Rick's Last Episode of The Walking Dead Is Devastating — Here's How It All Plays Out
Major, major spoilers for The Walking Dead below!
The Walking Dead might have been on the air for nine years now, but during the AMC zombie drama's episode on Sunday night, the writers proved that they still know how to pull off an epic surprise.
As we've known for more than a year now, Rick Grimes's days on the show were numbered. When the series came back for season nine in October, it was officially revealed that the OG sheriff would indeed be leaving during episode five, spawning a whole host of theories about how he'd exit. Well, now that we know how it all goes down, we can confirm that it's a heartbreaking and extremely surprising sendoff for the character, as well as actor Andrew Lincoln.
If you're wondering how Rick's final moments on the show play out, keep scrolling. But, again, so many spoilers ahead!
A Reconciliation With Shane
As we saw in the fourth episode, Rick is still struggling with a devastating gut puncture that's rapidly bleeding out as he tries to lead a massive horde of zombies to the bridge on horseback, in hopes that it will collapse and keep the walkers from reaching Hilltop. His grave injury prompts him to cycle through a series of hallucinations with characters past and present, including Shane (Jon Bernthal).
In the very first season, Rick's wife, Lori, has an affair with his best friend, Shane, while Rick is presumed to be dead following the zombie outbreak. Rick later reunites with his family, and shortly afterward Lori discovers that she's pregnant. Both she and viewers remained unsure of who the baby's biological father was, given her relations with Rick and Shane, but during a hallucination it's seemingly confirmed that Judith is actually Shane's when he jokes that she has his eyes.
As the pair chat in their old cop car over burgers, they're able to patch up some things that they never got a chance to before Shane's death at Rick's hands in season two. "I'm sorry for what I did to you," Rick says, before Shane urges him to "forget that sh*t." Shane also congratulates his former friend for finally becoming an "assh*le," and jokingly says he wants to take credit for Rick's edgier new personality. Rick starts to flit in and out of consciousness and keeps repeating "I need to find my family," while voices ask him, "What's your wound?"
An Emotional Moment With Hershel
In an especially sweet moment of reflection, Rick hallucinates that he's back on the Greene farm from season two, gazing over a large field at sunset. With him in the barn is Hershel (the late Scott Wilson), and Rick takes the chance to apologize for what happened to Hershel, Beth, and Glenn — "For everything Maggie's lost." Hershel assures Rick that Maggie is strong, and her infant son, Hershel Rhee, only makes her stronger.
Returning to the Original Hospital
After checking in with Hershel and evading the walkers in real life, Rick hallucinates that he's back at the hospital from the very first episode. He decides to open the now-iconic doors reading "Don't Open, Dead Inside," and a blinding flash of bright white light spills in. Rick then finds himself in a gruesome sea of corpses.
He recognizes people who have passed on the show before, like Beth and Carl, as well as people who have yet to die, like Maggie and Tara. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) then rises from the ground, and Rick tearfully tells her, "They're all dead." She tries to tell him that it's OK, because he did his "part," as she did hers.
"You gave us the strength that we needed to do what we had to do for the others. The others draw strength from us," she explains. "We change each other. We help each other. We make each other better." When Rick repeats that he needs to find his family, Sasha tells him he won't find them because they're not lost, and neither is he.
A Last-Second Fake-Out
Rick resumes consciousness after speaking with Sasha, realizing that he's made it to the bridge and the zombies are closing in. At the last second it seems like he's saved by the group. Carol, Daryl, and Ezekiel take out the walkers while Michonne crouches down and tearfully tells Rick that it's not over, and that "we don't die."
"You wanna know why I fell in love with you? Because you're a fighter, and you never give up," she says. "Fight for me. Fight for all of us." Of course, Rick then understands that it's yet another hallucination. "Michonne" kisses him and he wakes up, gaining the strength to make it almost entirely across the bridge.
Rick's Last Stand
With the hallucinations over and Rick at peace, he resolves to destroy the bridge and the walker horde no matter what it takes. Naturally this is also when Michonne, Maggie, Daryl, Carol, and everyone else shows up underneath the bridge to try to save him. Unfortunately, it's too late, and Rick shoots at a bushel of dynamite on the bridge, setting off an explosion that blows him and all of the walkers away. Michonne collapses in heaving sobs, and Daryl, clearly in shock, turns and walks into the woods by himself.
Except that, wait a minute . . . RICK SURVIVES!!!!!!! The scene cuts to Jadis, who's standing in the woods downstream from the explosion and who spots Rick's very-much-alive body on the riverbank. She hops on her walkie and begs the mysterious people in the helicopter to land and save Rick, to which they reluctantly agree. The last we see of our beleaguered apocalyptic leader, he's being flown off to an unknown location.
So, WTF Does This All Mean?!
Well, the story of Rick Grimes is far from over. According to Scott M. Gimple, who appeared on Talking Dead after the episode, Rick is definitely alive and "it's not a weird trick," but that was the last we'll ever see of him on the show. That being said, his character is going to live on in another venue. "We're gonna continue telling his story in a series of original AMC films," he said. "It expands the universe. It's gonna show a different corner of the world."
The Hollywood Reporter has also revealed that Lincoln will continue playing the character in "three feature-length movies that will air on AMC (and possibly another outlet)." Production on the first film begins in 2019 and will see Gimple writing the script. There's no word on what corners of the world Rick will end up in, or why he'd choose not to return to his family, but we have faith Gimple and Lincoln wouldn't move forward with Rick's story if it doesn't make sense. And apparently we have plenty of time to theorize about how it might all come together, so settle in.