- SPOILERS AHEAD … IS RICK ALIVE OR DEAD? OR MERELY INDISPOSED? TRUST US, WE’LL SAY SO BEST BACK AWAY NOW (BY HORSE OR ON FOOT) IF YOU DON’T WANT TO KNOW …
So this is the end my friend the end for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) right?
Well, yes and no.
Yes, after ending up impaled on a great big metal rod sticking out of some concrete and hauling himself off in just the nick of time – rather handily the two zombie herds walked at a narratively-convenient pace and left an escape road free; never let it be said the undead aren’t thoughtful – it looked like Rick was a goner, leaking blood all over his shirt and onto his lovely white horse.
Quite frankly surviving that kind of wound looked remote at best and it appeared on more than one occasion that Rick was going to go to that Great Shuffling Herd on the Road any moment now.
With all blood loss, he kept passing out, sliding off the horse, falling asleep and every time he came within a whisker of some hungry zombie taking a sizable chunk out him.
But just as you were thinking it was time to write Michonne (Danai Gurira) a condolence card and order some flowers from a now non-existent florist delivery service – it’s more grab some pretty weeds off the roadside and hope a zombie isn’t hiding nearby; not quite the deluxe shopping experience of old – Rick would rise, temporarily Lazarus-like and we all breathed yet another, of many, sigh of relief.
And so it went on and on.
I mean, honestly, none of us actually expected Rick to die since he is RICK but time and again they played with our expectations and feelings until honestly we didn’t know which way was up (and neither did the zombies but then they never really do).
Then there were the trippy dream sequences.
Well, trippy in so far as Rick kept meeting up with people long gone, first Shane (Jon Bernthal) then Hershel (the late, much-loved Scott Wilson), then Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) and even people very much among us such as imagined Michonne who tells Rick to keep going because he’s a fighter.
He’s also damn narratively blessed too.
To begin with the writing seemed more than a little been-there-done-that with the usual contrivances of people in Rick’s dreams appearing to give him sage advice and to warn him to wake up, dammit, wake up NOW.
And in lots of ways it was – The Walking Dead has often suffered, and suffered again in “What Comes After” from a fairly-unimaginative assembling of all the farewell/dream/apocalypse tropes you could ask for, and for much of the episode’s run, it looked like Rick was going to get a fairly bog standard send-off, which is a bit of a bummer given his time on the show.
But though the writing never really soared, with a confrontation between Maggie (Lauren Cohen) and Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) resulting not in the former Big Bad’s vengeful death but a waterworks-y breakdown that really went nowhere and felt oddly sandwiched into proceedings, there was an odd emotional resonance that crept into Rick’s delusional “final” journey.
By the time we got to the part where he was stuck on the wooden bridge, about to be subsumed by zombie hordes and Michonne, Darryl (Norman Reedus), Carol (Melissa McBride) were too far away to do anything more than kill off a few lead undead, you were actually feeling SOMETHING.
Granted it was probably less than you should have been feeling since this was Rick Freaking Grimes leaving the show of which he was the most pivotal of founding members – though as a character, he had well and truly run his course – but it was something, accompanied by “Space Junk ’97” by Wang Chung which played, I believe, in the first episode too.
Just when we were going full mourning garb, with Rick sacrificing himself in an almighty big explosion that send hundreds upon hundreds of burning zombies into the fast-flowing torrent below, along comes Jadis/Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her mysterious helicopter pals who whisk Rick off to god-knows-where, his abduction the price paid by Jadis for her rescue.
Naturally being a major future plot driver, “What Comes After” is all coy about what this all means and who these people are, but it certainly adds some extra Lost-like zest to the thing (hopefully with more revelations thank you), as does the time jump at the end which a bunch of perky new young survivors getting saved in the nick of time by a gun-toting Judith.
Yep, Judith is suddenly older, putting down her crayons for a gun which she can aim with ridiculously-prodigious accuracy and it looks like that’s where The Walking Dead is going to be going forward. (It’s a narrative trick employed just at the start of season 9, a scant five episodes ago, which smacks a little of jumping the shark-ness and once again puts Fear the Walking Dead in catch-up mode.)
So Rick LIVES (presumably), taken away by people who seem more than a little mercenary – Jadis is only saved when she offers up a “B” though that’s never defined – and can return whenever he wants it seems, though in what form that will be and how often remains to be seen.
As farewell episodes go, “What Comes After” wasn’t bad, giving us a fairly acceptable nod to Rick past and present, and there was a reasonable amount of emotional resonance but really, you can’t help wondering if it could have been so much more, caught up in the malaise once again of a show that seems to have lost its ability to tell a really compelling story.
- So what will The Walking Dead look like without Rick? Why possibly this … next episode “Who Are You Now?” …