Rick Grimes went out in a huge climactic blaze of glory... sort of.
The episode we've all been eagerly -- and dreadfully -- anticipating finally arrived. On The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 5, fan favorite and series original, Rick Grimes, made his last appearance.
And while the episode itself acted as a beautiful send-off that was loaded with fan service and nostalgia, the result turned out to be a bit disappointing.
The Walking Dead has always been notorious for misleading its audience, but considering how transparent the series and AMC have been with Andrew Lincoln's departure, I wasn't quite sure what to expect.
And while "What Comes After" was -- by far -- one of the best episodes of the series to date, I have a massive gripe with how Rick's story ultimately came to an end.
And that's because it didn't come to an end.
Was anyone surprised by how quickly RickGyver pulled himself up off of that rebar? Considering his delirious state, that was some seriously quick thinking to use his belt as a pulley system.
Even when Rick is helpless and on the verge of imminent death, the guy is still a badass.
If those opening moments of the episode taught us anything, it's that we should all have a new appreciation for belts. They may end up saving your life one day.
You can always tell when Greg Nicotero is directing an episode of The Walking Dead. The man has such a distinct vision and passion, and that translates when he's behind the camera. The cinematography and camera work are always visually stunning and on point.
The entire episode was beautifully shot, and I loved how the viewers were able to share Rick's perspective of never actually knowing what was real and what was merely a hallucination.
Not that we weren't already highly invested in seeing Rick's final appearance, but it was a brilliant way of keeping the audience engaged and on its toes throughout the entire episode.
Speaking of the hallucinations, seeing Rick and Shane together again was one of the highlights of the episode. I didn't realize how much I've missed the chemistry and camaraderie between these two until I watched that scene.
How funny was Shane's comment about Rick looking for his family? It was a fun way for the show addressed that debate.
Rick: I'm looking for my family.
Shane: Oh is that what you're doing? Looking for your family, huh? See that's not entirely the truth. One could argue it's my family that you're looking for, right? How is my baby girl, by the way? She's got my eyes, doesn't she?
The sudden transition from Shane turning into a walker was unsettling but beautiful. I'm not usually a fan of jump scares, but in this instance, it was done perfectly by turning Rick's calm conversation into immediate peril.
That scene immediately reminded me of The Walking Dead Season 5 Episode 9 -- also directed by Nicotero -- when Tyreese was hallucinating and watched The Governor quickly morph into a walker.
Again, that guy makes magic with the camera.
Seeing Hershel again was another poignant moment, and was emotional for numerous reasons. The fact with Scott Wilson's passed away shortly after filming that scene makes it all the more sentimental.
It was Rick's way of finally coming to terms with his guilt over Hershel and Glenn's deaths, and having a reunion with these two was the perfect way to showcase that.
All of the hallucinations of everyone telling Rick to "wake up" were all manifestations of his will to survive and keep on fighting. Every time Rick's body felt like quitting, his desire to keep fighting manifested into people who had profound impacts on the person he became.
It was truly a marvelous thing to witness.
Rick: I'm tired, Hershel. My family... maybe I can find them here.
Hershel: No rick, you have to wake up.
There was so much fun fan-service thrown at us throughout the hour -- such as Rick seeing his comatose self and walking through the hospital corridors from the pilot. And while most of it worked, there were a couple of instances that fell a bit flat or lacked that extra punch.
That brings me to the appearance of Sasha.
Nothing against the character or Sonequa Martin-Green's performance, but it just felt a bit off-putting. Rick interacted with Shane, Hershel and ... Sasha?
The character didn't have nearly as much of an impact on Rick's life as people such as Hershel and Shane. It would have felt more appropriate for Carl to appear to Rick at that moment.
Now, I don't know if Chandler Riggs was even approached to reprise his role, but I can't help but feel that scene was initially written for Carl. Even the dialogue given to Sasha would have been much better suited coming from Carl.
What I did enjoy during this scene, however, was Sasha's words to Rick regarding how little things end but that doesn't mean everything ends with it.
Rick: It feels like it's ending.
Sasha: Little things do end. But it's never the end of everything. Because we don't die. It's not about you, or me, or any one of us. It's about all of us.
There was something so powerful and optimistic behind those words. It mainly acted as the show's message to fans that just because Rick's story is ending, The Walking Dead is and forever will be about all of the characters, not only one. It was a subtle way for the writers to try and soothe the viewer's fears about life after Rick.
And after hearing those words, I feel even more optimistic about this show's future.
Rick profusely bleeding throughout the episode immediately sent me to a Google search on how much blood the human body holds.
Seriously, I couldn't believe how much blood loss Rick endured on his journey back. It was interesting how towards the end Rick ended up looking reminiscent of the walkers he's been fighting for the last nine seasons as he shuffled across the bridge.
I came to kill Negan. And you're already worse than dead. That settles it.Maggie
Rick was shocked that the bridge was going to hold as the walkers were shambling across. Although, the bridge holding felt symbolic of how strong this new world is that Rick and his friends have built and that it could withstand anything.
Daryl and the group getting together to try and save Rick accompanied by an arrangement of the Walking Dead theme set up a perfect climax.
We repeatedly heard Rick utter how he was looking for his family throughout the entire episode. Initially making us think he was referring to Carl and Lori from The Walking Dead Season 1 or Michonne and Judith. But in the end, exclaiming that he "found them" right before blowing up the bridge was intended to show how everyone in his life is his family.
Rick's family is Judith, Michonne, Daryl, Carol. He never had to look for his family because they were always there.
In the end, Rick found his way home and went out on his terms, protecting his family. It was a perfect way to end Rick's story.
But then the episode continued, and that's where my praise takes a nosedive.
Anne suddenly finding Rick washed up from the river as the helicopter was landing was a big cop-out. Rick being taken by the helicopter group was a working theory I had talked about in review for The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 4. And in this instance, I hate the fact that I was right.
In essence, The Walking Dead just pulled a Glenn Dumpster Roll 2.0.
Granted, it was never implied that Rick would die, but after watching this episode, I can't help but feel that would have been a more appropriate route.
It would at least have put some finality to the character's arc, and leaving Rick's story open-ended feels a bit cheap.
If The Walking Dead wanted to keep Rick alive, it would have served better to leave Rick's fate a bit more ambiguous and leave the group (and viewers) with the assumption that Rick died in the explosion.
Had the show gone that route, it would have still left open the possibility of the character's return down the road. If I can play devil's advocate for just a moment and re-edit this episode, I would cut the entire sequence of Anne saving Rick and transition from the collapse of the bridge right into the time jump.
When viewed that way, it feels a much more appropriate way of closing out Rick's story.
Instead, the result will likely leave fans divided, as many will be thrilled that Rick survived, while the rest will feel cheated.
It's not over. We don't die.Michonne
While I have my gripes with Rick being whisked away by the helicopter, I absolutely loved the ending reveal of the new time jump showing a significantly older Judith saving the unknown survivors from walkers.
One of the biggest mistakes this series made was killing Carl, and I stand by that. However, it appears that Judith is being set up to take Carl's place as the badass he becomes in the comics, and I am in love with that idea.
Judith's appearance is worth taking a moment to touch upon, as she was clearly in possession of Michonne's katana, Carl's hat, and Rick's revolver. What an amazing way to honor each member of her family.
It will be interesting to see how Rick's "death" affects the group and how that's dealt with in the upcoming jump in time, but it will likely make the group stronger than they've ever been.
Rick said it best to Negan on The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 2, at the end of the day they all come together. It's just what they do.
"What Comes After" was easily the best episode of the season, and one of the best episodes of this series to date. Although Rick's arc came to an unsatisfying end, the episode was overall a beautiful send-off FOR the character.
Where the series goes from here remains to be seen, but I'm excited about the possibilities. And while I certainly have a rejuvenated optimism regarding this series' future, the new world is going to miss Rick Grimes.
Thank you, Andrew Lincoln.
- We all knew Maggie wasn't going to kill Negan, even if viewers badly wanted her to. Negan was begging for death, and I'm glad Maggie realized that leaving Negan to rot in his cell is a fate worse than any revenge she could dish out.
- Does anyone agree with Maggie's view that if it had been Rick that was murdered instead of Glenn that Negan would be sitting in a cell right now?
- It was interesting when Anne classified Rick as a "B" for him to be rescued, yet we know that he was initially classified as an "A" during The Walking Dead Season 8. Does she really have Rick's well-being at heart or is she just using him for her own means?
- The song "The River" by Blues Saraceno was a fantastic choice used in the episode preview, as it foreshadowed the events of the episode.
- It was surprising to learn that this episode wasn't going to receive an extended runtime, but after watching it, that felt appropriate. The episode told its story, and it likely would have felt too drawn out had it gone any longer.
- The scene of everyone running past Rick on the bridge to fight the walkers was terrific. Even though it wasn't real, it was still a potent and visually pleasing moment.
Now it's time to hear from you, Walking Dead Fanatics!
What did you think of "What Comes After"? Where you satisfied with how the series concluded Rick's story or where you left a bit disappointed? Will we ever learn what will become of Rick after being flown away? What are your thoughts of having -- yet another -- time jump?
Hit the comments below!
Want to re-live Rick's epic final episode? Be sure to watch The Walking Dead online right here at TV Fanatic.
Steven Ford is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow him on Twitter.