With the fourth episode of season 7B of The Walking Dead, “Say Yes,” the series extends its winning streak in the back half with another strong installment, this one directed by Greg Nicotero (who dropped a fun Creepshow Easter egg into the episode). “Say Yes” not only moves the storyline forward, but it’s one of the series’ better character-building episodes. It also illustrates that Rick and Michonne’s relationship is more than a fan-service novelty; there’s genuine affection between the two, and “Say Yes” suggests that their love is durable enough to survive the series, or at least survive until one of the two (or both) is killed off.
“Say Yes” also continues the back half of the season’s trend toward lighter episodes, sprinkling moments of levity throughout, including a scene where Rick and Michonne fall through the roof off a school in almost cartoonish fashion only to make a soft landing and spend the next five minutes laughing at their good fortune, good luck compounded by their discovery of a crate of ready-to-eat food. (“It’s chili and mac & cheese. Together. Come on!” Rick jokes.)
However, there’s a heaviness underlying the action and romance that otherwise dominates the episode. Rick, in particular, is anxious to extend the scavenging trip because he doesn’t want to return to Alexandria. He understands what comes next: A war with Negan, the loss of lives, and potentially, his own death or Michonne’s. Rick treats the trip like it might be their last because it could be.
There is a moment in the episode, in fact, where it appears that Rick has been killed and is being eaten by zombies that gives us a glimpse of the devastating effect it might have on Michonne, who drops her katana and appears ready to allow herself to be consumed by walkers as well. Though the audience understands there is no way Rick could die in that situation (Rick’s death could never be so mundane), the moment is nevertheless a powerful one for the series for the way it illustrated how much Rick means to Michonne. The moment is meaningful enough that we can give the brief death fake-out a pass.
Greg Nicotero hinted ahead of the episode that Rick might die, but even if he doesn’t, his role may be minimized as the focus of the show continues to expand into other communities. But this episode illustrates that, for now, Rick is still the King of The Walking Dead, and in another of the episode’s notable scenes, Rick explains to Michonne that he can’t rule over post-war Alexandria without Michonne’s help in re-ordering what remains of civilization. She is his equal. She is the Queen of The Walking Dead.
Ultimately, that’s what I loved most about this week’s episode. Despite Rick’s strong affection for Michonne, he never treats her as anything but his equal partner. He feels no compulsion to “protect” her. In fact, at one point, he asks her to slaughter eight zombies on her own despite her hesitancy, and at another point, Rick and Michonne split up so they can divide and conquer a small herd of zombies. Rick has faith in Michonne to take care of herself, and Michonne feels similarly about Rick. They are stronger together.
The episode also highlighted something that Robert Kirkman said in the notes of a The Walking Dead comic last month about how little danger the zombies now pose to the survivors:
This is the cream of the crop, so to speak … You think Michonne is going to just let herself get bitten by a zombie or stabbed by a Whisperer at this point? It wouldn’t be believable! Rick, Andrea, Carl, Jesus, Dwight, Negan, Maggie … these people are tempered steel! That’s not to say they’re invulnerable, or “safe” now … but it would take a LOT to kill them.