This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 13, “What We Become.”
As Danai Gurira and her character, Michonne, leave The Walking Dead, it’s safe to say that the series will never be the same. Since she made her debut in the Season 3 premiere, Gurira has been a fan favorite among the cast—and her character’s journey through this post-apocalyptic world has been one of the most satisfying.
But at least if Michonne had to leave, she did so alive—and with a journey that seems to promise we’ll see her again. In Sunday’s installment, confirmed to be Gurira’s last on the show, Michonne discovers a drawing of herself—by Rick. By the end, she’s on a mission to find out if he’s still out there somewhere, with a blessing from Judith. And at the very end of the episode, she discovers a phalanx of strangers ready to depart for... somewhere. It sure looks like this could be connected with the helicopter that picked Rick up.
“This is a character who has been through so much tragedy and has really grown so much as a character, has had such an impact on key characters within our world,” showrunner Angela Kang told The Daily Beast in an interview about the episode. “We wanted to try to tell a story that reflected on her journey, and the mercy that she has shown over time, and how that has shaped both herself and her community.”
In addition to Michonne’s exit, Kang discussed what this turn means for the upcoming movie trilogy, where the series might go moving forward, and what Danai Gurira’s goodbye was like on set. (Norman Reedus, it turns out, arranged a hell of a send-off.) The following conversation has been lightly edited and condensed for clarity.
What were you conversations like with Danai as far as how this would play out?
As we always do with the writers’ room, we kind of went off and worked on our own and worked on shaping the story. And then at a certain point I like to take time with all of the actors individually before we get into production and talk to them about the arc we're working on and get any thoughts that they have about their character's headspace—things like that.
Danai's response was very positive and as we got into it she had some thoughts which I think really helped us complete some of the shaping of the story. You know in terms of like the way that she interacts with Virgil. But I think really the shape of the story was pretty in-tact from an early stage.
You’ve mentioned that Michonne is going to go find Rick. What can you tell us about the plan in terms of Danai and then the upcoming movies? I know that might be a little up in the air right now.
I know. I think as with everything in the world, who knows—and also it’s more in the realm of Scott Gimple, as he works on this universe. I certainly, as a fan, really hope that those two find each other—but in the meantime there’s sort of an intriguing story for her to kind of go off on this journey with.
As with Rick going off in the helicopter, I asked Scott, “What [kind of exit do you] need to work them into a next story?” And he kind of said, “There’s this very organized group that she comes across. A large caravan, and here’s some strangers.” And I’m like, “OK, let’s try to work to that hand-off.”
I see. Is there any official confirmation you can give that she will be in the movie?
I think that’s—you know, again, that’s Scott’s realm.
So, what direction are we moving in from here, with Michonne leaving and Alpha now dead?
Judith has this huge bit of information that this relatively young person is carrying. And she knows the ripple effects that it could have if that got out to others. And so, we’ll be playing kind of the emotional story that lies there.
And you know, I think for our people, they’re trying to figure out how to finish off the threat of the Whisperers once and for all. We’ve got to deal with the fallout for Negan and Carol. Beta is in an interesting place; Daryl finds himself without Michonne in a place of leadership. And so all of these threads are going to crash together.
And what was Danai’s goodbye like on set? And her death dinner; did she get a death dinner even though she’s not dying?
Yes! It wasn’t a death dinner but we had wonderful Ethiopian food. There was a lot of just celebrating. They’re very much a celebration of life, you know? We rode around in a golf cart at a house and it was really a lovely day.
And then on set, I think what was really special was that Norman [Reedus] arranged to have fireworks for her. Because we were finishing up right around the Fourth of July. And so the crew watched fireworks the day before her last day, and then it was a smaller group for her actual final day of scenes.
She was just really lovely to the crew and everybody applauded for her, gave her a really nice send-off. It was really emotional; she’s well loved by everybody down there and has been a big part of our lives for many years, so. It was a beautiful send-off and very positive, and I think everybody is really excited about the things that she’s working on next. We all wish her the best.
I know Lauren Cohan is also expected to come back later this season. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Um, I will just say she’s coming back this season! I don't want to spoil that; there’s kind of nothing I can say without spoiling... But I will say it’s wonderful to have her back. Really wonderful.