This Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
Rumors of Rick Grimes’ demise were greatly exaggerated.
AMC made a meal out of promoting The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5, “What Comes After” as “Rick Grimes’ final episode.” Traditionally on The Walking Dead, somebody’s “final episode” means they’re about to suffer a gruesome death.
As we now know, that didn’t quite happen in “What Comes After.” Rick didn’t die in his final episode. He came pretty darn close after sustaining a notably Christ-like side wound and being blasted off of a bridge and into a churning river. Still, Rick survived all of that because you quite literally cannot kill the man. Jadis discovered Rick on a river bank miles downstream and radio’ed in to her mysterious band of helicopter folk. She doesn’t have an “A” like she promised but Rick is apparently a solid “B.” The helicopter community accepts Jadis’ offer and Rick is medevaced out to presumed safety.
We have no reason to doubt that this was really Rick Grimes’ final episode. Andrew Lincoln’s desire to leave the show’s grueling production schedule in Atlanta behind to spend more time with his family in London is undoubtedly sincere. But we also can’t help but notice that Rick is very much not dead.
And wouldn’t you know it – AMC agreed! AMC announced (very) shortly after Rick’s final episode that the adventures of Rick Grimes will continue on film. Andrew Lincoln will portray Rick once again in a series of Walking Dead movies. And after the events of The Walking Dead season 10, episode 13 “What We Become,” it also seems possible that Michonne (Danai Gurira) will be joining him.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at what could come next in The Walking Dead universe for Rick and Michonne.
First, it’s worth taking a look at what Rick and Michonne’s comic book counterparts get up to in the time following their departure from the show. The Rick of the time jump following the war against Negan is a grizzled old war veteran. He is more or less retired from adventuring to better serve as a leader of Alexandria. This means that while he’s not always on the ground, slicing up walkers, he is heavily involved in the various political conflicts to come.
The first conflict is the one against the Whisperers, who are now the main antagonists on the show. Rick is obviously involved in The Whisperer War but not as much as you’d think. The show has done an excellent job of telling its Whisperer story sans Rick with Daryl and Carol shouldering much of the leadership responsibilities. So let’s cast our eye to even beyond that.
When it comes to this series of movies that Rick will headline, there is a pretty big question that needs answering. Where is Rick going? The short answer is that we have no earthly idea. There is obviously no clear analog in the comics to Rick being whisked away on a helicopter by Jadis. Still, we can certainly speculate.
It’s possible that Rick is en route to a place called the Commonwealth. In the comic book series, the Commonwealth is a new community that is notable for its sheer size. The combined forces of Alexandria, the Hilltop, the Kingdom, the Sanctuary, and Oceanside amount to hundreds or perhaps even thousands of people. The Commonwealth has around 50,000 people.
The Commonwealth is located in Ohio and Eugene discovers it when fooling around with a repaired radio and getting in contact with someone named Stephanie. The show has already introduced this plotline (though the Stephanie’s community is near Charleston, West Virginia). In the comics, Stephanie invites Eugene to come visit the Commonwealth, and at Rick’s direction, Eugene leads a squad consisting of Michonne, Magna, Yumiko, and Siddiq out to meet the new community. What they eventually discover is astonishing.
The Commonwealth has more or less rebuilt things to the way they were before the apocalypse. People live comfortably and even have a stadium to occasionally watch live sporting events. The community’s governor, Pamela Milton, dresses and behaves like a standard politician. Michonne decides to stay behind in the Commonwealth to serve as a lawyer while Eugene and company escort Pamela back to meet Rick.
Given that Eugene has set all of this in motion on the show, it now seems unlikely that a Rick Grimes movie would cover The Commonwealth. The Commonwealth is almost undoubtedly earmarked for season 11 of the show. There’s a chance that The Walking Dead season 11 crosses over heavily with the Rick Grimes series of films, but that is probably a logistical nightmare, given Lincoln’s desire to remain near home.
Since Rick is out on The Whisperer War and The Commonwealth arcs, the only remaining bit of information we have to go on for the movie are some of the events of Michonne’s last episode. Michonne left with Virgil to visit his island in hopes of finding weapons to defeat the Whisperers. Instead of weapons, she finds something even more powerful: hope. On a freighter just off the island, Michonne discovers Rick’s boots and a carving of her and Judith into an old iPhone.
With Judith’s blessing, Michonne decides to leave her community behind and set off to find Rick. She very quickly comes across another clue in the form of two people rushing to reach some sort of rendezvous point.
“Can you help us? They’ll leave without us,” the man wearing a cowhide poncho and a cowboy hat pleads.
Michonne agrees and the trio heads off to a gathering of hundreds of people lined up in a valley. Who are these people? That remains to be seen. But their society appears to be truly massive…perhaps even Commonwealth-sized. And it’s certainly possible they have a helicopter or two at their disposal.
In reality, a Rick Grimes movie or even eventual return to the TV series would not be bound by the comic book storylines. The show is progressing further away from the central plot anyway. That helicopter could be taking Rick Grimes anywhere. AMC wants a Walking Dead movie set in France? Boom. That helicopter goes straight to an airfield where a community of French survivors pick up their new “B” and bring him aboard. The possibilities are pretty close to endless.
On a practical level, it probably works out for Lincoln as well. One would have to imagine/hope/assume that Lincoln is going to be making a bit more money as the centerpiece of a Walking Dead film franchise. He also no longer has the same Atlanta filming restrictions as the show. Hell, the movie could take place in Lincoln’s native London…and oops we just remade 28 Days Later!