Well it’s hard to know where to start. We’ve been waiting for this episode with baited breath ever since the announcement that Andrew Lincoln was leaving the show. But did it deliver?
The end of last week’s episode was stomach churning. Rick was left impaled with a heard of walkers about to descend on him. ‘What Comes After’ carries straight on from that. Rick manages to pull himself off, get back on his horse and attempts to make his way back home. He drops in and out of consciousness on his journey and stumbles across some familiar faces along the way.
The episode isn’t completely Rick-centric as Maggie’s mission to pay Negan his dues comes to a brilliant climax. She arrives at Alexandria, crowbar in hand, ready to give him a battering. So far this season we’ve only caught glimpse of Negan in the shadows and as Maggie drags him out of his cell, into the light I felt that this reveal was well played. He may sound like Negan but he’s a shell of his former self, broken and desperate for Maggie to end his life so he can finally be reunited with his beloved wife and Lucille. His spiteful goading eventually turns to begging but Maggie soon realises that Rick was right. Killing Negan really would be the easy way out as this is causing him a hell of a lot more pain. She throws him back in his cell and leaves him wallowing in self pity.
While unconscious and looking for his family, Rick’s first ghost of zombie apocalypse past is Shane. SHANE!!! Having Jon Bernthal back for even just one scene was so special, and really takes you back to a time where life seemed so much more simple for Rick. This encounter, although not real, gives Rick closure. He apologises for what he did but Shane tells him it had to be done. I did chuckle when Shane asked how his baby girl was in response to Rick telling him he needed to find his family. When Rick meets Hershel next it’s extremely emotional obviously with Scott Wilson recently passing away. Rick uses this opportunity to apologise for what’s happened to Maggie’s loved ones. Sasha is the final old friend Rick comes face to face with while he’s stumbling across the dead bodies of all of his friends. This meeting is another boost for him as she tells him that everything he’s done is for the good of the people around him so they could draw strength from him. I enjoyed these encounters in the episode and they came from three great characters, I just would have loved to see him with Lori and Carl one last time!
When Rick comes back round he races off to escape the walkers. He eventually finds himself on the bridge they’ve all been building but there’s not much hope for him. Daryl, Michonne and the others arrive and try to get him to safety but in trying to save them all from having the walkers invade their homes he causes the bridge to explode. Michonne screaming his name rings in your ears and as you’d imagine his pals are distraught as they watch him. Not going to lie … I didn’t know what to do with myself for a couple of seconds and as you think the episode is ending, Jadis comes on screen. She’s arranged to meet her new friends and as their helicopter descends to the ground to pick her up she sees Rick’s body and manages to get him on board. Rick is alive and as he’s carried off to safety (or maybe not) I found myself being able to breathe properly again.
The episode really ends with a group of people being saved from zombies by an older Judith in her father’s hat. WE’VE GOT A TIME JUMP PEOPLE!!!!!!!! (again).
So first off, I think the episode’s title is very apt. Michonne questions Maggie’s ability to deal with what comes next if she goes through with killing Negan, while as viewers we are really unsure about what comes next too. What the hell are they all going to do without Rick? And with a huge time jump and some exciting glimpses into the next three episodes, it looks like we are unprepared for what comes next. Do I think Rick’s final episode did him justice? Mostly, yes! I think Rick has made some questionable decisions in the past and in one way or another they all conclude with the fact that he’s always tried to act in the best interest of the people around him.
Rick Grimes is an iconic character. For 131 episodes he’s lead his family and friends through a flipping zombie apocalypse. He’s been easily relatable, multi dimensional and most importantly, painfully human. He’s had to make tough choices, he’s had moments of heroic strength and moments where he’s had to dig deep to fight through being a completely broken man. He’s been pivotal and characters like Carol would not be where they are now without his guidance. Can the show survive without him … I don’t know? I think the time jump is going to help with overcoming feeling his loss, but knowing he’s out there somewhere we will always have it in the back of our minds that he could return at any time!
We also need to acknowledge that this was Maggie’s last episode, hopefully not permanently though. I’m very, very sad about Lauren Cohan’s departure too and in some ways her presence might be missed more than Rick with how much Maggie has progressed as a character the last few seasons.
The next three episodes do look pretty fantastic though!