The Walking Dead Stars Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln Break Down the Emotional Union in The Ones Who Live

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live creators explain the Richonne love scene.

[Spoiler alert: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live episode 4.] Rick and Michonne are the ones who love. Not only did the recently reunited couple become emotionally and physically intimate for the first time in nearly a decade, but this week's "What We" episode saw Rick (Andrew Lincoln) open up to Michonne (Danai Gurira) about what the CRM really took from him: his loved ones. Rick confessed that he started to forget his son, Carl (who died more than nine years earlier in season 8 of The Walking Dead), and that his memories of Michonne started to fade the longer he was unable to escape the clutches of the Civic Republic Military.

"You and I fell in love in different ways, and it kept me going. And then you were gone, too," Rick told Michonne of his dreams from the first episode. "I couldn't see your face anymore, just like I couldn't see Carl's. I can't live without you. Without you, I die. And I figured out how to do that. I know how to be dead and live now. You can't just come back here, make me come alive again if I don't know if I won't lose you again. What if I lose you and I can't figure out how to die all over again?"

It was his fear of losing Michonne that made Rick believe he needed to stay behind and change the CRM from the inside, the only way to protect his family from Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh). But it was the memory of his son — and a portrait of Carl created by the artist Benjiro — that convinced Rick to go AWOL and return home with Michonne, the couple taking advantage of a helicopter crash to make the army think they died in the wreck.

That decision was reached after Rick gave himself to his wife emotionally and physically, with Michonne helping him heal from years of pent up traumas and grief.

"We're proposing a love story. So at some point, they have to make love. It's really that simple," Gurira, who also wrote the episode, told EW. "I think the goal for that scene in my head was that it shall not be a typical love scene. It shall not be, 'Oh, when they copulate and it's so lovely' — it shall not be that. It needed to have a character moment in it that allowed for something to shift. Even if the audience doesn't fully get what it is."

Added series co-creator and showrunner Scott M. Gimple, "It's very much part of the story, and there's a whole story to that sex scene. It isn't just like them going at it. There's an arc to the sex scene story being told there. And with these characters in that episode, it isn't until they're put in danger and have to fight beside one another that they click that they are suddenly just one person. And then at the end of that physicality of surviving together, it leads to a different kind of physicality of them truly getting together and truly touching one another.'"

The scene was the climax of an action sequence where Michonne and Rick, cut off by the zombified tenants of the high-rise building where they holed up after jumping out of their helicopter, retreated to an apartment to consummate their renewed relationship after saving each other from the walker horde.

"It is something that happens that is about people that connected having a moment in their most vulnerable place. So it was a very crucial thing to me that that love scene did not just be a love scene," Gurira explained. "The key thing was of course, the fact that Rick has PTSD and that's very much what's driving a lot of his behavior and being in a place of that level of vulnerability, back with the love of his life in that way."

"It's also the thing he fears, the loss of her. It manifests itself in a way that is visceral and leads to the lovemaking not just being about love, but the revealing of pain and trauma and fear," she continued. "That informs Michonne, that she can't just blast him into making sense. There's something deeper going on here that he can't verbalize. She has to help him get through in a different way. So she gets to see him, as well, as he reveals what's really in there, the wound. That's going to happen most likely in that most vulnerable space. So it's a love story, and at some point, we've got to see some lovemaking." 

As for Rick's trepidation in the love scene, Lincoln added, "It's about him wanting her and then fearing what he's about to unlock again. He gets to sort of articulate it in the scene further in the episode, when he gets to say that 'I can't do this again. I haven't got the capacity to do this again. I've worked out how to die and live again.'"

Rick had already accepted he had to let Michonne go when he "decided to die" and commit himself to Okafor's (Craig Tate) mission to remake the CRM. But by the end of episode 4, Michonne has brought Rick back to life.

"It is an absolutely necessary scene that allows Michonne to realize that there's something really broken here, more broken than she's ever anticipated. It's not just resolved by their intimacy. It explains a lot of his behavior prior to this meeting," Lincoln said. "So the scene was about a real intimacy, a sort of frightening intimacy. This is a part of his personality he has shut down. It's almost like he's trying to stop himself from feeling this love again. She sees that and she just says, 'Just trust. We're back. We're the same...' I find it very moving. I think it's a very, very moving scene, because it's about them connecting in a way that he's had to deny for seven years. He's denied that connection for the sake of living on in this half-life for the CRM."

New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+. Stay tuned to ComicBook/TWD and follow on Facebook for more TWD Universe coverage.