Warning: spoilers for The Walking Dead below.
Well, it finally happened, folks. Rick Grimes, in all his bow-legged, apocalyptic sheriff glory, has left The Walking Dead. Sort of.
If you watched the latest episode, “What Comes After,” you know that Rick (Andrew Lincoln) doesn’t actually die like we’ve all been led to believe he will. Unbeknownst to his family, Rick doesn’t perish after blowing up the much-discussed bridge connecting the established communities that’s infested with walkers. His wounded body is tossed into the river and washes ashore downstream, where Jadis spots him and convinces the mysterious helicopter people to take him to safety. Since apparently being blown off a bridge causes Rick to not give a f*ck about his family anymore, we’re to believe he stays away and will never be seen on the TV series again.
While Rick’s story will live on via three feature-length movies that will air on AMC, what’s really concerning is what happens with his family after his disappearance. The end of “What Comes After” shows a family broken by the “death” of their leader before flashing forward a number of years (yes, again) to introduce us to a new face with a familiar name. It’s six years after Rick has disappeared, and Judith Grimes is all grown up. It looks like everyone has changed in the past few years — just in time for the littlest Grimes to introduce a new group of survivors to her family in Alexandria. But as the promo for the final episodes of the season proves, there’s something sinister afoot that our favorites should be on the lookout for.
As the promo gives us flashes of Alexandria dealing with these new inhabitants, it also highlights the survivors contending with strange new behavior among their walker foes. In one scene, Daryl, Aaron, and Jesus observe a horde of walkers “just milling around” in a field, noting that they’ve never seen them do that before. In another scene, Eugene and Rosita hide from a walker horde, from which a voice asks, “Where are they?” As in a walker speaks. Drawing a (somewhat) logical conclusion, Eugene’s voice-over declares that the walkers must be evolving. Which could be happening, but I highly doubt it. Since the walkers absolutely do not speak in TWD‘s graphic novels, it’s safe to say they also won’t in the show. There are really only two ways the rest of this season can go. Let’s break it all down, shall we?