created, Brandt shows up knowing they're up to no good, and demands they return to the tent they just came from to stop whatever it is they’ve done. As they walk back toward the about-to-detonate explosives, hand-in-hand, Walker Beale staggers out, shocking Brandt. (Btw: Terry O'Quinn gives great Walker.) As the explosives then detonate, the always-quick-thinking Michonne pulls something wet over them to protect them from the gas—yeah, it gets a li'l bit dodgy from here on out.

As a horde of new CRM walkers stagger into life, Rick fights Brandt, until a group of zombies grab him. Not seeing that, Michonne makes pretty short work of Brandt with Beale’s sword. Meanwhile Rick somehow not only does not get bit by the 7 or 8 walkers that have him backed into a corner, but detonates a grenade on one of them without getting even slightly injured himself. (He seems to have used a couple of them as a blast shield, but they still didn't bite him, it doesn’t really work, but come on, haven’t these two been through enough???)

The two are able to climb on top of a shipping container. While news reports from within Philadelphia tell us that the civilian government has been horrified to learn what the CRM has been doing, and is now going to start reaching out to the world outside to bring help, Rick and Michonne hop on a helicopter and fly to meet Judith and R.J., in a beautiful ending sequence that has Rick meeting his adorable son for the first time.

He's also wearing Carl's hat. *gulp* I'm not crying, you're crying.

The show ends on a swell of music as the four hug in a field, their years and years of searching for each other now over. Congratulations, Rick, Michonne, Judith, and R.J.! You are the ones who live!

Are there any cool walkers in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live?

Episode 105 includes walkers whose skin has become extra hard because of some kind of nearby steam vents which have calcified them. Rick and Michonne together are still able to make short work of them — Rick tells her, “I break, you stab.” But for anyone else, Yeah, they’re pretty tough!

Who dies in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live?

It may be called 'The Ones who Live,' but this is still the Walking Dead. People gonna die.

The series' most prominent victim is Jadis, who gets bitten in the neck while she's trying to kill Michonne and bring back Rick. Before Rick puts Jadis out of her misery, Michonne gets in her face and reveals not only are they going to get her dossier, they’re going to destroy the CRM entirely and with it all of Jadis’ dreams for it.

It's been rule one from the first time we met her: DO NOT MESS WITH MICHONNE, Y'ALL.

All of the major characters introduced in the series are sadly not among “the ones who live.” Lieutenant Colonel Donald Okafor (Craig Tate), who had recruited Rick and Thorne to join him in reforming the CRM from the inside, got got in an attack on his helicopter by Michonne and her friend Nat.

Terry O’Quinn’s quietly psychotic model of a modern major general Jonathan Beale gets stabbed by Rick with Beale’s own sword after he shares his insane we-save-humanity-by-murdering-it plans. Then as a walker he becomes a trigger for detonating much of the CRM’s nasty chlorine gas, creating a whole new horde of body-armored dead. That will be a fun new problem for someone to deal with!

Brandt, who at some point started sipping way too much of the CRM Kool-Aid, gets stabbed by Michonne. Having insisted moments before that Michonne was in the wrong, there’s no room for love in this world, in her final breaths she recants, saying Okafor was right, we have to have hope. Better late than never, I guess. But still, really, really, really late.

Probably the most devastating deaths in the series, though, involve the two characters that Michonne helped as she left the original series, the pregnant Aiden (Breeda Wool) and her boyfriend Bailey (Andrew Bachelor), plus their sarcastic friend and munitions expert Nat (Matthew August Jeffers), all of whom left their caravan to follow Michonne and then were bombed with chlorine gas after they arrived where Michonne thought Rick was. Aiden and Bailey die from the effects of the gas within a day. Nat and Michonne spent a year in a mall recovering, only for Nat to get killed by a CRM soldier they thought was dead after Nat and Michonne shot the Rick’s plane down.

Nat was in the world of the Walking Dead for less than a full episode, and yet was so fully realized by Jeffers his dead hit as hard as that of a series regular. A great performance.

Is there a The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live post-credits or mid-credits scene?

There is not.

But within the season premiere of the new AMC series Parish, which followed the finale, we did get a sneak peek at the second season of The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, sub-subtitled The Book of Carol, which sees Daryl and his allies in a nasty gun fight. Meanwhile Carol rolls up on Daryl’s motorcycle at a camp site/car service station that gave Daryl’s bike to the guy she met at the end of season one, demanding answers.

Will there be a The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live season 2?

While nothing has been announced yet, the finale of the mini-series, which brings Rick and Michonne home to their children, very much feels like a clear ending for these characters. Also, the episode is called 'The Last Time,' so there’s that.

Having said that, the finale does include the surprising reveal that the CRM has discovered massive million-strong packs of walkers moving through the country, and that given their presence and the difficulties of life now, they estimate humanity has at best 14 years left.

I don’t know how introduce those sorts of dire odds without at least some kind of plan for a future storyline. Whether that involves Rick and Michonne, Alexandria, or the Civic Republic is anyone’s guess.


Confused? Here's how to watch The Walking Dead universe in release and chronological order.

Featured events