‘The Walking Dead’ Honors Rick Grimes and Seals His Fate (RECAP)

Spoiler Alert
Gene Page/AMC

It’s the episode fans have been waiting for since the beginning of the summer.

When the news leaked that Andrew Lincoln would be departing The Walking Dead during the upcoming season, theories bubbled in almost every corner of the internet as fans predicted and questioned how that exit would occur. Would Rick live? Would he die? Would he be taken out by the Whisperers? Would he walk off into the sunset with Michonne and Judith?

Surprisingly, one of the major theories regarding his fate in “What Comes After” ended up being true. That said, this episode isn’t so much about Rick’s present as it is about his past, and these nostalgia-soaked 43 minutes reflect just how far the sheriff has come since he woke up from his coma in an abandoned Atlanta hospital.

It’s clear that Rick’s time has reached its end; but first, The Walking Dead wants to celebrate his life.

Time to Wake Up

The episode opens with present-day Rick back at the hospital, telling a Season 1 version of himself to wake up. Season 1 Rick opens his eyes, smirks and says, “Yeah, wake up, asshole.”

Rick wakes up on the rebar and manages to tug himself off of it and get back on the horse. He’s bleeding profusely from his side, and he has a mega-horde of walkers on his heels, but he’s alive!

Anne, meanwhile, is having trouble with her escape plan. Her car won’t move, and the mysterious voice on the other end of the radio wants to know where she is. She gives them her location, and though they tell her there can be consequences if she’s tricking them, she says it’s not a trick and they know where to find her.

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Find Your Rage

On his horse, Rick’s not faring too well. He’s having a tough time staying awake, and he briefly flashes back to the farm, the field where he was shot in Season 1 and his hospital room in Atlanta. He manages to pull away from the herd and finds an old cabin, where he ties some cloth around his abdomen to slow the bleeding from his side. He then passes out.

Rick “wakes up” in an alternate, Season 1-based reality. He leads the horde down the Atlanta highway, and when he’s in the city, he gets in his old police car with a familiar face — none other than Shane Walsh! They park in the field where Rick was shot and have an emotional conversation about Judith (“How is my baby girl, by the way?”), about which one of them is an “asshole,” and about what happened between them at the farm. Shane tells Rick that he’s glad Rick killed him in the field at the farm, and gives his friend a motivational speech about finding his rage and hatred to keep him going. Shane yells at him to wake up, and…

Rick’s back in the present, with a walker in his face, and the rest of the herd following it. He kicks a few planks out of the cabin and crawls through, then climbs back onto his horse with only seconds to spare.

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A Fate Worse Than Death

Back in Alexandria, Michonne’s sitting with Judith as she makes crafts. One of the Alexandrians interrupts their family time to tell Michonne that Maggie has arrived, and she’s inside the walls. When Maggie makes it to the outside of Negan’s cell, Michonne stands in her way; they have a tense conversation about how Maggie feels that if Negan had killed Rick instead of Glenn, he would have died at the end of the war. Maggie says she wishes there was something else she could do, because she can’t keep living the way she lives now, motivated by revenge for over a year.

When Maggie affirms she can live with “what comes after” she kills Negan, Michonne reluctantly hands her the keys. Maggie steps into Negan’s cell and he says he remembers her. He taunts her about Glenn’s death, and enraged, she tells him to get on his knees. She later says she wants to see him in the light, but he refuses to move, telling her to do what she came there to do. She opens the door to his cell and throws him into the light as he sobs. He begs Maggie to kill him, and when she demands to know why, he responds, “So I can be with Lucille!” Upon seeing him so broken, Maggie tells him to get back into his cell and says she came to kill Negan — but he’s already worse than dead. Negan shuffles back into captivity, distraught, and Maggie locks the cell behind him. When she goes back outside, her Hilltop companion tells her and Michonne that something’s wrong at the camp.

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Hello, Hershel

Rick’s still leading the walkers, mumbling that he needs to find his family. He then slips out of reality and back to Hershel’s barn, where he has a heartfelt talk with his old mentor. They watch the sun rise in the barn, and Rick apologizes for what happened to Hershel and to Maggie. Hershel absolves him of that guilt and regret, and when Rick says he needs to find his family, Hershel tells him that’s not true. Exhausted, Rick laments how hard it’s been to build a vision that Hershel and Carl would’ve wanted, and suggests that he might be able to find his family at the farm. Hershel tells him to wake up, and…

Rick’s back in the present, briefly, then leans down onto his horse and slips away to the Atlanta hospital. He walks down the hallway that once ended with the “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” door, but now ends in a door that reads, “Open, Dead Outside” (the “don’t” is crossed out). Rick takes the barricade off the door, pulls it open and steps through. He finds himself walking on a terrifying sea of bodies, a conglomeration composed of friends like Shane, Maggie, Father Gabriel, Jesus, Sasha, Carol, Rosita, Beth and Daryl. As he kneels down, a voice behind him commands his attention. It’s Sasha!

Not Lost

Horrified, Rick stammers that they’re all dead. Sasha tells him that’s okay, because he did his part and she did hers. She says that they draw strength from each other and change, help, and make each other better. That, she says, never ends. Rick says it feels like it’s ending, and Sasha says, “We don’t die.” She tells him she thinks life always tips toward the good and the brave, and toward love; she says he won’t find his family, because they’re not lost and he is not lost. He needs to wake up, she says, and…

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Rick’s fallen off his horse, and the horse has run away. He’s lying on the ground in the camp, convulsing and bleeding from his side as walkers surround him. He finds his gun and takes down several of the walkers, then scrambles to his feet and limps away with the herd practically biting at his boots.

Finding His Family

Having lost a ton of blood and the majority of his energy, Rick crumples to the ground in front of the bridge. He barely gets to his knees when suddenly, all his friends run across the structure and start taking on the herd! Ezekiel, Jerry, Carol, Maggie, Daryl, Cyndie and of course, Michonne are all there to help him out, and so are many others. Michonne kneels down by him and tells him it’s not over; he tells her to take care of their people. “We don’t die,” she tells him, and then tells him why she fell in love with him: because he’s a fighter, and he never gives up. She tells him to fight for her, and for everyone else.

“You’re my family,” Rick says, smiling. “I found you.” But he realizes it’s not real, and Michonne tells him to wake up.

The Last Stand

Rick leads the herd across the bridge, but in a horrible twist of fate, the unsteady structure holds. A walker is heartbeats away from taking a chunk out of Rick’s shoulder when, suddenly, an arrow whizzes past and takes care of the pest with a headshot. It’s Daryl! And Maggie, and Carol, and Michonne, and Jesus, and Rosita, and a bunch of other members of Rick’s family! They’re too far to reach him or the herd directly, but decide to turn the walkers around by firing their guns. Rick tries to call them off, saying they shouldn’t do that for him.

The gun plan doesn’t work. Daryl keeps taking down the walkers. One walker knocks a toolbox over and sticks of dynamite roll out. Rick seems to figure out a plan. Michonne sprints through the woods. The walkers keep coming. Michonne screams.

“I found them,” Rick says. He takes aim and fires.

The bridge explodes, and thus ends the story of Rick Grimes.

In the aftermath, everyone’s shattered. Daryl cries. Michonne screams, and Maggie and Carol hold her. As walkers pour into the water, Daryl turns around and walks into the woods.

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Not an ‘A,’ But a ‘B’

Downriver, Anne sees the helicopter coming. Her radio picks up the distress from the bridge and what happened with Rick. She runs to the riverbank and finds Rick — still alive — on the shore. “I have a B!” she says. “I never had an A. He’s hurt, but he’s strong. Can you help him?” The voice tells her he said there would be consequences if she tried to trick them, but she throws her gun away in a show of good faith — now, she’s just trying to help a friend. “Do we have a deal?” she asks.

They do.

With “Space Junk” playing in the background, Rick regains consciousness in the helicopter and sees Anne standing over him. “You’re still here?” she says, smiling. “You’re gonna be okay. They’re gonna save you.” The helicopter flies away.

Meet Judith Grimes

The scene changes, and a group of people — Magna’s group — fight a herd, but they’re surrounded. A mysterious savior takes down several of the walkers to make a path for them to run into the woods, then urges them to come with her. A young girl with a katana on her back asks them for their names, and Magna tells her. When she asks the girl for her name, she picks up a familiar hat off the ground and says, “Judith. Judith Grimes.”

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Other Observations:

  • What a wonderful, bittersweet way to end Rick’s story. I had prepared myself for him to die at the end of this episode, but it’s nice that this leaves the door open for him to return, should Andrew Lincoln choose to do so.
  • Speaking of Andrew Lincoln, what a powerful performance from him. The alternate reality scenes were incredible, as were his moments in the present. I’m not sure how likely it is, but I do feel he deserves an Emmy nod for this.
  • Seeing Scott Wilson as Hershel was a real tearjerker, considering this was his final onscreen performance. An impactful scene made even more impactful by the real-life tragedy of his passing.
  • I’ll be interested to see if Anne and Rick ever come back. It’s hard to believe Rick would voluntarily leave Judith and Michonne for the duration of the second time jump, unless there’s an impossible amount of distance between them now.

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC