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Your Preferred Temperature has been Reached Spoiler-filled Postmortem on Episode Four: What We by Joi, Khalilah & Kera

In a poignant episode, that transcends the bounds of the horror genre while managing to encompass it, we begin a journey of reconnection. Rick and Michonne having survived the fall from the helicopter, find themselves in an abandoned yet highly sophisticated building to regroup. Taking shelter from the raging storm outside while the one between them still brews. The couple returns to the staring match first ignited in the helicopter before their unforeseen exit.

The functioning environment, humming back to life upon entry. Taken aback our pair quickly acknowledge the modern conveniences, which include lights, running water, flushable toilets, voice-activated AI devices, and a sound system. The deliberate choice of song playing on the radio provides deeper meaning for the intricate sorrow to be unpacked.

A prisoner gone from his wife for years is nervous as to whether he will be welcomed. His letters home pleading for her to not deny him. Anxiously searching for the signs on his trek home, he can barely bring himself to look. But the prisoner is astonished to find that hundreds of yellow ribbons greet him. ‘Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree’ by Tony Orlando and Dawn became an ode for soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. Particularly one’s held captive by the opposition or their own government through drafts. Its use is all the more fitting to relay the conflict of Rick Grimes.

“I can’t believe you did that,” Rick says of Michonne’s bold move to throw them both from the helicopter. “I can’t believe you said that” she returns referencing the harsh words he said to her at the Cascades. A time-out couldn’t have been more warranted after being separated for almost nine years and then unexpectedly reunited under the crushing grip of the CRM. Rick and Michonne desperately needed more than a few stolen minutes in an alleyway or behind a tree to get back on the same page. If it’s even possible.

Michonne promptly goes about removing her soaked CRM attire, visibly irritated by having to wear it at all. But Rick reminds us of his programming, glimpsed in episode one when he instinctively activates his PRB in the helicopter crash. But now his is missing and this forces him to think of what he wants rather than follow protocol.

As Michonne sheds her Dana Bethune alias Rick, who has not seen his wife’s body in years, immediately takes notice. As he leers at her becoming more scantly clad by the second, he pauses upon seeing a new scar. A branded X on her lower back, inflicted upon her by someone else she thought she could trust who eventually betrayed her.  Seeing the since-healed wound, Rick has to process how it happened and who could have done this to his wife. His thoughts and emotions displayed on his face now that he has to acknowledge her safety has been in jeopardy in his absence. But doing this removes him from the fantasy he’s built in his mind. Yet the heat of Rick’s stare does not go unnoticed by Michonne who immediately turns to catch his gaze with a warning look ‘You can’t be serious’ she communicates back silently with her eyes prompting him to finally stop greedily ogling her impressive curves.

He spots her PRB, his lost in the jump. Again his glare is caught by Michonne who picks it up quickly, asking him if he wants to call for backup. Advancing in on him in attempts to break through the obvious walls he put up, and finds herself getting lost in his equally hungry stare. Forgetting that they have a unique ability to disarm each other wordlessly and he can just as easily penetrate her equally fragile façade.

A fictitious break in the tension comes when Michonne with her pocketed PRB browses for a book she thinks Judith will love. Ramona the Pest revolves around a kindergarten girl whose acts are perceived as annoyances. She ultimately becomes worried that her teacher doesn’t like her anymore and doesn’t want to return to school. But once young Ramona receives a letter from Miss Binney she happily returns to class. This tale speaks to not only Rick but Michonne’s internal doubts.

But we also learn some small tidbits of Michonne’s past including a love for writing that she even studied in college. However, the pseudo-ease is short-lived when she segues her story to Rick's recent creative writing. Referencing the letter he left in the canoe in hopes of getting her to leave the CRM without him. Something he had to know she would never do.

Explosively, she tells Rick to write a letter to his children. Yes, his children! Revealing to her husband that it is not just Judith who is missing her father but that a son who bears his same name is also waiting to finally meet The Brave Man. This revelation sends Rick into a panic, and he immediately doubles down on wanting the PRB from Michonne so that they can go back, seemingly hardly processing the life-altering news that she had just given him about his nearly 8-year-old son, RJ.

Michonne is livid. He wants the PRB back?! After hearing he has a son that he didn’t know about, all Rick can think of is protecting him…by going back to the CRM and possibly never meeting him. A devastating feeling, but Rick’s feelings have never mattered much to him. We imagine that the thought of another child, another SON, had to elate and horrify him at the same time. Another person to love and lose. Another person to protect at all costs. Rick is NOT going home. And he finally reveals his kidnapping and trade in the CRM. And that Jadis continues to threaten Michonne, their children, and their community.

Ever the problem solver, Michonne presents a plan allowing them both to return to their children. She doesn’t like who Rick is while in the midst of the CRM and wants to cease his wavering. Divulging his prior attempts to return home and ultimately staying to keep them safe, Michonne is all the more confused once the helicopter that she threw them from is seen to have crashed in a nearby building. This is their way out. Yet when she joyously glances at her husband she notices there’s something else under the surface.

Referencing RJ, but no doubt her first lost son Andre is being pondered too. His father had given up and it led to his death. She’d always been sure that Rick was the opposite but now she had to decide when he continues to counter. Her conversations with Nat influential when springing to mind. But one sentiment matches ours, that this isn’t the Rick Grimes we recognize or expected. If Michonne returns to her children could she relay that the Brave Man was no more? In an excruciating moment, we witness, Michonne down the hall of the building tearfully and shakily hoping while Rick trembles at the thought of letting her depart without him even though he thinks he must.

And just when we are relieved to see Rick chasing after his wife a CRM helicopter arrives. Leaving no trace is their motto and they’ve come to destroy the wreckage. A shockwave causes Rick to propel his body onto his wife’s to protect her from glass and incoming walkers. A race for safety ensues where we and Rick are reminded of Michonne’s respiratory damage and his true care is plain to see. Ever in soldier mode to his wife’s annoyance, we are granted comedic military mockery for some much-needed respite from the conflict.

Once they find solace in the building's gym, Michonne confides in Rick, revealing a secret that weighs heavily on her heart. She admits her relentless worry for the safety of Judith and RJ. Her inability to reach them since the early days of her journey, and the lost year spent in a struggle for survival alongside Nat nags at her. The burden of parental decisions weighs heavily upon her, etching fear and devastation across her face with quivering in her voice. Yet, Rick's response is unexpectedly callous, his words cutting through her vulnerability with indifference as he remarks, "That's why you should go." His dismissal of her plea, "The only time I feel safe is when I'm with you," amplifies the ache of the moment, underscoring the harsh reality of their existence in a world fraught with danger and uncertainty.

They forge on in an attempt to escape the dead displaying they are still an oddly funny force to be reckoned with even when at odds. On a staircase, Michonne is trapped by a fallen chandelier with walkers incoming she tells Rick to go. His continual denial assures Michonne that he still loves her the way he proclaims he does. His actions during this incident speak louder than words as he works against time to remove bolts to free his wife. When she is finally out, they race off to safety from both the walkers and the collapsing building.

As they return to the familiar abode, greeted by the comforting, yet unusual voice of the AI companion with a warm "Welcome home," emotions overflow within Rick. The fear of almost losing Michonne in various senses amplifies his longing, prompting him to finally take the leap he'd been delaying since their reunion. The tension is serendipitously broadcasted as ‘Temperature control malfunction’ carrying on with a narrator's post to explain the settings and sentiments. Anxious as to what his wife’s response will be after another set of harsh words, Rick moves forward with trepidation. Michonne, attuned to Rick's desires, responds hesitantly to his advances before eagerly succumbing to the passion that has been building between them.

Their intimate encounter unfolds with an anticipated tenderness, intensified by the synchronization of their breaths and the fluidity of their movements, creating a moment of raw, unbridled connection. Again the modern environment plays a part in throwing Rick off his axis. The overwhelming touch and feel of his wife returns him to his dream state where they met in a world outside the apocalypse. Was this real? Was she really there? Or could this be an illusion returned to torment when it was ripped away again? But Michonne recognizes the trauma terrifying his mind and she steadies him in the simplest but most logical way- her heartbeat felt with the palm of his hand on her heaving chest. A gentle caress of his stubbled cheek before the locking of their eyes- brown to blue, reaffirms. This connection is actual and factual. We witness a renewed level of the galvanizing impetus that Michonne Grimes provides her husband.

Afterward, as they cuddle in bed, Rick finally questions Michonne about his newly revealed son. Confidently confirming that if he looks like him, then he must be really good-looking; and already knowing that he was stubborn like the both of them. She counters this, letting him know that Rick Grimes Junior has inherited his fathers, kind heart- leading to another heated kiss between the couple, unable to contain their desire for each other after being apart, an ill-timed Roomba cleaning detail interrupts their impending sensual moment.

But unsurprised Michonne states that Rick is still holding something back when he begins to speak of changing the CRM from the inside, signaling to her that he is still not ready to come home with her. As she moves to leave their bed, he asks about the brand on her back, first noticed as she changed upon arrival. She hesitantly tells him that it was done by an old college friend that she knew before the turn, who had betrayed her and stolen the children of Alexandria. Horrified to learn of the horror his wife faced while seven months pregnant, he is harshly reminded that his absence also left the people closest to him, his wife and child, vulnerable. Michonne also divulged that everyone back home thought she was crazy to keep looking for Rick after not finding his body, speaking to some of the lack of support she received from their community members.

Making love to his wife seemed to have sparked a part of Rick that he thought had long died. Still, there was a thin wall between them. Something stopping him from opening himself up completely to his wife and the idea of his family. Through their rekindled connection Michonne can sense the block knowing he can shift again she uses the crumbling building as a pressure cooker. Acknowledging that he chopped off his own hand in an attempt to come home, she informs him that despite his actions he is still trying to come home. With his fear unlocked by eminent collapse, Michonne gently digs under the last layer, the most difficult one to penetrate.

Giving him the PRB makes this his decision to at long last resolve. Even when he tried to let her depart, he came racing behind her because Michonne is the LOVE of Rick’s life. His wife’s proclaims that she is real, their love is real, their family is real- and therefore something that can’t be denied. Rick’s confronted with the penetrating pain he’s enacting on his wife with his countering deeds. He’s hurting her and making her behave in a manner she doesn’t recognize. But Michonne knows this is not intentional.

"What did they take from you?” she asks him pleadingly. Quietly, almost in a whisper, Rick responds “Carl. They took Carl from me.” Finally admitting that after losing the images of both Carl and Michonne in his dreams, along with his hope of seeing them again, he had decided to die while still alive. Becoming the Walking Dead to give himself to Okafor's mission, convinced him sacrificing himself to protect the CRP would somehow reverberate to his family's safety.

As he tearfully breaks down finally baring his fear of having to try to find a way to live without Michonne, his fantasies of falling in love with her in numerous ways since disappeared. Rick titters from the panic of coming back to life. Knowing he cant live without his wife, no matter what he once stated when they were headed for war with the Saviors. He can’t lose her.

Perhaps as a gift for herself, Rick and their children, Michonne procured something in the marketplace. She produces a cellphone containing an etching of Carl’s likeness made by Benjiro. Returning his face to his father then urging him to consider what Carl would want him to do in that situation. Michonne had fought through both their hells to find Rick against time and odds. Knowing his eldest child would want him to return home, Michonne finally breaks through not only the deep-rooted CRM programming but Rick's own implemented block convincing her husband to return home to live on one another as long as they can.

We are immediately treated to seeing Richonne back in their element, now moving in perfect harmony as they take down every walker in their path after the AI declared the indoctrination over “System malfunction”. A confirming kiss leads to the couple finally make their exit from the crumbling cocoon that housed their transformation. The two kiss like teenagers spurred on by Michonne, in the elevator with two minutes of power remaining.

A bright yellow hybrid getaway truck harkens back to the hundreds of ribbons a wife uses to signify the welcome home of her prisoner husband. With the Ramona the Pest book in hand, Rick seemingly forgets Michonne prefers to drive and gets in that seat. But a stick shift requires the functionality of both hands so they crawl over each other to switch places. “Baby I gotta drive” Michonne giggles as her husband playfully paws and kisses at her, obviously now ready to fully enjoy the intimacy of being reunited without the heavy mental burden that previously weighed on him.

“We can make this whole damn world ours if we want to.” Rick recites the statement coming from the Michonne in his dreams. And real world Michonne immediately recognizes the affirmation as something she’d say, and he cheekily agrees. With a beautiful Afro-French song titled Asibe Happy playing, Rick and Michonne both beam at each other and to themselves as they drive off. The lyrics rhythmically bookending the arduous pathway to rekindling, “We are happy. We love each other. They tried to separate us, but failed. The lower ones agreed that we were worthy of each other… Let’s go. I’m happy, be happy.” Watching through the rearview mirror Michonne smiles at their former shelter finally collapsing in on itself with the ill-fated Roomba inside. Rick Grimes, however, has his eyes on Michonne Grimes. The love of his life.

Please like, rate, and subscribe to Noir and Nerdy for upcoming coverage of the finale two episodes of The Ones Who Live. Plus, you don't want to miss out on our upcoming coverage of AMC’s Parish later this month and Interview with the Vampire in April, before its new season begins in May.

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King R
King R
Mar 20
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Another amazing review. Your prose reads like poetry and befitting for an analysis of the pen of the incredible Danai Gurira.

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