Can ‘The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’ Ever Redeem Jadis?

(Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Episode 2.)It’s hard to think of a more infuriating The Walking Dead character than Jadis. In the original series, she was a shifty artist and a horrible ally with a bad haircut who repeatedly screwed over Rick Grimes and his crew. In

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(Warning: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Episode 2.)

It’s hard to think of a more infuriating The Walking Dead character than Jadis. In the original series, she was a shifty artist and a horrible ally with a bad haircut who repeatedly screwed over Rick Grimes and his crew. In the spinoff The World Beyond, she was a full-fledged villain with an even worse haircut who (once again) sold out her friends whenever it suited her. From her brief appearance at the end of this week’s The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live, it looks like not much has changed: She’s still a self-interested mercenary with a penchant for very short bangs. But will she at least be compelling this time around?

AMC’s latest Walking Dead spinoff finally reveals what Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has been up to for the past seven-odd years, and as it turns out, he’s been trying to escape the Civic Republic ever since Jadis swept him up into that helicopter. She saved his life by labeling him a “B” instead of an “A”—the latter of which, as we learned in World Beyond, automatically become lab rats. But by bringing him into the CRM’s clutches, she also doomed Rick to a life in captivity. If there’s one thing we know about this sheriff, it’s that all he ever wants to do is roam free with his loved ones, so this arrangement was never gonna work. It also doesn’t help that he and his love Michonne (Danai Gurira) are extremely stubborn and hellbent on finding one another.

Last week’s premiere gave us a crash course on Rick’s many failed attempts to escape the CRM: We watched him lose a hand, and we breathed a sigh of relief when he and Michonne actually somehow found one another. (Did anyone else think that was going to take a lot longer?) This week, we catch up on Michonne’s side of things, which start out great: She befriends a ragtag crew of allies, including the extremely charismatic explosives aficionado Nat (Matthew Jeffers), and they all strike out to find Rick. But then, a CRM helicopter douses them in chlorine gas, killing everyone but Michonne and Nat—including a very sweet pregnant woman and her partner. Michonne and Nat spend months recovering in an abandoned shopping mall before leaving once more to find Rick. On the way, they shoot down a CRM helicopter they see flying overhead. As we already know from last week, it’s Rick’s.

Michonne is in full vengeance mode before she spots Rick. After the helicopter goes down, she walks from soldier to soldier, removing their masks and telling them to look at her while she slits their throats. When she gets to Rick, however, she dissolves into a puddle of tears as he promises he’s not “with them.” Then, all logic goes out the window. While Michonne suggests they run, Rick convinces her to let the CRM think she’s just a stray survivor who witnessed the violence from afar before he captured her. That way, they can… go back to the Civic Republic and try to run away? Okay…

Our old friend Jadis might have something to do with this. While Michonne pretends to be a helpless woman named Dana in her CRM entrance interview, Rick finds his old not-so-great friend waiting in his room. As diehard Walking Dead fans already know from World Beyond, Jadis was actually a double agent throughout her time on The Walking Dead. She traded human lives for supplies but spared Rick’s life by telling the CRM that he was a “B”—meaning, a follower and not a charismatic leader who could one day lead a rebellion. Since then, it turns out that she’s pulled Rick into something of an unwilling alliance, keeping certain secrets for him while also holding them over his head.

Jadis knows who Michonne is, and that she was there when Nat gunned the helicopter down. Still, she’s told no one. Instead, she hits Rick with a threat: If he and Michonne ever run, she’ll have to kill everyone they love back in Alexandria, including a few people she likes. (In this post-apocalyptic world, that’s what happens when you take shady people in and show them your home instead of just killing them, a Walking Dead Season 8 choice Rick now likely regrets.)

“Let’s continue to keep certain things between you and me,” Jadis tells Rick when he finds her in his apartment. “Like we have.” Clearly, she likes having leverage over him.

As we all know, the biggest secrets Jadis keeps are between her and herself. Of all the villains in the Walking Dead universe, she might be the most grating—and not just because she rarely bothered with complete sentences when we first met her. Actress Pollyanna McIntosh has done a phenomenal job in giving this insufferably flimsy character some real charisma, but it speaks volumes that her motivations hardly ever made sense until after we’d all seen World Beyond. First, she cut a deal with Rick in The Walking Dead Season 7 before double-crossing and making a side bargain with Negan. Then, she went back to Rick only to accidentally get all her fellow Scavengers killed. Some leader!

One would think that having to put your reanimated friends through a giant meat grinder might teach a person some accountability. Instead, after coming to live in Alexandria and finding love with Father Gabriel, Jadis went full traitor and bought her way into the CRM, where she’s been just as slippery as ever. In doing so, she proved every Alexandrian who refused to trust her right. As she tells Rick this week, “My hands are already covered in blood; they can’t get any bloodier.” At this point, we can’t trust this character as far as we can throw her, but she also lacks the menace and gravitas of a full-on villain. She’s just kind of a backstabbing pest.

I have little to no faith that Jadis is in for a redemption arc, transforming her morally spineless character into some kind of savior for Rick and Michonne. I do wonder, however, whether this season might at least complete her villainous arc, which started all those years ago when she was leading those junkyard dwellers the Scavengers and working with the CRM on the side. The Ones Who Live is already pretty cluttered with ominous figures, including Terry O’Quinn’s frustratingly mysterious Major General Beale, so it’s unclear how much real estate Jadis will occupy in this story. Given how annoyingly persistent she’s been in this world, however, I wouldn’t be surprised if she plays some sort of pivotal part in Rick and Michonne’s fate in the end.

Then again, if Michonne has her way, Jadis might never get the chance. As we learned back in the Woodbury days, Michonne has never loved being held captive in a supposedly idyllic community, and these guys already killed off her new best friends right in front of her. As Michonne stands on the rooftop of a CRM building, flicking Nat’s coveted cigarette lighter on and off, it sure looks like she’s planning some nasty revenge. The word engraved on the lighter, which was also the name of Nat’s beloved stepfather, feels like pretty unsubtle foreshadowing: “Danger.”

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