So long, Rick Grimes?

Annika Gustafsson

[media-credit id=2119 align=”alignright” width=”444″][/media-credit]Many “Walking Dead” fans were left teary-eyed after Andrew Lincoln announced the exit of his character Rick Grimes earlier this year. However, they were met with a surprise during Lincoln’s last episode, when it was revealed that Grimes would live on outside of the television hit, starring in three upcoming AMC Movies.

The news broke on “Talking Dead,” “The Walking Dead’s” after-show.

“This is the end of Rick Grimes on ‘The Walking Dead,’ but this is not the end of Rick Grimes’ story,” Chief Content Officer Scott Gimple said. “We are going to continue telling Rick Grimes’ story in a series of AMC original films.”

Fans across the world believed this episode would be the true end for Grimes, as the show had been promoting his leave for months.

Grimes’ final episode, titled “What Comes After,” picks up after a dramatic cliffhanger from episode four, where Rick finds himself impaled on a rebar with a herd of walkers closing in. The protagonist manages to free himself, and he embarks on a painful horseback ride, bleeding out and trying to “find his family.” Along the way, Grimes slips in and out of consciousness, reconnecting with lost friends each time he passes out. Actors Jon Bernthal, Scott Wilson and Sonequa Martin-Green returned for the episode, reprising their roles as Shane, Hershel and Sasha respectively. When talking with his fallen allies, Grimes receives one final lesson from each of them, giving him closure on his lost relationships.

The episode reaches its climax when Grimes crosses the bridge his group has constructed with the walkers not far behind. Moments before he gets bitten, an arrow flies into the head of a walker, signaling the arrival of Daryl Dixon, Michonne, and the rest of Rick’s group. Rick remains still, waiting to see if the bridge will give out under the weight of the undead bodies. After trying so desperately to find his family, Rick realizes they are right in front of him trying to save his fleeting life. With very little time left, the sheriff realizes what he must do to save the ones he loves. Whispering “I found them,” Grimes shoots a box of dynamite that has toppled over in the herd, blowing out the bridge and what seems to be himself as well. The remaining characters are left heart-broken, watching their leader fall in front of them.

In the final minutes of the dramatic episode, fans were left stunned as they tried to process the death of the series’ star character. Before tears could be shed, an almost-lifeless Rick Grimes appears on the bank of the river and is evacuated via helicopter by Anne, a character Rick met a few seasons ago. The Internet blew up after the helicopter flew away, with tweets pouring in about Grimes surviving the blast. Some fans did not know how to react, feeling deceived after the months of build-up regarding the character’s demise. Others were elated after watching their favorite southern survivor be spared, announcing their excitement for the upcoming movies.

Andrew Lincoln has his own thoughts on Rick’s future.

“It’s not the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning,” Lincoln said, displaying his happiness and excitement for the continuation of Rick’s story.

Originally, Lincoln had wanted to leave the show in season eight, but as production continued, he knew it was not time for Grimes to say goodbye. In addition, several versions of his final episode were filmed, some of which depicted Rick meeting his end entirely. AMC chose to spare Grimes in order to give his story the ability to progress. Lincoln enjoys having the chance to explore more of Rick’s background, saying “I love this character. I love the world that we inhabit.”

The first of the three movies is set to begin production in as early as 2019, with a potential release date sometime in 2020. As for the television series, actors such as Norman Reedus and Danai Gurira are expected to take on larger roles, propelling the story along with Cailey Fleming, who will portray Rick’s daughter Judith. Rick Grimes may not be a part of the television world anymore, but his character will continue to be explained and adored in the Walking Dead universe.