[WARNING: The following story contains spoilers from Sunday's episode of The Walking Dead. Read at your own risk.]
Is the Ricktatorship finally over on The Walking Dead?
On Sunday's episode, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) had little patience for interloper Aaron (Ross Marquand), who invited our band of survivors to join his camp at Alexandria. Although he promised a new safe haven for Rick & Co., Rick was understandably slow to trust Aaron given their recent run-ins with the likes of Gareth and The Governor.
However, Michonne (Danai Gurira) refused to sit back and let Rick dismiss Aaron's offer out of hand, and instead organized a group to investigate Aaron's claims. When the exploratory group found cars and food that Aaron promised nearby, Rick begrudgingly agreed to go to Aaron's camp — though Rick warned Michonne that he wouldn't decide to go inside until he decided how it felt outside the gates.
Despite some bumps along the way — including a zombie attack and the introduction of Aaron's injured boyfriend Eric (Jordan Woods-Robinson) — Rick and Michonne pulled up to the gates of Alexandria. And, after Rick hears the laughter of playing children inside, he agrees for his group to enter. But the battle may not be over yet.
"It's going to be a daily battle with Rick and the rest of the group to see how they will acclimate to a new community and, frankly, see if they are right for it," Marquand says. "Personalities become tested, everyone is more on edge. Survival is an ultimate goal, but at the end of the day, you have to make certain allowances. We're all going to have to be more patient and work together, and if some people can't do that, then they might not last in that community."
So, will Rick and his group acclimate? TVGuide.com chatted with Gurira about why Michonne decided to challenge Rick's choices and just how much she actually trusts Aaron. Plus: Are Rick and Michonne becoming more than just friends?
Michonne almost instantly decides to trust Aaron, even though Rick clearly doesn't. Why?
Danai Gurira: The group is in a dire circumstance and she can see that. It's dire in terms of the literal conditions, but aspects of the humanity of the group were also starting to concern her. She's been to the darkest place you can really get to and came back out of it. She understands how this world runs the risk of leading people into very dark places in their humanity, and she has no interest in seeing that happen to this group of people that she now claims as her family.
She also had been pushing Rick to find a safe place to settle down even before Aaron showed up.
Gurira: Yes, there's also the component of seeing something viable in front of her. When she chose to not go back out into the world by herself in Season 4, the decision was coupled with the decision to live. Now the question for her is: What does that look like? Sometimes it means seeing the better of a situation rather than looking at it and remembering all the bad things of the past. Her instincts are very sharp in this moment. She's fully Michonne — that cautious, careful person — but she's also hopeful. I think the two things combined allow her to look at this guy more objectively than everyone else in the room.
You mentioned the group's humanity. We've seen Rick, in particular, do some questionable things. Is she wary of Rick as a leader? Does that play a part in her challenging his decision about Aaron?
Gurira: She's seen him go to very dark places. She understands that this world takes us there, but [knows], at his core, he's a wonderful, good, strong leader and someone that she trusts and is loyal to. When a true friendship really exists, people have to be willing to disagree. And what she's seeing from him at the core is fear. She's seeing him be cautious based on things that have happened before and not giving [Aaron] a fair shake. When you are truly someone's friend and have some intimacy, which Rick and Michonne definitely have, that person can stand up in that moment and constructively move things in a different direction. She's always been loyal to Rick, so that's something that also jars him and makes him go, "OK, maybe this is something I have to indulge because she doesn't do this often."
Does Michonne ever worry that she might be wrong about Aaron?
Gurira: Absolutely. There's never a time that she doesn't feel that what they're doing is a risk, which is why she's always cautious. She also knows that the group... knows how to regulate our surroundings quickly if we need to, but there is that concern. There is a responsibility she feels on her shoulders a little bit, which is why when she's in the car with [Aaron] looking at the picture, there's one moment where she feels for the first time that Aaron's not telling the whole truth. That's when she starts to go into interrogating him. Suddenly, her instincts get a little shaken. But she's really checking it because it's like, "If I'm wrong, this is on me."
Obviously, by the end of the episode, it seems Aaron was telling the truth, but will that one moment of him lying make her unable to trust him going forward?
Gurira: She's cautious; she's aware. But there is a component of how this man has handled himself. He's well-spoken, he's investigated them, he's paid attention from afar — these are things she actually respects. People like The Governor and the people from Terminus, they didn't investigate you before they invited you in because they were up to something. So there's never going to be a time where Michonne drops that consciousness and just say, "Oh, let's go lay on a lounge chair!" [Laughs] But [she's asking,] "Do we have enough space to take in something possibly new and possibly good for us?" That's what Michonne has become a guardian of: giving us that little space to have some hope. We need to have a little bit of hope because that's the only way we're going to survive.
On the flip side, does Michonne worry that some members of her group have perhaps gone too dark and might be rejected from Alexandria?
Gurira: She has hope for them. She does know everyone still has their humanity, but I do think it's a question. I don't think she walks in there thinking we're just going to be happy campers for the next God-knows-how-long. There's always an awareness that everything is going to be a step-by-step process, and we're not quite sure what lies beyond those gates. But the battle that is won in this episode is that they found enough space for hope inside of them. The next battle is, "OK, who are these people and can we adapt?"
We get Rick's point of view when he hears children playing inside the gates of Alexandria. What does Michonne feel in that moment?
Gurira: In a way, she's very happy for her friend. What [Rick] said to her was also very jarring because he was right. What are we going to feel when we pull up to those walls? So she gives him a lot of love and encouragement in that moment because she does see that shift in him. And it's one of the most important moments that he has that shift. That moment for her is a wonderful thing, because it allows him to get to the point of taking the next step. The love she shows him in that moment is because she knows he's scared. But it really is a moment of her letting him know, "I am right here... and the battle of the fear taking over and keeping us from taking the next step has been won."
Do you think Rick and Michonne's friendship is developing into something more?
Gurira: We'll have to see. They do have such a great, intimate friendship and it did grow. I think the real test of a relationship is when it's in conflict. How do you get through that? They weren't in massive conflict in this episode, but they were, at a moment or two, not on the same page. The beauty of the friendship is that they went through that journey in this episode and it definitely came out even stronger. It's a fantastic thing that they have each other and they have that level of... love and support. Whatever happens, at the end of the day, they have a really fantastic connection.
Now that she pushed so hard for this and was proven correct, do you think Michonne will take on a larger leadership role?
Gurira: I don't think she thinks like that all. She can handle things as she's been handling them without being a "leader." There's a lot of leaders in this group of people. What she identifies [that] needs to be done, she gets done. She's been doing that anyway. It's not about having to take any particular position. It's about doing all she can to keep her people alive. She made a decision in Season 4 that that's the person she was going to be. Now, we're seeing the enactment of that. We're seeing what choosing to live really means. And it also involves choosing to help other people live.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.