SPOILER alert for The Walking Dead comic books.
How is AMC's The Walking Dead going to end with Rick Grimes off the show? Andrew Lincoln left The Walking Dead in Season 9 and we know he'll return for at least one movie -- which will play in theaters -- but no one has said anything about Rick returning to the TV show. Robert Kirkman abruptly ended the Walking Dead comic book series a few months ago with Issue #193, following the aftermath of Rick's death in the previous issue.
The comics end with a massive time jump after Rick's death. The TV show has no Rick. But Scott M. Gimple just said they do plan on telling the comics' finale story, just without the death of Rick Grimes. And apparently without the existence of Carl Grimes too. Good luck, have fun!
Scott Gimple is now Chief Content Officer of AMC’s Walking Dead universe. Here's what he told Deadline about how he heard about the comics' Rick Grimes finale twist and "the challenge" it presents for the TV show:
I knew a lot [of] aspects of the finale and I knew that Robert had been working toward a finale and he had mentioned some ballpark aspects but he held back a lot because he knew I wouldn’t want spoilers. He had told me some things early on but I always thought the comic book series would keep on going [without Grimes], which ignited my imagination in that direction. How is this going to work? How is that going to play out? So for maybe two years I was thinking about it along those lines, as the start of a new story. Which, for us [and the screen adaptations] it probably will be. The biggest thing is we will tell that finale story one day. And to me, that finale story — and Robert agrees — plays a lot like a pilot. Honoring the aspects of [the broader] finale story without the death of Rick Grimes will be a challenge to our storytelling.
A pilot. Is that a hint that The Walking Dead series finale will be some kind of backdoor pilot for still another spinoff? Maybe following The Western Alliance?
Scott Gimple said he was already thinking of The Walking Dead continuing without Rick Grimes, the way the TV show is currently airing in Season 10, even before he knew exactly how the comics would end. Robert Kirkman always said the comics could survive after Rick Grimes. Fans figured the comics would keep going and follow Carl Grimes.
The Walking Dead Issue #193 ended the series many years after the death of Rick Grimes. Carl is still alive in the comics and he's married to Sophia, who was also killed off earlier on the TV show. So the TV show would definitely have to keep "remixing" the characters, which will be strange without the Grimes guys. But there is every expectation that the TV show will introduce the Commonwealth, which becomes a major location for the comic books. And following the broader finale story -- including a trip to the Western front -- without the Grimes guys may be how they pull this off.
It's possible that Rick will end up at The Commonwealth in his upcoming movie(s), and maybe he'll even die there? If not, how will they end his story and explain why he never returned in the six year gap or even found a way to send word to Michonne or Judith? Does he even know he has a son in RJ?
Danai Gurira is leaving The Walking Dead in Season 10, and we don't know the circumstances of Michonne's departure yet. We also know Lauren Cohan is returning in The Walking Dead Season 11 next year. Maggie (and not-so-baby-anymore Hershel) left Hilltop to join Georgie's group, but she's still in contact with TWD Family.
Scott M. Gimple told THR in November 2018 that Rick's movies will follow what happened to him after Jadis/Anne rescued him and took him off on a helicopter to an as-yet-unseen community. There was a plan for three AMC movies, but recently we learned that at least one movie will be released on the big screen instead of on AMC.
Scott Gimple said Andrew Lincoln would be in all of the movies that show up, and they will explore the period of time between Rick's helicopter ride to the major time jump we saw after his disappearance in The Walking Dead Season 9. At the time of the movies' announcement, Gimple said each movie would tell a different story:
It is about who he is and who he's going to be — and certainly how he deals with the situation he's in. We know Rick Grimes; he would want to be home.
The first movie will be told from Rick's point of view and explore the "vast mythology" behind the "A or B"-type community, per Scott Gimple.
What does all of that have to do with The Walking Dead TV show? Not sure yet. Scott Gimple more recently told THR that newcomers can watch The Walking Dead movie and follow along.
We have to honour the fans of the show, absolutely, but I don't think that's mutually exclusive to letting other people in. And if this is the very first Walking Dead thing they've ever seen, they'll enjoy it. They'll be like, 'Whoa, that was a crazy zombie movie. Is there other Walking Dead stuff? I think I've heard that before'. I mean, that is the idea.
So at least the first Walking Dead movie about Rick Grimes won't be so tied to the TV show that it will feel like a regular episode -- since a regular TV episode would lose fans who haven't kept up.
The Walking Dead Season 10 just started and AMC already renewed the series for Season 11. The network didn't say it would be the final season, so more could be to come.
Will any past characters return for the final season, whenever it arrives? If they don't kill off Rick Grimes, could he return and reunite with Michonne? Will Rick reunite with Michonne and Daryl in the movies? How is the AMC show going to honor the comic book finale with so many changes?
As we wait for answers -- and for another spinoff to arrive, as the second after Fear the Walking Dead -- keep watching The Walking Dead Season 9 Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.