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AOL Build Speaker Series - Danai Gurira, 'The Walking Dead'

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The number one show on television is back!

The mid-season premiere of ‘Walking Dead’ aired and like my fellow zombie apocalypse lovers, I couldn’t be more happy. First things first, I live for Michonne and so will you.

My Christmas gift to myself… The michonne piggy bank!

A photo posted by kelleent (@kelleent) on

Let’s get you up to speed and break it all down ‘Walking Dead’ style.


Before the mid-season premiere:

  • Hundreds of zombies infiltrated the safety and comfort of Alexandria looking for live flesh.
  • Rick, Michonne, Carl and Father Gabriel were drenched in walker guts trying to disguise themselves in the zombie crowd. Jessie’s son was screaming “Mom,” so you don’t have to have read the comics to figure out it didn’t end well.
  • Tasha, Daryl and Abraham headed back to Alexandria in an army tank truck with heavy artillery.
  • Morgan, Carol, Eugene, Rosita and others were stuck in some house waiting for the right time to get out. Oh and Carol and Morgan have serious drama.
  • Glen and that annoying little girl were trying to figure out how to save Maggie who is stuck on a leaning tower ready to fall into a pit of famished walkers.
  • Finally, poor Deana, the mother of Alexandria, got bit and went out in a blaze of glory.


The mid-season premiere “No Way Out” is all about resolution, killing off dead weight characters and everyone standing up to achieve their quest for a “new world.” It’s also the first time in a REALLY long time we feel any real sense of hope. I would have offed myself back in season one at the CDC building. But that’s just me.

Anyway, this weird optimism comes from the fact that EVERYONE, including those who normally don’t fight (Father Gabrielle, Eugene, some dude with a cast on his foot and some other lame residents) joined forces and successfully slaughtered every last zombie in the herd. And it was pretty dope!

Most importantly, the episode also resolved Rick and Company’s concerns that Alexandria’s residents were too sheltered by the comfort of the gated community’s walls, couldn’t see the real danger that lurked outside and didn’t know how to defend themselves. Which now we know now is not the case.

Daryl blew up some bad guys, Carl got shot in the eye (but lived), Jessie and her kids got eaten (good riddance), the dude with the W on his forehead became a walker, that doctor finally got her life together and baby Judith is OK.

But let’s not celebrate. The group is about to face a huge new threat: Negan. And I hear he makes The Governor look like Ghandi.


We slay in everything we do–and with this show, we are literally doing just that.

First, there is Michonne (played by Danai Gurai), the biggest bad ass in the game with her samurai sword and walker pets. Over the past few seasons, she has morphed from being silent and closed off into a more open and vulnerable character, which many Black women can identify with. Plus: With Jessie gone, perhaps Michonne and Rick can get a real chance at love. LOL. A girl can wish.

Then there is Sasha (played by Sonequa Martin-Green), who started off pretty scrappy, but in time became become a major force in Rick & Co. as a respected leader and a sharp shooter. Not to mention, Martin-Green has been given really great material as of late, such as the deaths of her brother Tyrese and her love Bob, cranking out some pretty heartbreaking performances of loss, grief and utter numbness.

Having nuanced and complex Black female characters front and center like this is always needed in any genre, but it’s especially something to be said for horror, which has traditionally lacked this kind of representation. So, werk ladies!


Despite Father Gabrielle’s past non-violent nonsense and catty backstabbing, Seth Gilliam (The Wire) is STILL fine and Lenny James’ smile can light up any room. Then there’s also Rick, Daryl and Glen, who are pretty sex too. You know it’s true. Get your fantasy swirl on, gurl.

Now, I do wish they didn’t have that awful dreaded lacefront wig shellacked on Corey Hawkins‘ head. He deserves better than that–even if the character looks like that in the actual comics.


Do Beyoncé and Viola Davis embody the phrase #BlackGirlMagic? Well then that answers your question about whether this show should be a fixture on your DVR.

Especially with this last episode giving us Black girl nerds what we crave most: Blood, guts, drama and chills. Truly, it was one of the best episodes in series history. And for you aspiring Ava DuVernay’s, this episode was a master film class in color, editing, sound design, directing actors, blocking and music.

But most important, this show exemplifies the term “ensemble.” What started out as Rick’s story shifted and allowed us to see this world through the perspectives of other diverse characters. And that change in gaze gives the viewers a better understanding of who these folks really are and who they used to be before.

Overall, The Walking Dead is a perfect balance of horror and emotional drama, leaving us to wonder what really overruns this crumbling world the most: The zombies or the ugliness of humanity?


Like HTGAWM, TWD has too many damn characters, making it hard to keep up with everyone’s names, especially the lesser known characters. While that’s usually annoying, this last ep did do a better job of balancing them all out. So when they get it right, it’s a beautiful thing. Hopefully the writers can keep it up through for the rest of the season.

And then the elephant in the room…

Last year, we all know that three major Black male characters were killed off (Tyrese, Bob and Noah), leaving some folks to accuse the show runners of racism. And while getting rid of ALL of them so close together was annoying, there are still three Black male characters left, two Black women and other characters of color including Glen and Rosita. So say what you want, TWD is still one of the most diverse television shows in the game. Just saying.


What you think?

Between the threat of the undead lurking in the corners and the crazy coming from the living, TWD is scary as hell and what nightmares are made of. You definitely need something to calm your nerves.

ALSO, we recommend you NOT watch this show alone if you don’t have to. Get your squad together or snuggle with Bae; whatever it takes it lessen your fear of the undead.

Catch new episodes of The Walking Dead every Sunday at 9pm Eastern time/8pm Central on AMC–or the walkers are gonna come for you. 


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