The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Ending Explained

The Walking Dead spinoff ends with episode 6, but is this the last time we'll see Rick and Michonne?

Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale, "The Last Time." "Love doesn't die"... and neither do Rick and Michonne. The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live ended its six-episode season Sunday night with "The Last Time," wrapping up the stories of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) as the long-lost couple — who lived up to the Grimes family phrase "we're the ones who live" — finally returned home to their children, Judith (Cailey Fleming) and Rick "RJ" Grimes Jr. (Antony Azor).

Before they can head home, Rick and Michonne return to the Cascadia Forward Operating Base on an undercover mission: Rick to receive the Echelon Briefing from Civic Republic Military Major General Beale (Terry O'Quinn), and Michonne to retrieve the dossier that Anne/Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) left behind with intel that threatens to destroy Alexandria. After they find out what the CRM is planning, their next move is to take that information to the Civic Republic and then go home. Together.

Rick's superior officer, Command Sergeant Major Pearl Thorne (Lesley-Ann Brandt), has given up on the late Okafor's (Craig Tate) mission to remake the CRM from the inside. Instead, Thorne is a true believer among the ranks of the CRM's Frontliner force and Beale's CRM Force Command, and she's convinced Sgt. Maj. Grimes will convert when he's briefed on the secrets that are kept hidden from the hidden city: the Civic Republic of Philadelphia.

After Michonne finds and destroys the dossier, she sneaks into a briefing on "Operation N1W." It's revealed that CRM Frontliner embeds have been living in Portland under false identities and, in 18 hours, those operatives will be activated to evacuate selected children. Those assets will be airlifted away from three extraction zones before the CRM gasses Portland, destroys the community, and liquidates its population of 87,000 people.

Meanwhile, Beale briefs Rick on the Echelon and discloses what only 2,533 elite soldiers have heard before: between the dead, disease, starvation, and million-strong dead masses roaming across the continent, CRM modeling shows humanity has 14 years left before the living become extinct. Beale explains that the Civic Republic Military destroys communities "for resources, for strategic superiority, and to ensure the city's secrecy and security above all," and their tactical military operations already eliminated the Omaha Safe-Zone and the Campus Colony in Nebraska. After they destroy Portland, the CRM will become the supreme force on the continent — and potentially the world. To combat an existential threat, they must be an existential threat.

With the Alliance of the Three eliminated, Beale's CRM will declare martial law on the Civic Republic and seize control of the city from the Civic Republic Council. Then they will march across the country, eliminate competing communities, take their resources, ensure CRM supremacy... and humanity's survival. Frontliners must swear on the sword, with Beale believing that "the sword that kills is the sword that gives life." But the sword that kills does just that when Rick, refusing an offer to eventually become the next leader of the CRM, impales Beale and plots to thwart Operation N1W with Michonne.

Inspired by pyromaniac Nat (Matthew August Jeffers) and Rick's childhood story about his father burning down the family farm, the couple rigs grenades to blow up the chlorine gas canisters before the CRM can bomb Portland. With the Frontliners and CRM Force Command convened for a summit at the Cascadia base, Rick and Michonne manage to kill the force of 2,533 with an explosion that Rick foreshadowed: "Sometimes things have to burn to bring things back."

Rick and Michonne survive the bombing and gassing by taking cover beneath a CRM flag doused in water — and so does Thorne, who tries to kill the traitors for "destroying the whole world." Michonne engages Thorne in a fight, countering that "love doesn't die" when Thorne tells her "in a dead world, love is dead." Michonne stabs Thorne with Beale's sword, only to seemingly watch Rick die as he's swarmed by walkers before pulling the pin on a grenade. But Rick emerges from a pile of zombie bodies he used for cover, and then the couple escapes the massive walker horde that is the fiery remains of CRM command.

In the aftermath, it's revealed Rick and Michonne exposed Operation N1W, and the CRC unanimously voted for emergency oversight over the remaining forces of the CRM. The council also made it so that current and future citizens of the Civic Republic are free to leave at will, and the reformed CRM's priority has shifted beyond defense of the CR to aid survivors and communities. In the end, Rick carried out Okafor's mission to reform and remake the CRM as a force for good.

The series ends with Rick and Michonne returning home on a CRM cargo helicopter — part of a fleet of choppers shipping supplies across the country. In the final scene, Rick and Michonne make it home to their children, and RJ meets his father for the first time. "You're the Brave Man?" RJ asks from beneath the sheriff's hat that Rick handed down to Carl, who passed it down to Judith. "I am," Rick answers. "But maybe you can call me Dad." We see one final shot of the Grimes family in an embrace, the end of their story a happy one. They're the ones who live.

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