SPOILERS FOR RICK GRIMES
I quit watching The Walking Dead a few years ago and I HAVE NEVER BEEN HAPPIER TO QUIT A SHOW. I regularly lose interest in long-running TV shows—I like for things to end, eventually—but I have never felt the palpable RELIEF I felt after quitting The Walking Dead. I remember the distinct happiness I felt the first time I didn’t have to tune in. TWD went from one of my favorites to some sh-t I can’t stand, and it still makes me a little sad to see a show with such promise—the pilot episode remains GREAT—give into its worst impulses and turn into an endless cycle of misery porn. The Walking Dead is apparently never going to end, so the whole thing is forced to just tread water in a never-ending loop, which results in terrible storytelling.
Which is why I was so interested when Andrew Lincoln, Officer Rick himself, stated his intention to leave the show during season 9. The main character leaving the show would certainly force some kind of closure, no? LOL NO. This is The Walking Dead, what was I thinking? Closure? An Ending? A finite narrative with a natural resolve? These are not concepts with which TWD is familiar. Last night was Rick’s final episode and for a minute it seemed like the show might deliver unto its greatest hero a fitting end. Rick, sacrificing himself for the sake of his people is kind of perfect. Blowing a bridge full of zombies is badass. This was a good death, a good end for Rick and Lincoln by extension. His character would leave a legacy of hope and self-sacrifice that would surely inspire his people to strive for better as they rebuild the world.
So of course TWD f-cks it all up and Rick survives in a twist. I’m not even going to get into the improbability of Rick surviving a critical gut wound, being blown up, and washed down a river. Let’s talk about WHY he survived so improbably—for a series of spin-off movies. As soon as the episode ended, it was announced Lincoln will star in three made-for-tv movies in the Walking Dead Extended Universe. They’re going to try the Marvel thing and build their own content universe. They’ve done webisodes before, and they already have one spin-off show, and now Rick is going to be the protagonist in this expansion pack of movies. So yes, Andrew Lincoln left the show, but no, he is not leaving The Walking Dead.
There are a lot of reasons this is a bad idea, not least of which is that the whole cinematic universe thing hasn’t worked for anyone but Marvel. Then there is Rick’s death being reduced to yet another empty gotcha moment in a show that has been rendered utterly dramatically void by such moments. Maybe these movies can reset Rick’s character a little, and it would be interesting to see what’s going on with the larger effort to rebuild the world. But it is telling the show couldn’t arrive at this point itself, that Scott Gimple, former showrunner and now head of the WDEU, has to basically jump-start this story this way, by essentially tossing out the series in order to get to the next part of Rick’s story. The Walking Dead will continue chasing its own tail while AMC tries to float a series of features even as TWD hits ratings lows. This will all work, I’m sure, and no one will ever regret throwing away Rick Grimes’ perfect ending.