The Walking Dead probably couldn’t have handled Andrew Lincoln’s final episode any better. What Comes After was an amazing mix of reflection, edge of your seat suspense, surprises and a pair of shocking twists.
I loved this episode and would put this up against any of the best in the series. It served as such a beautiful bridge to the past, present and future.
Going full circle we start with Rick seeing himself in a hospital bed. This kickstarts the first of several blackout moments for Rick with the recurring theme of him trying to find his family and dead allies making him wake up.
After the Rick encounter, Rick painfully pulls himself off the slab and onto his horse. This made for a tremendous visual of the rider on the pale horse and death (the walkers) riding with him. The herds like the prospect of a chase and slowly stagger along after Rick.
In the lone foreshadowing that some fan theories might prove correct, Anne gets a call. She claims she has an A and is ready for pickup. In reality, she’s going to try and pull a fast one to get to this mysterious destination. Maybe it’s a polar bear, smoke monster infested island?
While Rick’s bleeding out all over his pretty white horse, Maggie is making her way to Alexandria. She confronts Michonne, who tries to appeal to her, but Michonne can’t justify keeping Maggie away from payback. This was a terrific scene and a reminder the show is really going to miss Lauren Cohan when she leaves this season as well.
Maggie goes for her moment of truth confrontation with Negan. Although he’d been somewhat contrite while talking to others, Negan is full on Negan-mode taunting and edging on Maggie. Despite her bloodlust, Maggie feels like this is off. Negan has always been smarter than this suicidal action. And there it is. Negan refuses to go into the light and he cracks when Maggie won’t immediately kill him.
Negan is a broken man and desperately wanted Maggie to kill him so he could be with Lucille. Maggie says she came to kill Negan, but he’s already worse than dead. At this point it seemed highly unlikely that there was going to be a better scene on Rick Grimes’ final episode. This was a standout moment that gave Maggie some much needed closure.
Over the next two interludes, Rick talks with Shane, who quickly asks how is his baby girl. Man, have I missed that bastard. The next featuring Rick and Herschel was emotional on multiple levels. Herschel was the show’s conscious and the series has missed that voice of sage wisdom helping Rick through tough times. No one could do that better than Scott Wilson and this was a fitting final role for the actor who died Oct. 6.
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Director Greg Nicotero set up some incredible visuals this episode and the one with Rick standing above the bodies of his old allies was powerful stuff. I could make out Tyrese, Beth among the dead as well as Sasha, who rose to comfort Rick. She reminded him they change and help each other become better.
The series has lost some very strong characters over the years and it says a lot that I was hoping for cameos from Carl, Glen, Lori and even The Governor. While the wish list was big, these three characters represented key points in the series. Shane for Rick’s pre-walker life. Herschel, who helped steer Rick in the right direction of being responsible for others. And Sasha representing the community he established and the fight to maintain it against The Saviors.
With his horse finally having enough of Rick’s shenanigans, Rick is back at the camp all alone…except from the herd and newly turned alliance walkers. Rick stumbles to the bridge, which seemed to bear out my thought on Rick’s demise. As the herd closes in, Rick can’t make it until the whole gang arrives for the last second rescue. But in a cruel twist, Michonne and the others are just another vision.
It’s going to be up to Rick to stop the herd from invading Hilltop. But then… a crossbow bolt connects with a walker, followed by another. This time, Daryl is really here and the others are here as well. They’re not on the bridge, but on the path leading to it. Daryl realizes he’s running out of bolts just as he sees Rick’s intent — blow the bridge to save the others. Rick gets off one final shot at the dynamite and down goes the bridge.
This was one of the strongest death scene reactions we’ve seen since Negan’s victims were identified. Norman Reedus, Danai Gurira, Melissa McBride and Cohan were amazing here.
We then turn to Anne who sees the bridge explosion fallout in the distance as her helicopter arrives. She’s plotting her ambush when she spots Rick washed up against the shore. Anne has her B! Whatever that is, Anne is able to convince the pilot to take her and Rick so Rick’s story isn’t done yet.
Some time has passed and a new group of survivors battles a herd in the clearing where Anne left. A girl shoots an escape path for them and she introduces herself as Judith Grimes. We’ve just stumbled onto another fast forward! This is very interesting.
What Comes After was a very fitting ‘end’ for the Rick Grimes era of The Walking Dead and sets up a potentially bright future for this new direction. This episode was The Walking Dead at its very best. Tell your friends, TWD is all the way back.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC