Clothes shopping is one of the first things to go in the zombie apocalypse. Instead, people have to make do with what they already own and outfit updates come courtesy of the clothes left behind by others. Trends no longer exist, replaced by questions such as "Does this fit?" or "Is it covered in zombie blood?"
On The Walking Dead, characters will spend a lot of time in the same clothes, particularly when they are out on the road. Sometimes there is no opportunity to change out of sweat and gore-soaked garments when a herd of walkers is nearby. Sharing is now a big part of this life, but nabbing your boyfriend’s favorite top is not limited to a post-apocalyptic scenario. However, a strong visual statement is made when Michonne (Danai Gurira) puts on something from Rick's closet in the first episode since actor Andrew Lincoln's departure from the series. Rick is gone, but he is far from forgotten.
It isn’t just Rick’s shirts that Michonne is wearing to remember her not-actually-dead bf. The ring worn around her neck is presumably Rick’s — before you say he was probably wearing it when he shot that dynamite, he wasn’t. A convenient moment of forgetfulness from Rick? Sure, but jewelry is a subtle reminder of a loved one and the bond this couple shared.
Clothes left behind in drawers and closets lose their meaning if the owner is nowhere in sight, but the parts of Rick that are now being worn by his loved ones hint at the legacy he left behind. Daughter Judith (Chloe Garcia-Frizzi) now wears Rick’s deputy sheriff's hat previously worn by her brother Carl (Chandler Riggs). That is not the only mirror to her departed dad's style, as costume designer Elaine Motalov adds Rick flourishes via Judith's cowboy boots and shirts. She also has a gun and a katana, the weapons of both her parents — neither Rick or Michonne are Judith’s biological parents, but they are her mom and dad.
The six-year time jump that took place at the end of “What Comes After” means the initial mourning period for Rick has been skipped. The audience knows Rick isn’t dead, but everyone else believes he was blown up in an act of self-sacrifice. Michonne still has some semblance of hope and Daryl (Norman Reedus) is still looking for his friend as he’s well aware of the “no physical remains, no death” TV trope. Another thing Daryl and Michonne share is a mysterious on their backs, which could also explain why both characters resist mixing with newcomers and even old friends — Daryl is out in the wilderness and Michonne is reluctant to go to Hilltop.
There are plenty of gaps to fill in from the six-year time jump, including how Michonne and Daryl ended up with this "X marks the spot" branding. The camera lingered on this old wound as Michonne got dressed in Rick's clothes. Other matters, such as how Michonne’s relationship with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) deteriorated after they had made amends, will be hopefully be revealed in forthcoming episodes — though it is unclear how many questions will be answered in Sunday’s mid-season finale.
A ring, a shirt, and a sheriff hat are not the only Rick legacies in “Who Are You Now?” as there is another new addition to this family. A cute-as-a-button boy runs up Michonne toward the end of this episode and as a Richonne shipper, this moment made me very misty-eyed. Producers confirmed this is Michonne and Rick's son, telling Entertainment Weekly his name is R.J. — short for Rick Jr. Cue more tears.
Michonne is guarded because of previous experiences, but also because she has two children at home to think of. It is a cheap shot when Siddiq (Avi Nash) attempts to use Carl as a way to get her to go to Hilltop — particularly after withholding information about Maggie’s departure. It is no surprise she is so guarded.
Trust is not easily won, which is why it takes time for the new additions to get their weapons back. It is only when a herd of walkers surrounds them that Michonne finally relents. This new group has recently been attacked by walkers, losing one of their own. Barry took to wearing a bold paisley shirt to annoy Magna (Nadia Hilker), he was also wearing it when he died as they are reunited in the most awful way in “Stradivarius.”
Michonne steps up with her katana to make sure his friends don’t have to do the deed. And while the audience is as yet unlikely to have a personal attachment to these new characters — this show cycles through so many newcomers as walker fodder — the story of the paisley shirt told earlier in the episode is an effective way to demonstrate anguish. Clothes as a way to remember someone is a notion that is discussed when the new group finds the remnants of their camp. Magna is dismissive of this act of remembrance, but Michonne’s current ensemble is indicative of it. To the new group of survivors, this denim shirt is just a denim shirt, a classic all-American garment that still exists even though Levi’s stores do not. Denim is a durable material that used to signify workwear before it became leisure attire. Rick’s fit the sheriff role he had in his previous life. There is a balance between practicality and looking good on screen.
But the memories associated with this garment run deep. It isn’t just a case of Michonne looking incredible in Rick’s wardrobe — which she does. Some very significant Richonne moments have taken place while Rick has been wearing this shirt, including their first kiss back in Season 6. The following season they took a few days out to look for supplies, and the van they were staying in didn’t see a lot of sleeping. He sported this shirt — or at least a version of it — on this hot and heavy trip. Sharing clothes is an intimate act, particularly when an act of intimacy is attached to the memory. Michonne had previously worn Rick’s clothes while he was still around, and his neutral palette complements her penchant for wearing tank tops. Choosing to wear this shirt at this moment goes beyond remembrance as she is making Rick-like decisions, despite her reservations. He might be gone, but his legacy lives on in the wardrobe choices and actions of Michonne and Judith.