What The Actual Hell Just Happened to Rick Grimes on ‘The Walking Dead’?

Keely Flaherty
TV The Walking Dead
TV The Walking Dead

WARNING: This post contains huge spoilers for the most recent episode of The Walking Dead, ‘What Comes After.’ Proceed at your own caution.

It’s no secret that Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) was supposed to die on this season of The Walking Dead. It’s been four episodes and literally everyone is watching and wondering, “How is Rick gonna bite it?”

Well, reader, that day has come. Last night’s episode of The Walking Dead, the fifth episode of the ninth season, was Lincoln’s last confirmed episode in the series. But there were some huge twists. Here’s everything you need to know about Rick’s fate, and what that might mean for the show’s future.

Our Dead Faves Returned

Last week’s episode ended with Rick accidentally impaling himself on a big rusty piece of metal while two huge herds of walkers shuffled toward him. This week’s episode began with one of the most gruesome scene in the series: Rick using his belt to pull himself up and off of the piece of metal. Rick spent the rest of the episode trying to outrun the walkers — on horse and on foot — while drifting in and out of consciousness. During the series of otherworldly dreams, Rick’s looking for his family — the very same mission he’s been on in various iterations since the series’ beginning.

During those spells of unconsciousness, some of our dead faves revisited their friend Rick Grimes. Shane (Jon Bernthal) returned to eat a burger and fries, forgive his friend Rick, tell Rick to embrace his rage and survive, and be a little bit of an asshole (because Shane’s always a little bit of an asshole).

Shane The Walking Dead

Hershel came back in the most comforting dream sequence, which was doubly heartbreaking since actor Scott Wilson passed away in early October. Rick got to apologize to his old friend, and Hershel comforted Rick. He told him not to worry about Maggie — “My girl is strong,” Hershel said, in one of the episode’s most powerful moments — and that Rick didn’t need to keep searching for his family.

Hershel The Walking Dead

And Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) returned in Rick’s most eerie dream. After he walks through the iconic “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” hospital doors, Rick sees a sea of all his loved ones lying dead on the ground. Sasha stands up from the mass to comfort him. “It’s OK,” she tells him. “We change each other. We help each other. We make each other better. And it never ends.” She tells Rick he won’t find his family because they’re not lost — and neither is he.

Sasha The Walking Dead

There Was a Tricky First Twist

In the episode’s first big twist, Rick finds himself finally and inescapably cornered at the end of the new bridge. Just when he’s given up, his friends — Michonne, Daryl, Maggie, Ezekiel and a group of survivors — rush in and save him. “It’s not over, you don’t die,” Michonne tells him. “You wanna know why I fell in love with you? Because you’re a fighter and you never give up. So fight, Rick. Fight for me. Fight for all of us.” And then Rick realizes that he’s found his family; they’re right in front of him. But then he wakes up; it was all a dream and he’s still trapped at the end of the bridge.

Rick Grimes The Walking Dead

Rick’s Final Words Were Perfect

When Rick’s friends finally do show up, it’s too late. Rick’s critically wounded and the herd is too large for any group of survivors to defeat. In a final act of self-sacrifice, Rick shoots a bundle of dynamite, uttering “I found ’em,” before he pulls the trigger. Rick’s found his family, and his final act is to save them. Rick shoots, the bridge blows up, and the herd pours into the river below. It seems that Rick is dead.

Michonne Broke Everyone’s Heart

Realizing what’s happened, Michonne breaks down. Her friends have to hold her back from rushing onto the burning bridge to try and save Rick. Daryl watches with tears in his eyes, believing his friend is dead.

The Walking Dead Rick Grimes Michonne

There Was a Huge Twist Ending

But then there was an absolutely huge twist: Rick survives the blast. As we all know, Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) is back and playing a major role this season — she’s been in contact with some mysterious outside team, begging to be extracted in exchange for an “A” or a “B.” After failing to capture Father Gabriel for the trade, Jadis is waiting downstream of the explosion, looks over, and sees Rick — gravely injured but clearly alive — washed up on shore.

“I’m trying to save a friend, a friend who saved me!” Jadis explains to the waiting helicopter. She qualifies Rick as a “B,” whatever that means, but it’s clearly valuable enough to make the trade. The next scene shows Jadis sitting over Rick, strapped into a medical bed with oxygen tubes, telling him, “You’re still here, you’re gonna be OK, they’re gonna save you.”

Jadis The Walking Dead

The helicopter disappears in the distance, and we’re introduced to a plucky new group of survivors fighting off a herd of walkers in the same field Jadis and Rick were seemingly just flying over. Shots ring out, some walkers fall and a path clears, and a small voice cries, “Come on this way, it’s clear!” The group sprints into the nearby forest toward the voice.

But who shot the walkers and saved them? Why, it’s a young girl who’s wielding a gun like a pro and wearing…Carl Grims’ iconic hat. Yep, it’s Judith Grimes — she’s not a toddler anymore, because apparently we’ve just jumped at least a few years ahead of Rick’s “death.”

Carl Grimes The Walking Dead

What Does The Ending Mean?

AMC confirmed to FANDOM that this was Andrew Lincoln’s last confirmed episode in the series, and later confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter that Lincoln will return as Grimes in “three big-budget, feature-length TV movies for AMC.” His departure and the time jump will clearly reset the series and give it both the time and space to continue despite his huge absence. And hopefully this means there’s still a sliver of hope that someday, somehow, Rick and Michonne will reunite.

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