The Walking Dead just exposed the problem with Michonne’s exit from the AMC series. In a season 10 episode, the series memorably parted ways with Danai Gurira’s character by sending her off on a search for Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). The assumption is that her story in the episode was meant to serve as a setup for Michonne appearing alongside Rick in the upcoming Walking Dead movies.
The Rick connection in Michonne’s final episode helped the show remove her from the equation in a way that didn’t kill her off. It also gave the series a reason to send her away from Alexandria without her children in tow. Following her final episode, the show moved on from Michonne and continued the Whisperer War without her and transitioned toward Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) being the primary leadership figure in Alexandria. As for her important role in the Commonwealth arc in the comics, The Walking Dead season 11 seems to be replacing her with Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura).
Michonne’s continued absence was deeply felt in The Walking Dead season 11, episode 5, titled “Out of the Ashes”, which directly addressed how Michonne leaving has affected Judith. Vincent (Pilot Bunch), one of the bullies who lives in Alexandria, visibly upset her when he said that her mother abandoned her. Main characters like Daryl (Norman Reedus) have avoided judging Michonne for what she did, and while it is true that she had good intentions, there’s no getting around the notion that she walked away from her kids. Through the bully, The Walking Dead has finally addressed this problematic aspect of her departure.
Since Michonne left, both of her kids have been without parents, and it’s not even clear who’s raising them right now. She didn’t attempt to work this out before deciding not to return. Admittedly, Judith did say it was fine for her to go, but it didn’t seem responsible for Michonne to let a child make this call. Plus, it’s hard to ignore the fact that the Whisperer War was still raging during the timeframe of her final episode. Due to the lingering threat posed by the Whisperers, Michonne understood that her friends and her family were still in danger.
Finding out that Rick is still alive was of course a strong motivator for her, but a more calculated response would have made a lot more sense. Michonne should have waited until the end of the Whisperer War and developed a plan with her friends to get her husband back. Instead, she simply chose to look for Rick on her own, indefinitely. This hasty decision that didn’t take the welfare of her children into account made Michonne’s exit from The Walking Dead come off as rushed and out-of-character. The show may never go any further in criticizing Michonne than it did in episode 5, but it’s difficult for the show to overlook the sad truth behind Judith’s situation and Michonne not being around anymore.