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What Happened to the CRM in Rick and Michonne's 'The Ones Who Live' Finale?

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 1, 2024 |

By Dustin Rowles | TV | April 1, 2024 |


Spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

For ten years while working for Uproxx, I spent hundreds of hours poring over episodes of Breaking Bad and Mad Men, trying to find little details that most viewers missed (that we often incorrectly referred to as Easter Eggs), foreshadowing clues, or cool symbolism. This worked phenomenally for Mad Men (remember Sharon Tate? That was me!) and Breaking Bad (and later Better Call Saul and True Detective), so obviously we wanted to apply it to the biggest show on cable television, The Walking Dead.

It was a struggle because The Walking Dead was not written for deep analysis. It’s a fairly straightforward zombie apocalypse drama, but that didn’t stop me and some others (most notably, Paul Tassi over on Forbes and Brandon Davis on Comic Book Resources) from trying to make something out of nothing. I’m 70 percent sure that’s how the CRM came to be.

Then TWD showrunner and now the architect of the universe, Scott Gimple, will probably never admit this until the tell-all book comes out in 5 or 10 years, but I am confident the CRM was born out of a technical error. Some eagle-eyed observer caught a helicopter far off in the background of a shot in the seventh season, and those of us who were paid to speculate about these matters ran with it.


See that speck? Based on that, we dug up every image of a helicopter from the history of the series and tried to make sense of it. I think Scott Gimple even played with our theories — a random helicopter flew over Rick’s head at another point, and it was never explained or alluded to again — until he began to build some mythology around it. There was also a train car we saw that had a giant A on it, and we tried to make sense of that, too. A few seasons later, a mythology had been built around As and Bs.


From this was clumsily born the Civil Republic Military or CRM, a piece of The Walking Dead mythology that grew so much that it was worked into a TWD spin-off, The World Beyond, and eventually into a Rick and Michonne series that was originally meant to be three feature films.

That first (and perhaps only) season of The Ones Who Live concluded last night, and in what was basically a 3-minute exposition dump, General Jonathan Beale (Terry O’Quinn, Lost) broke down the entire CRM mythology. It’s an authoritarian organization designed to destroy every other civilization in the United States, take their resources, and use them to advance their Philadelphia colony, which would be the only major community to survive into the future once zombies had overrun the Earth (Beale predicted that would be in 14 years). So, basically, another version of The Governor, which is true of nearly every other Big Bad in The Walking Dead. The CRM had also sorted people into As (strong leaders) and Bs (followers) and killed all the As, except for Rick Grimes, who Beale had wanted to help him lead the CRM toward its goal of killing the other communities so they could take their resources (basically, what Negan did).

In the series finale, Rick does no such thing. He kills Beale, and he and Michonne — using a lot of explosives — destroy the entire Philadelphia CRM colony, killing hundreds of soldiers. The CRM — commanded by O’Quinn’s Beale in The Ones Who Live and, unbelievably, Julia Ormond in The World Beyond — is gone now. Years of Internet theorizing and often nonsensical plot details have finally been put to rest. We hopefully never have to refer to the CRM again.

Oh, and Rick and Michonne escape, meet up with their kids, Judith and RJ, hug them, and presumably live happily ever after (unless AMC convinces Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira to return for a second season).


Alas, it is not the only long-running but vague storyline: There are also the smarter, fast zombies that debuted at the end of The World Beyond and made a couple of brief appearances on The Walking Dead. The Daryl and Carol series is meant to address them (unless Gimple decides to abort that arc completely). The trailer for the second series of that show aired after The Ones Who Live.

The second season of that series will air in the summer. It’s called The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon: The Book of Carol because AMC clearly does not care about SEO character count limits.