This is the Rick I’ve been wanting for a while. [looks at writers: don’t you ruin this for me].

This week, we saw Rick cautiously optimistic. I mean, I’d be optimistic too if the universe had granted me the repeated privilege of touching Michonne’s flawlessness.

Behold! The luckiest man alive and the gawdess who deigns to love him.

For context, Rick and Michonne are out on a run looking for guns. The guns are payment to Jadis for the help she and the Junkyardigans are going to provide in the newest iteration of Operation:FOH, Negan.

“At your service and ready to kill for the low price of all the guns you can find.”

We’re not sure how long they’ve been out, but we do know that Rick is in no hurry to get back. We get a lot of the lovey-dovey scenes. We know that Rick and Michonne are affectionate. We got seasons of slow burn and at least one Jesus-walking-in-on-them-buttassnaked scene. In this episode we get to see them away from Alexandria, away from Carl, away from Judith, away from all of it.

In a lot of ways, this episode is about a date. There’s a car ride, a romantic dinner, a day at the fair, and more than a little of the beast with two backs.

This is important: that love exists despite the harsh climate of the world; that these people have found each other against odds I cannot calculate; that they fight for each other in every meaning of that phrase. This is important.

When the writers decided to be cute this episode with the bait-and-switch is-he-or-isn’t-he almost death scene, I was angry. I still think it was a cheap gimmick. BUT. But I understand why they did it.

Let me hate on the scene for a second. They telegraphed that punch so far ahead that I had not even a second of fear on Rick’s behalf. They talked about the deer in the van. You knew Rick wasn’t catching that particular fade. BUT. But they wanted us to see this:

Michonne vulnerable. Michonne disarmed, literally and figuratively. Michonne indifferent to her own fate.

So, back to hating. Naw. I don’t buy it. Michonne survived the death of her child. Let me repeat that: She. Survived. The. Death. Of. Her. Child. I’m not sure this, the death of her bae who stays taking life-threatening risks, was gonna be the thing that broke her.

BUT I understand the purpose of the scene. Michonne is all:

…and as a byproduct of shock and grief becomes indifferent to her own survival. When Rick pulls the reverse-Nicholas and emerges alive from the dumpster, she is able to fight again.

She moves from inaction to action so quickly because she has something and someone to fight for (and with). And yet, this episode isn’t really about her.

It’s about Rick. At first his request to go out for just a little while longer is seen as avoidance in the sense of reluctance. Is this the broken and defeated Rick who serves Negan? Is this the Rick who answers his PlaySkool My First Zombie Apocalypse Phone? No. This is Rick as realist.

On the way back, to Alexandria, when Michonne is still visibly shook by the I-thought-my-love-was-dead of her day, Rick is pulling no punches.

While Michonne is like:

“But, baby, we could be so happy… because I know how to share rafts and rations and shit.”

Rick is on some:

Michonne isn’t trying to hear it though:

“But, baby, we have each other and–“

So Rick, repeats:

And, this, this the Rick I like. Not because he’s talking about dying, but because he’s talking about the cost. Yes, they’re going to drop off a portion of the the guns and other things they found to her royal highness, Jadis

Yes, they’re going to fight. Yes, they’re going to join forces with the Hilltop and Jadis’s people and perhaps the Kingdom and the Oceansiders, but people are going to die. A lot of people. Not good quiet deaths. Violent death at the hands of the living and the dead. War is generally not a game that has winners; it is a question of who loses the least? The Rick we see in this episode recognizes that. He is aware that he may not live to see Negan’s corpse. That Michonne may not live to see it. That the cost of war is, yes, who dies, but is also who lives–who has to survive. Someone has to bury the dead.

The Rick we see is a practical man. He is a man taking a pull on a cigarette before starting a double-shift. He is already tired. He knows that what is coming will not be good. At best, it will be over as quickly as possible. War costs. Protests cost. Change always costs. Safety costs, too, but that is most often an incremental loss. It is a frog in a pot of cold water, the fire on the stove on so, so low. Is it not better, but it is often easier. Rick has decided to fight so how can we begrudge him this time with his love? Isn’t this why we carry pictures with us when we know danger is coming? And danger is not coming; it is here. And we will pay one way or the other. Better that we be practical citizens than safe subjects.

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