The latest episode of The Walking Dead season 9 included the long-awaited exit of Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. His departure from the show was confirmed months ago and I’ve been eagerly awaiting his final scenes ever since. I have mixed feelings now, and I’ll get into that, but mainly, I’m excited.
By the way, if you haven’t watched the episode yet, there are obviously some spoilers coming up…
The episode mainly focused on Rick and his efforts to save himself after he got impaled on a pole at the end of last week’s episode. Everything pointed at him dying from his wound or from the incoming walkers, but I was 90% sure he wouldn’t. To kill Rick Grimes would be to kill the dream of The Walking Dead. He’s been seen as the leader for so long, saving people, helping people – if he can’t survive the dead, then how can anyone else?
With that in mind, I think his exit was written well. It saw Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) flying him out in one of the mysterious helicopters, telling him he’d be alright. I’m glad he didn’t die, for the reasons mentioned above. But now we’re not going to know what happened to him, what the helicopters are actually for, what Jadis is getting up to. And that’s where my mixed feelings come in. Even though Rick’s not my favourite character in the series, I want to know what happened to him. I’m assuming the rest of the survivors think he died in the bridge explosion, which is when being an omniscient viewer can be annoying. I hope the writers drop hints or just make it clear what happened to him, just for viewers’ sake.
As well as Rick’s exit, there was a handful of returns for past cast members, including the late Scott Wilson. I enjoyed these flashbacks to times of old, because the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead were, in my opinion, so much better. The nod to Shane (Jon Bernthal), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and Hershel (Wilson) really made it feel like Rick’s story was coming full circle. It touched all bases and while the episode could have worked without the hallucinations, I’m glad it included them.
What I enjoyed most about the episode is that it didn’t end with Rick being taken away in the helicopter. It immediately introduced new characters and – surprise! – another time jump. This time hop looks to be another year or two, given the fact that we see an older Judith Grimes, seemingly stepping into Rick’s shoes. She meets the new survivors and brings them back home to safety. Having not read the comics I don’t know who the newbies are, so I’m looking forward to seeing what happens – especially now that there’s no Rick to keep things calm.
The episode also showed Maggie (Lauren Cohan) finally getting her one-on-one with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). I am firmly Team Maggie when it comes to Negan, and think Rick should’ve killed him under the tree in season 8. And that means I am also Team Maggie in her decision to leave him in his cell. He’s a broken man and it will be interesting to see how he changes further into the series.
Finally, there was a look at what is to come in the next three episodes and it’s clear the Whisperers are on their way any time. Again, I’ve not read the comics, but I’ve done my own research into the storylines and think the Whisperers are exactly what the show needs. They’re terrifying and a brand new type of villain for the protagonists to take on. When I think of the show’s greatest villains, I think of the Governor, the cannibalistic Terminus gang and early season 8 Negan, back when he was bashing in Glenn and Abraham’s heads. They were the ones that struck terror into me as a viewer and I have a feeling the Whisperers will do the same.
It’s definitely sad to see Andrew Lincoln leave the show. It’s been his show for so many years, but I’m thankful that his exit seems to be kickstarting the series again. I’m excited for what’s to come, and I just haven’t been with The Walking Dead for quite some time.