Rick Grimes takes a (final?) bow và exits the world of The Walking Dead in an episode calculated to bring tears.
ThisThe Walking Deadreview contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 9 Episode 5
In previous seasons of The Walking Dead, there was something of a running joke. Whenever a secondary character got to deliver a speech of some sort or start giving out their backstory, it never went well for that person. If Billy Background suddenly has a dead wife và children that he has lớn tell a lead character about, then Billy Background is going to lớn die in a hurry. Typically, talkativeness would lead lớn immediate, tragic death, while everyone around them gawked in horror. (See also the kid in the first episode of season nine who is introduced and gets killed within the same episode.)
Not so with Rick Grimes. The ending of that character’s time on the show didn’t come swiftly, or as a sudden surprising end, but as a media circus. The focus of the ninth season hasn’t been the change in showrunner, or anything behind the scenes, but the final episodes of Rick Grimes. The show’s marketing chiến dịch has been based around Andrew Lincoln’s departure, and rather than try lớn give viewers a surprise, they’ve been clear. This is the last episode for Rick Grimes (as of right now). Other things happen in the episode, but essentially, it’s a 45-minute farewell khổng lồ the lead character và the promise of repercussions khổng lồ come.
With “What Comes After,” Rick Grimes comes full circle. The show started with Rick waking from a coma, & ended with Glenn calling him an asshole. Get used lớn Rick being called an asshole, và get used khổng lồ Rick being told lớn wake up. Waking up becomes Rick’s mantra, & he keeps repeating it to himself—either as himself or via the memories of all his old friends—time và time again as he struggles lớn keep himself moving. Rick’s being followed by thousands of zombies, too many for their struggling city-states to lớn handle, and if Rick fails, then this herd will find its way khổng lồ Alexandria, or Hilltop, or any one of a number of outposts full of Rick’s closest friends và family. Rick’s a fighter, và he’ll need lớn be khổng lồ keep everyone he loves from being wiped off the face of the earth.
That loop, the closing of Rick Grimes’ journey, is accomplished via a lot of fever dreams and a lot of Rick passing out. He’ll go gray và wake up staring at himself in the hospital, trying khổng lồ goad himself into waking up from a coma to save his family. He’ll gray out and wake up looking at himself on the back of his horse, leading a very similar walker horde into Atlanta, or wake up in his squad oto eating burgers with Shane (Jon Bernthal), looking at the very accident scene that led lớn him being shot và put into a coma in the first place. Shane exhorts him to lớn find his inner Shane, to lớn be the asshole, to vì the dirty deeds that he knows have khổng lồ be done lớn keep everyone safe.
He’ll gray out and wake up in the barn with Hershel (the late Scott Wilson), looking out over the beautiful farm while Hershel tells him not khổng lồ grieve for all he’s lost, because they’re not lost. As long as humanity survives, Rick’s family & friends—Rick’s legacy—will survive. Rick grays out và walks through a field of bodies, the thousands of people he’s lost over the years. Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) stands up behind him, with a message. She tells Rick not khổng lồ regret the dead. They played their part, lượt thích she played hers. Lượt thích he plays his. Little things end, she reminds Rick, but it’s not about one of us, or a few of us, it’s about all of us, và the world we’ve been building.
Certainly, the producers of The Walking Dead hope that the message of “What Comes After” resonates with fans in more than one way. Rick Grimes, the linchpin of the show since it began, is leaving, but the world will continue on without him (unless he decides to lớn return) và lean more heavily on those friends và family he’s so desperate to get back to. That’s leaned on heavily in the final moments of the episode, in which Rick stands on the opposite side of the bridge they’d built together while Michonne, Maggie, Daryl, Carol, và the rest watch on from the distance.
Greg Nicotero has proven lớn be a steady hand, both with the kích hoạt sequences and with the actors. I’d imagine the time they all spend in the make-up chair helps Nicotero and company get to know the actors, và know their strengths, weaknesses, và character motivation. He does a wonderful job with this episode, và all of the flashbacks with faces from Rick’s past are beautifully crafted.
Granted, Sasha doesn’t have the kind of relationship with Rick that Shane & Hershel do, but her interaction with Rick isn’t so much about their personal relationship, she’s a stand-in for all the other people Rick has lost along the way. The episode’s pace is maintained well, & the story moves seamlessly from fever dream to lớn sobering reality with a clever series of match cuts: Shane’s screaming face morphs into a zombie’s snarl, Hershel a gentle reawakening on the back of a horse, và Sasha a sobering collapse onto the ground that wakes Rick with a startle.
Nicotero’s eye works lớn his advantage. The episode doesn’t contain any real crazy camera movements, but the match cuts are well constructed. The dream sequences are especially well done, & as Rick’s condition gets worse, Nicotero makes sure lớn show it with simple, effective signifiers—the darkening of blood on his shirt, the increasing pallor of Rick’s skin, the smear of blood from Rick’s hand on the side of his horse, the drops of blood splattering at Rick’s feet with every slow step.
The climactic shots of the survivors watching Rick’s last stand (or what they feel is his last stand) hit hard, và the shots of flaming zombies falling over the side of the shattered bridge is some of the special effects crew’s best work lớn date. It looks beautiful and horrifying at once, which is the highest praiseThe Walking Deadcan receive.
The B plot—Maggie’s confrontation with Negan—also plays well. The exchanges between Maggie & Michonne are tense và brief; it’s subtle, the threats exchanged in looks and toàn thân language more than the words in Matthew Negrete’s script, but it’s pretty clear that they won’t hesitate khổng lồ go after one another if pushed. Danai Gurira và Cohan have good chemistry as antagonists, và Jeffrey Dean Morgan has done a good job at deflating Negan’s bluster into nothing more than a pathetic attempt lớn have someone else kill him because he lacks the wherewithal lớn kill himself. Negan is pathetic, pathetic enough that Maggie decides to lớn let him live in his broken state, as death would be an improvement on his condition.
The departure of Andrew Lincoln could potentially become a fresh start for a show that seems to need one. Ratings are sinking, cast members are leaving for other things, và the constant drama behind the scenes can’t help but contribute to the show’s difficulties. However, a new show-runner & a chance lớn freshen up the cast và plots might be enough lớn pull the show out of its doldrums. After all, it’s not about Rick, Carl, or any one person, it’s about the world they’ve built, & the future of that world seems khổng lồ be in steady hands.