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Spoilers below for The Walking Dead's midseason premiere, so be sure to watch before reading on.
The Walking Dead delivered an emotional bear of an episode with its midseason premiere, which featured not only the heartbreaking death of O.G. survivor Carl Grimes, but also that of the relatively likable Savior Gavin. The biggest head-scratcher of the episode, however, came in the final moments, as a paled and drained Rick sat beneath the tree of stained glass, seemingly bleeding to death from a stomach/side wound. What's actually happening there? Let's see what we can figure out.
Is Rick Actually Dying?
Great news for Rick's central fanbase among the Walking Dead viewership: he almost definitely isn't going to die...in Season 8...because of the wounds he's suffering in that shot. Anything outside of that specific set-up is definitely possible, of course, and it's even within the realm of reason that Rick could face these injuries right at the end of the season's narrative timeline, only to die from them early on in Season 9. Because yes, Rick probably will die on the TV show, just like he's going to die in the comic book before it wraps. It just probably isn't going to happen yet.
Such confidence isn't blind, mind you. Showrunner Scott Gimple and star Andrew Lincoln are keeping vaguely mum about what that WTF moment means for the future, but comic scribe Robert Kirkman told THR something a little more concrete and optimistic about how much we should be worried for Rick's death.
I don't expect that. That's not an intention there. I've said from the very beginning that no one is safe. I do strongly feel like the show could survive without a Rick Grimes. There's certainly a lot of story to tell without that central character. I've talked a lot about how Rick Grimes will definitely die in the comic book series at some point before the series' conclusion, just because I want to make sure everyone knows that no one is safe. But I don't think you should read too much into that.
So while no one should expect to see Rick Grimes still serving as the definitive community leader in Season 15, Walking Dead fans can breathe a little easier about Rick's final moments not going down beneath such a uniquely decorated tree. (I mean, it's better than thinking he died under a dumpster.) In any case, that just eliminates one possible outcome.
So What's Actually Happening Then?
I'm sure everyone considers that the $64,000 question now, since the moment arrived almost completely out of the blue. (Or the red, as it were.) Rick's bloodshot eyes have been teased ever since the season premiere, to be sure, as well as him uttering Saddiq's quasi-mantra about letting mercy prevail over his wrath. But it wasn't clear at the time that a big bloody wound was responsible for Rick being all sweat-soaked and weak. So how does that factor into things?
Perhaps the easiest assumption to make here is that Rick is suffering from a wound sustained during the All Out War, and it could very well have taken place during the War's final conflict. This dazed and bewildered Rick could have found himself sitting against that tree after taking a victory lap around the nearby area to celebrate, only to realize he didn't have enough blood left in his body for victory laps. Here's how Scott Gimple explained it to THR.
I wouldn't say if he was dying and I would be racing away from that topic. That has to do with how Rick evolves or doesn't evolve and what he comes to; Carl has left him with an idea that might not be so easy to embrace. Everything toward the end of this season is charging toward a conclusion of who these people are going to be --- or who they were --- and in that way, it really concludes a huge swath of story for the show. And it really sets it up for its next evolution.
If Rick is mumbling about his mercy beating his wrath out, then it's possible he's less physically fractured and more mentally baffled by his predicament. As comic book fans know, the source material's All Out War ended on a shocking face-to-face confrontation between Rick and Negan, and this could be the aftermath of that. Of course, if the show does stick to the comics fairly faithfully, this ending moment will probably happen after the last big community-wide battle, and not long before Rick and Negan's big moment.
While I don't want to get too heavy into the story spoilers here, I will say that in the final battle, Comic Rick experienced a moment that similarly appeared to be sending him to his maker; to the point where Negan also wrongfully assumed the former sheriff was on his deathbed. It was a key turning point that led to one of the biggest dramatic shifts of the comic series, though TV fans probably won't get to see things play out in quite the same way, especially if the show doesn't port the time jump element into live-action. But just have faith that if we're seeing Rick at his weakest point right now, we're likely also going to see him become stronger than ever in the same time-frame. And the strength of his mercy shall indeed prevail...we hope.
Will we find out what happened to Rick in next week's episode? Probably not, since it took nine episodes to get to answers behind the flash-forwards. But they're coming, so keep tuning into The Walking Dead every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET to keep looking for clues. Check out why we think we'll see Carl again in Season 8, as well as what Negan will be up to in the next episode. Then head to our midseason premiere schedule to see when all the other new and returning shows will be hitting primetime.