“I found you.”
So that’s it, Rick’s gone. Or at least, gone from the main show (for now). I guessed last week that Rick would be flown to safety and I was a little concerned that they couldn’t keep Rick alive, yet still have him leave, without it being unsatisfactory. But I reckon they just about pulled it off.
The episode begins with Rick back in the hospital, from the pilot episode. It turns out that all those people who have been saying the entire series has been a coma-induced dream were all correct. But of course not, this is just an hallucination as Rick bleeds out, impaled. The real highlight of this episode are the callbacks to previous episodes and cameos from long-dead characters. For fans who have been with the show from the beginning, it was certainly rewarding.
The best of these cameos was Jon Bernthal as Shane. Watching Shane and Rick’s conversation was like being thrown back to 2010. It’s like he never left, which is crazy when you think of everything that has happened and changed since his departure. It was weird to see the two of them joking with each other, but it was a nice reminder of who Rick was before. Another powerful cameo was Rick’s hallucinatory trip back to the farm and a tearjerker of a scene with the late Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene.
These scenes more or less gave Rick permission to die, to leave and be assured that everything would be ok – that he wasn’t failing. He started the show looking for his family, and now he’s found them – as ragged and unusual and imperfect as they may all be. And after all of that emotion, after all the speeches and introspection, Officer Friendly actually survived. It was a hell of an ending too – with Rick blowing up the bridge and being flown away with Jadis. In another excellent nod to the pilot episode, they even include Wang Chung’s ‘Space Junk’ as Rick flies off into the unknown.
And I’m so glad he lived. I thought I was ready to say goodbye, but seeing him survive was a great twist. And no death would have ever felt justified for such an iconic character. He lives! And I can now look at my shrine to Rick Grimes, and feel happy that he’s somewhere safe, ready to return one day. Reports have already emerged that Andrew Lincoln might be getting a spin-off, which I wouldn’t say no to. But hopefully they keep them focused, and not too concerned with creating a cinematic universe.
And as we close the book on one plotline, another comes to an end elsewhere – Maggie and Negan. Echoing a recent scene in the comics, Maggie goes to finally finish off the man who killed her husband. But after some macho boasting, she realises he is far from the arrogant and villainously charismatic leader he once was. He’s snivelling and weak, begging for death. Seeing him like this, after all this time, will hopefully bring closure to the fans who truly hate Negan. The only question is whether he is being truthful. Or is this a Jimmy McGill-esque ruse? For me, I’m just glad Maggie stayed her hand and that Uncle Negan is back for more soon.
Perhaps the most surprising moment of the episode is the whopping great timeskip at the end. We’re introduced to a new group who, whilst escaping a horde of walkers, come across little Judith Grimes. Only now, she’s not so little. This jump in time is just what the show needs to move the plot along and avoid feeling too stale. Now the characters have been surviving the apocalypse about as long as we’ve been watching the show. It promises a whole bunch of new developments for our heroes, not least of all a load of wacky new hairstyles.
So with Rick gone, the show is in an interesting place. It’s true that shows have struggled with the loss of a main character, but The Walking Dead has been an ensemble show for so long now, Rick is just the guy who started it. There isn’t really any other show to compare it to, in terms of characters. Perhaps Game of Thrones, that has survived without a main character for ages and it has plenty of big deaths. Or maybe Lost, that show could have easily continued without Jack Shepard right?
Does any of this soften the blow of losing Rick Grimes? Of course not, I am devastated. But the show poses an interesting question – What Comes After? Whatever it is, the show has been truly excellent this season. And with the inclusion of The Whisperers, some new faces, and some big deaths, it’s got a lot of tricks left up its sleeve.
Reviewed by Jack