Time for one last ride for Rick Grimes.
The episode begins with Rick awakening back in the hospital, just as he did in the pilot. As helicopters fly his way- after first being crows- the other Rick tells him to look at his wound. And then we see that same Rick from back in Season One, as he tells himself to wake up.
Back in reality, Rick still has that rebar through his torso as walkers approach him from all sides. He undoes his belt, wraps it around the rebar above and pulls himself off of the rebar. He frees himself and makes it onto the horse just in time to lead the walker behind him.
Then we jump to Jadis in the RV, which has come to a stop. Her friend on the radio asks her to confirm location and the status of her “A,” and she confirms that she has the “A” ready for transport. Though her friend warns her that if this is as trick, there will be consequences. Jadis is desperate to be moved, as she needs to leave this place, so she’s not playing games anymore.
She gets out of the RV and tells her contact that she’ll be ready.
Rick continues to bleed out as he slowly leads the walker herd. He tells himself to stay awake long enough to lead the walkers away. Time flashes as Rick remembers the past, but he continues onward with the horse going so fast that it causes him pain.
Elsewhere on the road, Maggie and Dianne approach a walker on a bridge. Maggie’s weapon of choice is a crowbar, because why not? Didn’t even let Dianne get this one. When Maggie is done, she wipes the blood from her wrist and tells Dianne that they can keep moving now.
Suddenly, Rick heads off the beaten path when he spots a mailbox and eventually finds a shed. Written on the front is “Come face us, assholes.” How rude. Rick heads inside, tears up some cloth, and covers up his wound to slow down the bleeding. He looks around the desolate cabin and spots the corpses of two people in the home, as well as notices that there are bullet holes riddling the cabin.
Soon enough, Rick finds himself leading the herd through…Atlanta? As we begin to travel through time, we see Rick catch up with Shane, with Jon Bernthal reprising his role. As the two reminisce over old times and Rick wanting to see his family, Shane takes credit for Rick being an asshole. Rick responds by saying that he didn’t want it, but Shane remembers the things that the two of them did in the field.
Rick stepped up, and it still has to be him. Shane disagrees. The only way this gets done is Rick has to think about how he bit a guy’s throat out. He needs the killer inside Rick Grimes. Shane tells Rick to dig deep and find the rage deep within, as it’s still within him. It’s the only way this gets done. Rick ultimately apologizes for what he did to Shane, but his buddy tells him to forget that. Oh, and it’s time to wake up!
And then Rick awakens when walkers begin streaming into the cabin. He fights his way out and manages to avoid getting bitten. He then jumps back on the horse and rides off.
In Alexandria, Michonne spots Judith making a bracelet when Scott enters to tell her that Maggie has arrived. Indeed, she has and she’s got the crowbar. She demands that Michonne get out of the way, saying that Negan should be dead. Maggie reminds Michonne that she was there the night that Glenn died.
Maggie doesn’t know what Glenn would want, as she never got to say goodbye, but the one thing she had was seeing Negan die. Taking that back will start something else. Maggie asks what Michonne would do if Negan had killed Rick instead. She needs to stop acting like Maggie can turn it off, as it’s been a year and a half and she can’t. Well, Michonne tells Maggie to find a way.
There is something else that Maggie can do, though. To her, there’s not what you say, but what you do, but you still have to live with what comes after. Maggie sure as hell can’t live with it now.
With that, Michonne does indeed hand over the key to Negan’s cell. When Maggie heads downstairs, though, Negan isn’t too surprised that Michonne gave up the key. And of course Negan remembers here. Maggie orders Negan on his knees, but then Negan gloats, how he remembers breaking Maggie when he killed Glenn. Maggie isn’t here for vengeance, but justice. She was always going to settle this for what Negan did.
But Negan continues to rub Glenn’s death in Maggie’s face. He once said that he didn’t enjoy killing him. Negan does indeed drop to his knees and tells Maggie to go ahead and get her revenge, as killing Glenn was worth it. However, Maggie wants to see Negan in the light, so she tells him to move up.
And this is when Negan practically demands that Maggie kill him. When she drags him into the light, he admits that he wants to die so he can be with his wife and with Lucille. He admits that he should be dead and it has to be Maggie that kills him. He can’t be like this, so he wants Maggie to put him out of his misery. However, Maggie then tells Negan to get back in his cell. She came to kill him, but he’s already worse than dead.
That settles it in her mind. As Negan returns to his cell, admitting it wasn’t supposed to be like this, Maggie locks the cell and heads back outside with a clean crowbar. Before she can say something to Michonne, Dianne alerts them that there are more pressing matters right now.
A woozy Rick is still leading the herd. As he passes out, we flash back to the farm as Rick joins Hershel, with Scott Wilson back in the role. The two stare out at the sunrise and then hug. Rick apologizes for what happened to him, Beth, and for everything that Maggie has lost. If he’d done things different, maybe things would be different, but Hershel tells Rick that he doesn’t have to worry about Maggie because he’s strong.
Still, Rick needs to find his family to keep them together, but Hershel doesn’t agree. It’s been hard trying to achieve what Carl wanted, and Rick has tried, but Hershel is confident that they’ll all get there. Now, though, Rick is tired. He believes that maybe he can find his family here, but Hershel tells him to wake up.
So he does. But he slips out again and finds himself back in the hospital. He staggers through the abandoned building and finds the sign on the door that now reads “Open. Dead Outside.”
As he opens it, he finds himself standing atop an innumerable pile of bodies as far as the eye can see. Among them, the one that stands up is Sasha, with Sonequa Martin-Green back in the role. She tells him that they both did their parts. The dead gave them the strength to do what needed to be done for the others. They change each other and make one another better, and it never ends. To Rick, it feels like it’s ending.
True, but it’s never the end of everything because they don’t die. It’s not about just Rick, but all of them. And it doesn’t just even out. It always crosses over towards the good and brave and love. Sasha tells Rick that he won’t find his family because they aren’t lost. And neither is Rick. What Rick needs to do is wake up.
He does that by falling on his side with the horse now long gone. Nice job, horse. He ends up back at the camp with walkers approaching him from all side. He puts down as many walkers as he can, but the herd is still approaching. Rick pushes one walker off of him as the herd streams through the camp site.
He heads onto the main road on foot and drags himself towards the bridge. Despite telling Daryl that he would not give this up. And that’s when everyone else arrives to cut down the herd. Rick tells Michonne to take care of things, but she reminds him that this isn’t over because they don’t die. She then reveals that she fell in love with him because he’s a fighter and never gives up, so it’s time to fight. Fight for everyone.
As Rick realizes that he’s found his family, he believes that this is not real. And with that, Michonne tells him to wake up.
Rick drags himself to his feet and starts leading the walkers onto the bridge. He’s bleeding out fast, but manages to make it across.
However, even with the herd on the bridge, the bridge continues to hold. Before Rick is bitten, though, Daryl takes out a few approaching walkers. Yes indeed, the cavalry has arrived. As everyone rushes to redirect the herd, Rick realizes that it’s far too many walkers to accomplish that. He walks towards the herd and welcomes them just as they knock over a box of explosives.
As the others rush in another direction to turn them around, Rick aims his pistol, realizes that he found them, and fires at the dynamite. Everyone is left stunned as a massive explosive follows. The flaming walkers stream off of the bridge and into the water below. I’m just going to assume that Rick found an emergency dumpster and called it a day.
Far from this, Jadis sees the smoke rising in the air as she spots an approaching helicopter. She spots Rick, who is alive and well and has washed up on shore. She radios that she’s got a “B.” Her partner warned her about a trick, but Jadis admits that this is no trick. She wants to save a friend who saved her and asks if this is good enough for a deal. With that, the helicopter lands.
Soon enough, Rick awakens with Jadis at his side as she tells him that he’s going to be saved.
Then we cut to some new faces out in a clearing as they take down walkers. They find themselves surrounded by walkers, but gunshots ring out and create an opening for them to pass by. The leader of the group, Magna, played by Nadia Hilker, introduces herself and her merry band to the individual who saved them. And just who would that be?
It’s a slightly older Judith Grimes, as we’ve jumped forward in time yet again.
Now Magna does introduce her team, but we fly through them all so quickly that I’ll save the rest of them for next time.
So, then. What have we learned today? That Rick Grimes will live on to fight another day? That we’re going through yet another time skip based on the ending? That the rest of the communities will remain unaware at the moment that Rick is still alive? That Maggie’s bloodlust for killing Negan has evaporated after seeing what he’s become?
The answer is yes, but may as well get the big thing out of the way first.
So yes, the fact that Rick did end up walking out of this episode alive should calm those who felt that he wound indeed die in what was being billed as his last episode. Never mind things like films, though. And this is great. It leaves the door open for Rick to inevitably return, although Andrew Lincoln did say that this would be his final season, so perhaps the door isn’t as open as some may hope.
Watching the episode again, this really did feel like Rick Grimes’ finest hour. It was a race against time with him struggling not just to stay alive, but get the herd far away where no one would be in harm. All while utilizing every trick Rick has learned that’s gotten him this far. Not to mention plot armor. And the very thing he told Daryl that he wouldn’t give up ended up being what saved the day in the end.
This did feel like a trip through time as we revisited some of Rick’s earlier moments. It was great to see Shane again, and that talk in the cop car felt like old times back in the pilot. But this wasn’t just about reminiscing. It also allowed Shane to tell Rick to dig deep and find that rage. Find what’s kept him going all this time and use that to fuel him as he keeps moving forward.
Same with Hershel and him saying that they’ll achieve the future that Carl wanted. Hershel brought out the optimism and fight in Rick, and it was a bit sad, admittedly, seeing him again in light of Scott Wilson’s recent passing.
Sasha, though, I’m not sold on that. Her words about them making one another better and giving each other strength? That’s great. No problem. Sasha herself is just an odd pick. Either don’t use her or don’t have her be the last dream. Perhaps Sonequa Martin-Green was the only one available, but even now, Sasha didn’t have that close of a connection to Rick compared to Shane and even Hershel.
Sure, Sasha was integral to the group, but I just question why she was the last of the dead characters that we saw. It doesn’t have the impact for me that I feel the show wants it to because her ties to Rick aren’t as strong as the other characters that preceded for her, even if she is the most recent among the three to have died.
Though I’d be lying if I said my criticism over Sasha’s inclusion in particular wasn’t overshadowed by the series doing a great job bringing the cover of issue #100 to life.
This felt like Rick was tired and ready for everything to be over. From his talks, he’d recounted the decisions that led him to this point and the people who have been helped or harmed as a result. It was a nice moment of self-reflection. Again, he never asked for this position of leadership, but he’s embraced. Now, at a low moment, he was ready to head to the other side if it meant finding his family again.
Thing is, Rick has a family right here in the land of the living and whether dream or real life, it was a touching moment to see them unite and try to save him. They may have their differences, but they weren’t about to let that get in the way of helping Rick.
Rick making the sacrificial play felt like something a long time coming. It pays off what Sasha said about them setting up a future for others. Even if Rick had died, he would have left this world knowing that the people still here would be okay. By blowing up the bridge, he sacrifices the one thing he placed his faith in above all else, realizing it was the only way out.
The dynamite being on the bridge could be seen as a convenience, but it was established earlier in the season that everyone had been using dynamite explosions in order to distract and redirect walker herds, so it’s not completely out of left field.
Now let’s talk about Rick’s survival. AMC has been promoting these last few episodes as the last hurrah for Rick Grimes. This episode itself was even promoted as Rick Grimes’ Final Episode. And in a way, it is. He lives and is flying off with Jadis to see another day. But the real life implications of this are interesting, as AMC is looking to expand the world of The Walking Dead with short films and miniseries.
The problem is that no one left in the communities besides Jadis knows that Rick is alive. And I don’t think The Walking Dead can have Rick return. After all this hype and buildup of this being the last episode for Rick Grimes, to have him return would fly in the face of everything the show and AMC have been doing while promoting the first few episodes of this season.
I’m not saying that they can’t bring Rick back or he can’t be used as a trump card in case ratings really plummet, but to have him alive without having him see the others at some point feels contrary to his character. Now let’s be clear, AMC never said that Rick Grimes would be dying. That’s fan projection. This is nowhere near as egregious as the dumpster in “Thank You,” but this still doesn’t entirely sit well with me.
This episode is solid, but it really fell apart for me from Rick’s survival onward. Not that I feel cheated, but it does feel like the show making you think this would be Rick’s ride into the sunset, but it’s really just a way to have him leave the show just when it seems like things are about to get more interesting.
This is compounded by the sudden ending and time skip. As a comic fan, I enjoyed seeing Magna and company, but it felt so sudden as a introduction to the new status quo. This should’ve been the introduction of the next episode, rather than having us deal not just with Rick’s exit, but another jump forward in time. My problem isn’t the idea, but the execution.
There is one other thing about this time skip that doesn’t sit well with me. The lack of Carl. Okay, he’s gone, no point in arguing that. But with Rick Grimes exiting, this would’ve been the perfect time to pass on the mantle to the next Grimes child since Rick knows that Judith is Shane’s kid. Hell, Shane even asks about her.
But here’s where my desire to see an older Carl leading falls apart. Because we’ve jumped forward a couple of years, would that mean recasting Chandler Riggs with a slightly older actor? It wouldn’t be an issue in the grand scheme of things, but it’s something that crossed my mind while watching the ending.
The only other noteworthy thing here is Maggie’s confrontation with Negan. It will be interesting to see how this goes forward, especially with Lauren Cohan also exiting, but right now, she sees no need to kill Negan because he’s a shadow of his former self. At least, as far as she can tell. He’s ready to die, but the fact that he taunts Maggie into trying to kill him makes me wonder if he was playing her.
Not that his feelings about being with his wife and Lucille weren’t genuine, but this is also Negan we’re talking about. He’s a master manipulator. But either way, it looks like this chapter is closed for the time being.
“What Comes After” is a very good episode of The Walking Dead that continues the uptick in quality we’ve gotten this season. The tension remained high, the visit to past characters was enjoyable- even if I question Sasha’s presence- and while Rick is out of the picture, the future remains bright.
Where it stumbles for me is in the execution of Rick’s exit and what this means for the series going forward. Will fans stick around when the main star has left the series? I mean, I will, but I can’t speak for fandom. Would Rick dying have made for a stronger, sacrificial play? Absolutely. Is it something that The Walking Dead would do? I can’t say for sure. After all, this isn’t Game of Thrones.
It’s a strong, emotional episode that, even with its optimistic ending, fell apart for me in the last few minutes. I’m curious to see how these characters move forward now that Rick Grimes is no longer a part of their lives. We’ll find out next time.