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Spoilers below for The Walking Dead's latest episode, "What We Become."
One of the biggest questions that nearly every Walking Dead fan has been asking for the past year and a half is basically "What happened to Rick Grimes?" Andrew Lincoln's open-ended farewell in Season 9 marked the end of an era for the AMC drama, and the changes kept coming in Season 10, with co-star Danai Gurira also making her own permanent exit. Thankfully, showrunner Angela Kang & Co. ended Michonne's story on a hopeful note that rekindled her faith that Rick is still alive. And that note came via an old iPhone.
After an eventful episode featuring a most disturbing jimson weed trip inside an abandoned Navy base, Michonne discovered a pair of Rick's signature boots inside a storage room. Then, astonishingly enough, she found a far more conspicuous clue inside an abandoned boat: an old phone with Michonne and Judith's likenesses etched into the front glass, along with Rick's name and a message written in Japanese characters. Here's what that message actually meant:
Believe a little bit longer.
Showrunner Angela Kang shared that update with Insider, and while she didn't delve into exactly how that message was meant to be perceived, either by Michonne or by audiences, she did provide a more general explanation for why those discoveries were included in Danai Gurira's swan song episode.
One thing that emerged early on as feeling critically important to all of us on the writing side as well as Danai was the idea of concrete evidence of Rick's presence and a direction to go in. The boots are an iconic part of Rick's costume, would've been on his person at the time of the bridge explosion, and would be immediately recognizable to Michonne, so that's how we came to have this first clue. The phone is obviously a hint at some larger story that took place.
A larger story indeed. After Rick was taken away by helicopter at Jadis' request, it seemed as if he would have been taken somewhere far more distant than the island where Kevin Carroll's Virgil took Michonne. But it appears as if he definitely ended up there at some point, unless someone took the time to deliver only his boots to the Naval base for whatever reason. (I know someone out there is already theorizing about whether or not the multiple groups listed on the base's map correspond to the helicopter group's efforts.)
It can be assumed that Rick was transported to or from the base via the ship that Virgil told Michonne about, considering that's where she found the phone. One has to wonder if there were other things in there that were his that he only gained possession of after being taken away, with Michonne completely unaware. The phone might not have even been quite enough evidence to convince her if only Rick's name was on it, or if only Michonne and Judith's images were on it. But the combination was definitely enough.
But is this a message from Rick or a message to Rick? It will likely end up being explained as the latter, since the phone wasn't exactly left in an obvious spot for Michonne to find it. In my mind, whoever made it probably had contact with Michonne and Judith, or at least witnessed them from afar (perhaps from a low-flying helicopter), and then sent the message to Rick with a goal of keeping his spirits up. It's entirely unclear what kind of spirits he'd be in at this point, but I'm sure he's had some low moments over the years without his loved ones around.
It's probable that the phone message and other elements will be explained and resolved in the upcoming feature films that former Walking Dead showrunner is putting together for Andrew Lincoln. Neither Danai Gurira nor anyone else has fully confirmed that Michonne (or Norman Reedus' Daryl) will be a part of the movies, but it's very likely going to happen, even if we have no idea when that will be.
The Walking Dead will continue Season 10 Michonne-free on Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET.