Just when it felt like “The Walking Dead” was about to successfully pull off its best episode in years, the show ended with two “twists” that can’t help but feel like a letdown. After all the buzz, Rick Grimes “died” as he lived: drenched in sentimentality while putting a lot of other people in danger, before being saved by a miracle. [And how weird is it that Rick was visited by such non-entities as Hershell (though it was touching to see Scott in his final screen appearance), Sasha–who had no real connection to Rick–and even antagonist Shane, rather than son Carl or former wife Lori? Was it just a case of “these are the actors we could get to appear?”]
Not only did Rick Grimes not die, but the show decided to have a huge flash-forward (at least several years, and I believe I heard someone in “The Talking Dead” say six years) that cheated us out of the emotional impact of Rick’s death. Wouldn’t you have liked to see the group deal with the immediate loss of their longtime leader? Couldn’t the loss of Rick have reignited feuds with the Saviors trying to fill that leadership gap or filled Negan with malicious hope?
If given the choice between seeing the immediate aftermath of the “death” of Rick (as far as his group is concerned) and everything that would do to his group, or following the cartoony introduction of Judith the gun-slinging tween, I think I’ll take the former. [Especially since Shane reminded us that Judith is most likely not Rick’s daughter, so their “genetic” similarities make no sense, especially since they cast an actress with a different hair color than the blonde Judith we’ve always seen.]
Sometimes, it feels as if “The Walking Dead” is afraid to become a good TV show. But after years of seeing the group wallow in the deaths of even the most minor characters (people that barely rate are mourned in speeches several episodes after they died), you might have wanted to actually see the after-effects of the group dealing with the show’s most significant loss to date.
And I’ll admit that it was a solid episode until the very ending. Rick’s “death” on the bridge was nearly perfect, as was his hallucination of Michonne right beforehand and especially the normally-taciturn Daryl finally shedding a tear. Between Norman Reedus’s weary, painful expression (which seemed to say “of course my best friend would die, this is what always happens”) and his slow walkaway, it was the best moment the series has had in years.
But now we have two huge questions: What does Rick’s survival (to appear in a series of “Walking Dead” movies) mean for his romance with Michonne? Will they ever get back together? If not, will I still watch “Walking Dead?” Well, I know the answer to that last question at least…
If Rick and Michonne get back together eventually, then I’m glad he survived. If they don’t, then they should’ve just left things on the bridge. So the episode is either an A or a C depending on what happens.