** WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD! **
Rick Grimes has officially starred in his last The Walking Dead episode — sort of.
On Sunday night’s episode of the long-running zombie show, viewers watched fan favourite and series lead Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) struggle to survive after being impaled through the abdomen by a piece of rebar.
Grimes has been the figurehead for the show since it began in 2010, and he’s managed to cheat death on multiple occasions, but this time was different. Viewers were told that the episode would feature Grimes’ last stand, so many were expecting him to finally meet his maker.
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Despite hordes of zombies and his bleeding abdominal wound, as the episode progressed, Grimes kept on living. His hour-long meandering was coloured with a series of flashbacks featuring already-dead cast members, akin to his life flashing before his eyes.
Then, after the bulk of the episode, in true hero fashion, Grimes opted to set off explosives on a bridge to destroy the herd of zombies on his tail, while seemingly killing himself in the process. At least, that’s what viewers were led to think.
In an unexpected epilogue-style scene, unbeknownst to any of Rick’s friends and family, somehow his body washes up on the riverbank post-explosion. He’s then rescued by side character Jadis and flown away to safety (apparently) in a helicopter. Then we fast-forward six years and see a 10-year-old Judith Grimes, wearing Rick’s sheriff’s hat.
After the episode, AMC revealed their “expansion” plans for TWD, which involve three Lincoln-led feature-length movies that’ll air on AMC at an as-of-now undisclosed date.
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“There is more story to tell and we’ll be telling it,” said TWD chief content officer Scott Gimple to The Hollywood Reporter.
“The story of Rick will go on in films,” he continued. “Right now, we’re working on three but there’s flexibility in that … over the next several years, we’re going to be doing specials, new series are quite a possibility, high-quality digital content and then some content that defies description at the moment. We’re going to dig into the past and see old characters. We’re going to introduce new characters and new situations.”
So it seems Rick isn’t actually dead. Viewers were torn; while some wanted Rick to finally meet his end, others were happy that they would see more of him in the future. Some felt ripped off by the ending, which many chalked up as another fake-out by the series.
As for the future of the show, it seems to be heading in an entirely new direction, helmed by the young Judith and a whole slew of new characters. In a brief snippet at the end of Sunday’s episode, we saw many existing characters like Daryl, Carol and Michonne with varied haircuts and looks, emphasizing the passage of time.
Things have changed for The Walking Dead, just not how viewers thought. At its lowest ratings point ever, the switch might actually help the show survive — but we’ll have to wait and see.