The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live TV Review

Despite the anticipated reunion of Danai Gurira and Andrew Lincoln, the sixth zombie spin-off is more of the same.

Last Updated on February 27, 2024

PLOT: The love story between Rick and Michonne. Changed by a world that is constantly changing, will they find themselves in a war against the living or will they discover that they too are The Walking Dead?

REVIEW: It is hard to believe that it has been fourteen years since The Walking Dead debuted, changing the landscape of zombies on television as well as comic book adaptations on the small screen. After eleven seasons on the air, the flagship series in AMC’s franchise ended in 2022 but not before revealing three successor series featuring members of the original The Walking Dead cast. With Dead City and Daryl Dixon having debuted last year, fans have found the spin-offs to be a mixed bag. Anticipation for the return of Michonne and Rick Grimes has been high since Andrew Lincoln left in season nine and Danai Gurira departed in season ten, but the premiere of The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live felt muted in the weeks leading up to its premiere. Now, with the first episode having debuted on AMC, fans have gotten a taste at the return of the fan-favorite couple. The Ones Who Live opens with an episode that is underwhelming in its familiarity as it sets the table to answer questions posed by The Walking Dead showrunners in other series but does not do much to reignite what made the early seasons of the zombie show such a mainstream hit.

Picking up after the bridge explosion that left Rick Grimes a memory for the main series characters, five years have elapsed and Rick is living in the thriving city of the Civic Republic, formerly Philadelphia. Run by the military known as the CRM, Rick is repeatedly recruited by Donald Okafor (Craig Tate) to join as a soldier. Rick spends much of the early part of the episode pining after Michonne and his family he left behind and plots multiple escapes. In a depressed spiral and unable to escape from the Civic Republic, Rick considers suicide and makes a brash escape attempt that results in an act using an axe that leaves the former sheriff in a physical situation that replicates something from the early run of the comic. Nevertheless, Rick learns again that he may not be able to get away unless he plays by the rules. That is when he decides to join Okafor and the CRM. Rick then spends the next months training as a soldier under the watchful eye of Okafor and CRM Major General Beale (Terry O’Quinn). O’Quinn, who always seems to be playing the same character with slightly different facial hair, is always a welcome addition to any series but does not bring anything new to The Ones Who Live.

Over the season premiere, much of the time is spent orienting us to the Civic Republic and its structure. So much of the story is spent with Andrew Lincoln reprising his gruff Southern accent as Rick talks about wanting to find Michonne. When Rick isn’t spouting expository narration, the various characters are telling us tons about how and why the CRM is the way that it is. Whether it be Rick’s friend Esteban or his fellow CRM recruit Pearl (Lucifer‘s Lesley-Ann Brandt), everyone just talks about the superficial good of the Civic Republic while others talk about the hidden underbelly of the closed city. It gets tiring and repetitive after a while culminating in a fight sequence that gives the episode some much-needed energy. The entire episode goes by with the only appearance from Danai Gurira in the form of dream sequences between Rick and Michonne meeting cute at a park bench in a wonderful what could have been setting. Danai Gurira finally makes her true entrance in the close of the episode which sets up the true direction for where this series is going to go.

Things finally begin to heat up in the closing minutes of the episode as a character dies, setting up a new path for where the rest of this truncated season will go. We have yet to spend much time with Pollyanna McIntosh, returning as Jadis Stokes from the main series and a role in World Beyond, nor have we gotten time with Andrew Bachelor, Breeda Wool, or the other new members of the cast. This first episode is centered on Andrew Lincoln who seems to be a shell of the leader he was for nine seasons. I don’t know if this is just a daze that Rick Grimes needs to awaken from but I was left disappointed by how he appears in this premiere chapter. I was also underwhelmed by yet another story about a group in control who have become corrupt battling against the upstart rebels who want to rebuild society via utopian ideals. The zombie element remains secondary to the human drama even though the corpses should be all but gone after a decade of the undead.

No one knows Rick and Michonne better than Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira, so it is refreshing to see they are both credited as co-creators of the series alongside Scott M. Gimple, the longtime head of The Walking Dead universe. Gimple is credited as the lone writer on the premiere episode which was directed by Hawkeye helming duo Bert & Bertie. Future episodes are credited to writers Nana Nkweti, Channing Powell, Gabriel Llanas, Matthew Negrete, and Danai Gurira herself while directing duties also fall to Michael Slovis. Despite the shifted location to Philadelphia, The Ones Who Live rarely feels different from any other Walking Dead shows. We have seen the city setting before in Dead City and we have seen characters go up against organized enemies in World Beyond and Daryl Dixon. In the early going, The Ones Who Live feels like just another entry in The Walking Dead despite focusing on two of the most interesting characters in the franchise. Maybe the problem comes from the fact none of the other characters are remotely as intriguing.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live TV Review

I want to like The Ones Who Live, but I have felt so let down by the repetitive nature of The Walking Dead in the last five or six years that it was hard for me to feel much during the first episode of this series. As much as I enjoy seeing Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira reunite on screen, I cannot help but feel it is a few years too late for this show. Regardless of how exposition-heavy this premiere episode is, there is still something great about seeing zombies on screen, and the make-up work by The Walking Dead crew never disappoints. I just hope that this first episode was a requisite recap on the way to bigger and better storytelling in the chapters to follow. For now, I am lukewarm on The Ones Who Live, and that is being generous.

The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live airs Sundays on AMC and AMC+.


Viewer Ratings (0 reviews)

Add your rating


About the Author

5889 Articles Published

Alex Maidy has been a editor, columnist, and critic since 2012. A Rotten Tomatoes-approved critic and a member of Chicago Indie Critics, Alex has been's primary TV critic and ran columns including Top Ten and The UnPopular Opinion. When not riling up fans with his hot takes, Alex is an avid reader and aspiring novelist.