This Walking Dead article contains spoilers.
Rick Grimes’ time on The Walking Dead has come to an end but not how you’d expect. The man who’s led AMC’s zombie drama for the past nine seasons made his exit from the series, not with a gruesome death, but with a last-minute save that leaves the character’s future in question.
Rick’s surprising final moments on the show, as he rides a helicopter to parts unknown with Jadis, set up many possibilities for how the Sheriff may one day return to the Walking Dead universe. While it seems that Jadis is transporting a severely wounded Rick to a place with a medical facility, saving his life probably doesn’t mean that he’ll be back any time soon.
Andrew Lincoln has formally left the series (although he plans to make his directorial debut next season) and won’t be back for the rest of season 9. That means that Rick won’t play a part in the show’s upcoming conflict with the Whisperers, the series’ next big bad.
Rick’s exit from the show does leave Lincoln open for other Walking Dead projects in the works and AMC is taking full advantage of this. The company revealed directly after the end of The Walking Dead season 9’s fifth episode that Rick Grimes will next star in a series of movies.
Surely, an event as big as Rick Grimes’ return after his mysterious exit would justify a movie. The question is: where will we reunite with Rick if and when he does make his triumphant return?
A current storyline in the comics could point to where we’ll meet Rick next. Issue #175 introduced a new settlement unlike any before seen in the book: the Commonwealth, a massive city-state populated by thousands of people. It even has a football stadium! While that might sound like paradise in this post-apocalyptic world, it actually turns out (as expected) that the city has its own problems that could threaten to destroy it.
Access to helicopters and medical supplies could certainly mean that Jadis is taking Rick inside the Commonwealth’s walls. But how did she find out about this settlement? Is she from there? It seems that Jadis might have been recruited long ago — at least earlier than season 8 — since she previously tried to kidnap Negan in order to use him as a ticket onto the chopper. She actually tried to do the same with Gabriel but then let him go.
There’s something else of note about Jadis saving Rick’s life. While she planned to have a zombie bite both Negan and Gabriel before transporting them on the helicopter, she is able to secure passage for an unbitten Rick. She describes Gabriel as an “A” while Rick is apparently “B.” What do these letters stand for? (We realize “A” could mean “Alpha” and “B” could mean “Beta,” some kind of foreshadowing to the Whisperers, but that doesn’t seem likely since those enemies are supposed to be primitive and without much use for technology.)
It could be that the place Jadis is taking Rick is some kind of testing facility, either inside the Commonwealth or somewhere else completely, where scientists are trying to find a cure for the virus, testing both the recently bitten and those who haven’t been yet. That would certainly set up a pretty solid storyline for Rick’s return, as he attempts to escape the facility in order to reunite with his family. Plus, AMC wouldn’t miss a chance to open a Walking Dead movie with another scene of Rick waking up in a hospital bed. The script basically writes itself!
Whatever might be the case, fans can rejoice in knowing that The Walking Dead season 9 isn’t the end for Rick Grimes. It’s just the start of a new adventure. As Michonne said, Rick will never stop fighting.