The Walking Dead recap: What’s your wound?

Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes - The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 - Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC /

Rick Grimes goes out in style for his final episode of The Walking Dead.

From the first moment we met Rick Grimes, we knew there was something special about the guy. He was a problem solver with a heart of gold; a survivor with a can-do attitude that wouldn’t quit.

It’s no wonder that in the wake of the zombie apocalypse, Rick Grimes became a person to respect, admire, and love. As viewers of The Walking Dead, we’ve been following him through it all for almost a decade. He experienced wild swings in character – the guy lost his marbles on more than one occasion, almost died a million times, and experienced unfathomable tragedy and loss – but always remained true to himself and the ones he loved. Rick Grimes was a trusted and reliable protector on TV for nearly nine years, and it’s almost impossible to envision the world of the Dead without him. However, thanks to the bold twist at the conclusion of his farewell episode, we might not have to.

Caution, this post contains massive and complete spoilers for the entirety of S9E5 of ‘The Walking Dead’ entitled “What Comes After.” If you have yet to see this episode, Don’t Open, Spoilers Inside. 

More from AMC

Watching this episode, I wasn’t ready to let Rick go. I was like Rose on that frozen raft at the end of Titanic. I’ll never let go, Rick! I’ll never let go! THERE WAS ROOM FOR TWO! Wait, what was I talking about? Oh, yes. Rick Grimes. He can get half a raft in freezing waters after the Titanic sinks, but since the guy seems to be immortal, maybe he wouldn’t need it. But I digress…

Given that the show is losing its popular lead, “What Comes After” serves as almost a reboot for The Walking Dead franchise. The entire episode has a heavy, epic tone to it, lending the hour the feel of a season finale instead of a mid-season installment. Even the scenes not featuring Rick are pregnant with poignant meaning. And, since Rick is our main focus here, let’s get those out of the way first, shall we?

In non-Rick news, we get a brief shot of Anne (Pollyanna MacIntosh) radioing to her helicopter frenemies. Other than the fact that she’s driving the RV that was last seen in Heath’s possession, there’s not too much noteworthy about this scene.

Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Kerry Cahill as Dianne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Kerry Cahill as Dianne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC /

Elsewhere, Maggie (Lauren Cohan, also due to exit the show soon) finally reaches Alexandria to have her showdown with the big bad wolf. However, she’s got to go through Michonne (Danai Gurira) first. The two have a tense face off. Speaking in direct sentences barbed with emotion and memory, Maggie pleads with Michonne to let her do what she came to do. Michonne argues that both Glenn and Hershel wouldn’t want her to do this (I agree!) but Maggie can’t give it up. At initial glance, this interaction is a Bechdel test nightmare, with both women invoking the names and actions of many men who came before them. But, at its heart, it’s a conversation about female agency and power in the post-apocalyptic world. Understanding the need for vengeance, Michonne gives in and hands over the key to her friend.

Once inside, Maggie realizes that Negan is a shrunken husk of a man, and that a caged animal loses its will to live. Upon a quick assessment of his broken spirit, she determines that death is too good for him, and she sends him back to rot in his cell. Obviously, given that Carl’s utopian vision of the future included Negan in it, he’s very likely going to enjoy some sort of redemption arc. Morgan said it over and over and over throughout his tenure on the show, but all lives are precious, and people can be brought back from the brink of madness.

Rick is actually a shining example of this ideal. While we’ve seen him teeter on the brink of madness several times, he always had his people to bring him back. Family is what matters. And in his last episode, Rick drove home the message that family can be anyone you lend your heart out to.

When the episode opens, Rick is still in peril. In an agonizing scene, he finds himself back in the abandoned hospital room from the pilot. Once he shakes himself back into the conscious world, he peels his impaled torso up and off of the rebar pole by using his belt as a lever. Points for ingenuity, Rick! He’s always been a great DIY survivalist.

Running off adrenaline and grit, he stumbles to his horse – no way would that horse have stuck around, but we’re glad he did! – and continues his journey. He’s determined to lead the mega horde away from his people. The hallucinations that quickly set in seem to be in agreement with his objective. Fueled by memories of loved ones, Rick plays a dangerous little game of ‘This is Your Life’.

Like Scrooge in A Christmas Carol, Rick is visited by three ghosts. First up is Shane: The Ghost of the Time Before.

Rick sidles right in to the memory, hopping into the police cruiser and casually chomping down fries with his old bestie. This is a reenactment of the only scene in the entire pilot that takes place before the world goes haywire. He gets the opportunity to apologize for killing Shane (sorry, dude had it coming) and Shane fires back by reminding Rick that he’s Judith’s real father. Ouch. This isn’t Jerry Springer, friend. Not the time. Shane does encourage Rick to tap into his rage, and it works. He snaps out of it and continues on down the road.

Second, Rick is visited by Hershel: The Ghost of the Time After. The farm marked the first glimmers of hope for a new beginning, and Hershel (Scott Wilson) reminds Rick of that time. When Rick asks about his family, Hershel encourages him to see the hope and possibility in this world, which is a very on-brand message for Hershel. The scene is bathed in serene and surreal soft lighting, and we want to stay in the barn with our old friend forever. But we can’t. Because Rick must wake up.

Related Story. 5 Times We Ugly Cried During Rick Grimes' Final Episode of TWD. light

Third, Rick continues to wander through the hospital from the pilot. However, instead of running away from those iconic doors ominously marked ‘Don’t Open, Dead Inside’, he goes toward the light… and finds a sea of dead bodies. These are all the people who have come before. And they’re why life is worth living, but also why things won’t collapse if Rick fails. The third ghost, Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Greene), aka: The Ghost of Death, pops up out of nowhere to deliver another message of hope. She says that things always trend toward the good, and that humans live to make one another better. Family is what matters. It’s the circle of life.

So when Rick is finally visited by a hallucination from the living, he is primed to come to an important realization. Good attracts good, and Rick was lucky to have found so many people that made him better. Including Michonne. Especially Michonne.

Let’s pause and talk about Richonne for a brief moment. They’re the best couple on TV. They’re soulmates. And when hallucination Michonne delivers the speech to Rick, it’s likely close to the actual speech she would give him in real life. They don’t die. (How right she is.) And just by seeing her face, Rick knows that he achieved his objective. He found his family. He taps Michonne’s shoulder with such tenderness and dazed feeling that I broke into uncontrollable sobs. The entire episode, I just kept chanting “he just needs to say goodbye to Michonne… he just needs to say goodbye to Michonne…” Turns out that he didn’t need to say goodbye to anyone, but this scene sated (some of) my Richonne needs.

Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC
Danai Gurira as Michonne – The Walking Dead _ Season 9, Episode 5 – Photo Credit: Jackson Lee Davis/AMC /

Following dream Michonne’s instructions, Rick finds a new zest for life. He wakes up and makes the decision to lead the herd over the bridge. But, to his dismay, the bridge holds. The group has done an exceptional job fixing it, and it can hold over a ton of reanimated dead people. Impressive. The Saviors are crap at a lot of things, but apparently they can build a sturdy bridge. Shame what has to happen to it.

As the cavalry actually arrives, Rick spots the dynamite. He knows it’s the only way to prevent the horde from marching all the way to Hilltop. Michonne can’t bear to accept it. She scrambles through the woods in an attempt to stop the madness, but it’s too late. Woozy with blood loss and floating with the realizations he made on his trip through memory lane, he shoots.


The bridge collapses, with walkers falling to their fiery second deaths like lemmings over a cliff. The four remaining members of our gang react with shock and grief. Daryl gets teary and wanders off into the woods, while Michonne has a full on panic attack. Understandable because she’s lost her soulmate.

But all is not lost. Somehow, just in the nick of time for her helicopter transport, Anne spots Rick on the bank of the river, and scoops him up for some pro medical treatment. And so we leave Rick Grimes much how we found him. In a bed, receiving medical treatment for a serious wound on his right side, entering a brand new world that we know nothing about. It certainly helps that his final scene is scored to “Space Junk” by Wang Chung, the very song that concluded the pilot episode of The Walking Dead.

I’ve got some thoughts on Rick’s departure and possible future with the series here, but the conclusion of the episode really packs an emotional punch that viewers will be obsessing over until next Sunday.

In a scene ripped from the comics, a group of survivors scramble to survive as they’re surrounded by walkers. Gunshots come from the woods, and a small voice calls out to them. As the survivors approach, they see a small girl outfitted with a katana and a pistol. She introduces herself James Bond style, saying “I’m Judith. Judith Grimes.”

I’M SO PROUD OF YOU, BOO!!! Rick would be too!

Judith is the new world Rick was fighting for the whole time. He succeeded. Can’t wait to see more from her throughout Season 9.

Until next week…

dark. Next. The Walking Dead Recap: The Pit of Despair

Random Thoughts Before I Go:

  • That brief shot of Rick leading the horde on the abandoned road towards Atlanta was striking.
  • The pan over the field of dead bodies starts off with a brief shot of director Greg Nicotero. Keep an eye on the bottom right.
  • When Michonne finds out that Maggie has arrived in Alexandria, Judith smiles and says, “Aunt Maggie!” And even though Lauren Cohan is taking a break from the show soon, I truly hope that we get to see her interact with the grown up Lil Asskicker in the current timeline before she goes. Oh, also on my children-of-the-apocalypse wishlist? I want to see Hershel as a walking, talking kiddo!
  • In what world is Gabriel an ‘A’ and Rick a ‘B’?!

‘The Walking Dead’ airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.