Now that AMC has announced a spin-off starring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes and Danai Gurira as Michonne (the news dropped at The Walking Dead’s San Diego Comic-Con panel), the question becomes where has Rick Grimes been since he left the show back in Season 9.
During the SDCC panel, it was revealed that the six-episode show will “continue the journey and love story” of Rick and Michonne and debut in 2023, with the potential for more episodes to come beyond that.
Of course, when he left The Walking Dead originally, the plan had been for Lincoln to return for the Rick Grimes “movie” trilogy. That seems unlikely to happen at this point, but at the time of Lincoln’s departure, it was reported that the films would be taking Rick, and us, to “a whole different corner of the world,” according to EP/writer Scott Gimple, with “big evolutions of what we’ve been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features.”
At this point, how can The Walking Dead get bigger? We’ve seen large communities rise up and go to war with one another. We’ve overrun with massive herds, survivalist, dam explosion, and even cities like Los Angeles and Atlanta get hordes of zombies. So where will this all go next? Let’s ponder…
We don’t have any story specifics in mind, but let’s imagine that when we last saw him injured and being flown away on a helicopter, Rick was being taken out of the entire country. Like, overseas.
For one thing, it would solve the whole “Why doesn’t Rick ever walk back home?” conundrum. Because even if he’s taken a few states away – hell, even if he’s taken to Canada – this is Rick Grimes. There’s no way he’ll decide to let his loved ones think he’s dead. We saw Morgan walk all the way to Texas because he was anxious and insane. Rick Grimes has to be fully incapable of getting back to his friends and family. And it might take an ocean.
Also, one of the big reasons Andrew Lincoln left the series was because he didn’t like being away from his family and shooting in Atlanta for nine months out of the year. So wouldn’t it be easier if the new show was shot somewhere else? Somewhere in the UK or thereabouts?
Moving the show to a different country would also feed into everything Gimple and Lincoln used to say about the movies see yet-unseen worlds, new corners, and things fans have been saying for years that they want in a zombie apocalypse. This project isn’t a series of movies anymore, but it seems safe to say that some of the concepts from the movies will wind up on the series. (That’s basically what happened with the Obi-Wan Kenobi show.) Giving us a look at the much larger world, outside of North America, would be a rad twist.
Also, there’s really no other explanation for why Rick wouldn’t have made it back to his daughter Judith by now (aside from him being dead, which obviously won’t be the case).
The Walking Dead has long taken flak over its lack of an endgame. There’s no intuitive end point within the established story for this show. Back in Season 1, in a break from the comics, Rick’s crew visited the CDC for a spell. Nothing came of it except to establish that everyone in the world was infected with a virus that turns them into zombies when they die, no matter how they die.
Another issue fans and critics had at times was the show’s reliance on cheap smoke and mirrors-style deception. From Glenn’s faked death to… well, the trickery involving Rick not dying, the show’s cutesy tactics for trying to fool its viewers have landed less-than-ideally.
What if, as a way to make it up to us, this show gives the zombie plague an actual stopping point? That’s not to say everything ends with this, but what if Rick’s adventure involves people trying to discover an actual cure? That’s how you will eventually end the entire franchise. Rick was last seen headed to a place that has access to military tech and medical supplies. Maybe it’s a foundation, maybe it’s a research facility. One thing’s for sure: This group requires human specimens.
So the show could involve a cure or, in the very least, people looking for one. Either way, it’s the only viable endgame option. Even if there are plans for the franchise to continue on for another decade. Here’s hoping they use this opportunity to make that leap.
This story originally ran in November of 2018. It has been updated with the latest information about The Walking Dead universe.
Matt Fowler is a writer for IGN, a member of the Television Critics Association, and co-host of We Enjoy Wrestling. Follow him on Twitter at @TheMattFowler and Facebook at Facebook.com/MattBFowler.