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It’s the same set of words most Walking Dead fans are repeating to themselves as they reckon with the inevitable end of Rick Grimes, one way or the other. Andrew Lincoln departs the series in next week’s episode, and while the exact details surrounding his exit remain unclear, the most recent season nine outing shed some light on the grim circumstances — and what’s more, a scene from the next episode, which aired during The Talking Dead, gives an indication of what to expect, if only tonally.
First, to reset Rick’s current situation: in the closing moments of his penultimate Walking Dead episode, “The Obliged,” Lincoln’s Rick was impaled on a piece of construction material, skewered through the abdomen as a swarm of walkers stalked nearby. How exactly is he going to get out of this one alive? Well… maybe he won’t.
Which brings us to the clip from next week’s Rick Grimes swan song, called “What Comes After.” It begins with Rick as we currently know him, bearded and gray, standing in a hospital room, hovering over… himself? In the sequence, the modern Rick towers over the Rick we once knew a long time ago, comatose at the start of the apocalypse.
“Wake up,” Rick tells his bedridden self. “It’s time to go.”
Outside of the room’s window, a swarm of birds suddenly becomes a swarm of helicopters, roaring toward the hospital. Consider it yet another callback: in the very first episode of the series, Rick chased a helicopter around Atlanta, only for him to encounter a herd of walkers instead. As it stands, a helicopter is very much in play in the modern Walking Dead storyline, via the one Pollyanna McIntosh’s Jadis has been dealing with over the past several episodes.
Eventually, a voice comes into focus, belonging to Morgan (Lennie James), the Fear the Walking Dead star who kicked off the franchise alongside Rick so many years ago. We hear his disembodied voice repeating a line he’s said often on the show: “What’s your wound?”
The camera pans down to show Rick answering that question by touching his bloodied side, his hand now covered crimson as a result. It’s a startling enough image that even the bedridden Rick wakes up as a result. This younger version of the man cracks a smile and a light cackle, spitting out some taunting words: “Wake up, asshole.”
Could this be the final Rick Grimes image of the entire series? At the least, it’s very likely that this is the last scene Lincoln filmed for the series. At New York Comic Con, a story was told about Lincoln’s final scene on set, in which Norman Reedus was tasked with tickling Lincoln’s feet in order to get him to smile and laugh. This would certainly fit the bill.
As for the hallucinatory nature of the scene, it jives with what’s known about certain cameos coming our way this season: Jon Bernthal as Shane, Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha and the late Scott Wilson as Hershel, just to name a few. All are likely to appear in Rick’s final episode as he dreams his way off into whatever comes next — death, afterlife or something else entirely.
The clip from Rick’s final stand can be seen on The Talking Dead, and for now, you can catch a glimpse of the moment in the teaser for the episode in the video player above.
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Robert De Niro