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Rick Grimes is about to die … unless history is about to repeat itself.
Certainly, the future looks grim for the Walking Dead hero, considering where we leave him in “The Obliged.” In the final moments of the episode, Rick is pinned to a piece of construction material, having been impaled after being bucked from a horse, as two huge groups of walkers shamble toward his location. Considering that actor Andrew Lincoln will depart the series after next week’s installment, “What Comes After,” it’s a smart bet that viewers are about to lose the longest-lasting figure in the zombie apocalypse.
But what if there’s a way out? Is there a chance Rick could narrowly dodge death, even with so much stacked against him? It certainly wouldn’t be the first time Rick walked away from such grim odds; indeed, AMC’s The Walking Dead has drawn viewers to false, fatal conclusions before, most memorably when it appeared that Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) had died, only for the character to emerge from underneath a dumpster a handful of episodes later. There are no garbage receptacles in the vicinity when last we left Rick, but some other form of deus ex machina? It’s not likely, but given Rick’s past brushes with death, viewers shouldn’t mark him down for the count yet.
Speaking of those past brushes with death, behold: a quick primer on the most memorable times Rick should have died, but miraculously did not.
1. The Very Beginning
The first season of The Walking Dead hangs on the premise that Rick’s family believed him to be dead shortly after the apocalypse began. The fact that a comatose Rick survived a months-long hospital stint without any medical treatment or incident from a passing walker is nothing short of miraculous.
2. It Takes Guts
When Rick first encountered the group fans would later come to call “Team Family,” he and the others were trapped on an Atlanta rooftop, with no discernible way through the masses of the dead. Cue the nasty trick of coating oneself in walker guts in order to blend in with the walkers themselves, a tactic he and Glenn used rather effectively in the series’ second episode, and one that was implemented again in the midseason six finale.
3. The First Whisper
At the end of season one, Rick and his family reached the Center for Disease Control, hoping to find salvation at last. Instead, they were nearly incinerated by a cynical scientist who had lost all hope in humanity’s future. Nobody should have walked away from that situation alive. Somehow, Rick was able to convince Dr. Jenner (Noah Emmerich) to let them leave and have a chance to live, with only a few minutes standing in the way of full decimation.
4. Best Friend Fight
Much of the second season rested on the power struggle between Rick and Shane (Jon Bernthal), the two men who entered the apocalypse as best friends. Shane and Rick’s fight in a walker-infested parking lot could have gone in an even darker direction, and their final encounter in the fields outside the Greene family farm would have ended in Rick’s death as well — if not for Rick taking Shane’s life instead, his first major move toward stripping down old world morals in favor of the new world order’s demands.
5. Clash with the Governor
Rick’s encounters with the Governor (David Morrissey) could have ended with even more bloodshed, had the show stuck to the comic book script. (In Robert Kirkman’s comics, the Governor cuts off Rick’s hand during their first meeting.) Still, in the TV series’ depiction of events, the Governor beats Rick up so badly during the assault on the prison that the zombie-killing hero nearly died from his wounds. Even after the fight, Rick’s battered state was so severe that it took several episodes before he was able to get back on his feet.
6. Escape From Terminus
In the season five premiere, Rick and his friends were very nearly killed and eaten by the Terminus cannibals. Instead, an unexpected assault on the compound gave Rick the opening to fight back in one of the most propulsive episodes of the entire series. One wrong move and it would have been game over for Rick and everyone else.
7. Back on the Road
Following Terminus and a brief return to an Atlanta hospital, Rick and his allies were forced onto the open road, pushing forward on foot. At one point, Team Family ended up in a barn, which nearly collapsed under the combined forces of a group of walkers and a powerful storm. Everyone should have died that evening, not just Rick … and yet again, all parties made it through the night.
8. The Last Day on Earth
It’s an act of violence that requires little reminder: Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) arriving on the scene, Lucille in hand, ready to randomly bludgeon one unlucky victim to death. Of course, it ended up being two unlucky victims, but the first person murdered — the late, great Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) — very easily could have been Rick or anyone else in the circle of death.
9. All-Out War
Even in all the aforementioned instances, it never really felt like Rick was truly in danger of losing his life… until season eight brought the battle between Rick and Negan to a head. The very first episode of the season called Rick’s safety into question, with flashes into the future depicting a weary version of the hero. Later, he was featured with his back against a tree, blood spewing out of his side. The wound was eventually revealed as superficial in nature, but it was the first time fans had to seriously consider a Walking Dead world without Rick Grimes in it — and now, here we are again, one episode away from the man’s likely demise.
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