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Walking Dead: Rick, Michonne, and the Allure of Post-Apocalyptic Love Stories


The ability to survive is paramount in a world often marked by brutal violence. Post-apocalyptic tales such as The Last of Us and The Walking Dead feature undead ghoulies that are out for fresh flesh, but those narratives also underscore that the living are the greatest threat. And so, when a little sweetness can be found amidst the sour, that’s when true magic is made. Couples like Michonne and Rick from The Walking Dead, Bill and Frank from The Last of Us, Clarke and Lexa from The 100, and Glenn and Maggie from The Walking Dead all serve to remind us that love never dies, even in the face of disaster; perhaps it even thrives in the face of disaster. It’s a heartening thought. 

As a species, we love love. When love blossoms in unexpected, surprising corners of the universe, it’s especially thrilling. Rihanna’s timeless lyrics about finding love in a hopeless place may well have been about love pairings in post-apocalyptic tales — they aren’t, but they fit! The Beatles were on the right track when they sang “all you need is love,” but then again, McCartney and Lennon didn’t quite know about the need for a good weapon in a zombie apocalypse.

As viewers, we often want to root for the odd couple relationship. In sitcoms, we want to see the clash of ideologies and temperaments because the conflict comes from the tensions that arise between two very different people. (See: Sam and Diane in Cheers, Jess and Nick in New Girl, Chidi and Eleanor in The Good Place, and oh-so-many more.) But when unexpected couples find one another in post-apocalyptic tales, most of the societal mores have been stripped away only to reveal the most important criteria for choosing a mate in such a setting: the ability to survive and thrive amidst chaos. 

Survival is paramount to a good love pairing because the two parties need to be alive in order for the relationship to continue. Okay, that’s obvious. (Cries in Glenn and Maggie.) But people need to fundamentally alter who they are in order to become survivors in brutal times. Presumably neither Rick nor Michonne had ever murdered someone before the end of the civilized world (at least not extrajudicially in Rick’s case as a lawman), but now they kill out of sheer necessity; and they’re good at it. That’s why they survive. That’s why their couple mantra is “we’re the ones who live.” 

The newest addition to The Walking Dead expanded universe, clunkily titled The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, underscores this bond. Like many couples in the apocalypse, Rick and Michonne have a mutual respect for one another as survivors in a world that has the ability to mow down even the most stoic of souls. Even as their relationship got off to a rocky start on the original series, there were moments of mutual respect and even awe as the two watched one another handle thorny situation after thorny situation without hesitation.

Yet, while post-apocalyptic relationships often have a foundation of survival, the concept of meaning is also of importance. Rick and Michonne found meaning in one another as they were both rebuilding families after experiencing so much loss at the world’s end. They gravitated toward one another because of their ability to survive, but their love and affection for one another allowed them to thrive. Survival alone is not enough. Another post-apocalyptic love story, Bill and Frank from The Last of Us, shows us as much. 



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