Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead,” season nine, episode five, “What Comes After.”
Rick’s final episode of “The Walking Dead” has so many references to moments in the comic and previous seasons that it’s easy to miss them all.
So buckle in, TWDFamily. This is a super-sized edition of our regular details you missed post with callbacks to the show’s pilot and some of Rick’s best moments on the AMC series. We’ll even explain what was up with the mystery “Cardille” mailbox that appeared when Rick made a pit stop at that cabin in the woods. Keep reading to see what you may have missed on Sunday’s episode.
During Rick’s dream sequence at the episode’s start, he sees and hears a few things from the pilot episode.
Season nine Rick sees a younger, season one Rick in bed in a hospital. Morgan, the first man he met during the zombie apocalypse, asks about his wound. At the time, Morgan asked that to make sure he wasn’t bit by one of the undead.
Now, Rick hears those words as he notices he’s gravely injured from a piece of rebar.
The many helicopters Rick sees are a reference to the several times he’s seen helicopters throughout the show.
Rick saw a helicopter on the first episode of “The Walking Dead” when he made his way into Atlanta. He tried to follow it, but literally ran into a bunch of the undead. He saw a helicopter fly overhead again during season eight on his way to visit Jadis/Anne. At the very least, we now know she has something to do with the helicopter.
Showing all of the helicopters in Rick’s hallucination is also a way of hinting at what’s to come at the end of the episode. At the same time, it may be the writers’ way of acknowledging one of the show’s most frustrating mysteries for several seasons.
The crows that Rick sees in his vision are a major threat to civilisation.
I mentioned this after the season nine premiere, but the crows become a major issue in the comics. The crow population starts to become so large that they begin destroying the crops the survivors are growing. This starts to get hinted at as we see the crows overrunning the Sanctuary and see Michonne getting told on season nine, episode four about the crows getting out of control.
Ahead of the season nine premiere, showrunner Angela Kang told INSIDER the new series’ logo hinted that the stone letters overgrown with greenery reflect that nature is thriving both for better and for worse. In the case with the crows, it’s for worse.
Anne is seen driving a very familiar trailer.
That trailer sure looks a lot like the one Heath was driving when he went missing on season seven. “Talking Dead” confirmed after the episode Anne was driving the very same one that Heath and Tara had before Heath went missing during season seven.
We know Anne has been trading people for supplies. Was Heath one of them? It seems plausible. That would be one way to explain Heath’s absence and we’ve been hearing for some time that there are plans to bring the character back if they can work with actor Corey Hawkins’ schedule.
“TWD” creator Robert Kirkman most recently spoke about Heath at New York Comic Con where he seemed hopeful about his return one day.
Maggie unnecessarily beats a walker to death with a crowbar multiple times.
It feels like a parallel to when Maggie watched Negan bash her husband Glenn’s head in on the brutal season seven premiere. Negan told Michonne on season nine, episode four that she had a lot in common with him, but it turns out, it may be Maggie.
In another dream sequence, Rick is showed marching a zombie herd into Atlanta.
It mirrors the iconic scene of Rick making his way into Atlanta on a barren highway on the series’ premiere.
Shane and season nine Rick share the same meal they had on the season premiere.
The two had burgers and fries as they spoke about Rick’s troubles at home with his wife, Lori. We didn’t know it at the time, but it hinted at the impending relationship triangle to come.
This time around, their conversation in the car is a little bit different and addresses something the two never discussed before Shane’s death.
Dream Shane asks Rick how his daughter Judith is and it initially feels like a punch to the gut. But it seems Rick has made peace with it.
Shane gets real with Rick and brings up thoughts he’s definitely had. The two old friends discuss how the man who shot Rick changed everything for the two of them. It put Rick into a coma right before the undead took over and it pushed Shane and Rick’s wife, Lori, together when they thought Rick had died.
When Rick tells Shane he’s looking for his family, Shane calls him out on it and said that he may as well be talking about his own family. After all, Lori was originally moving on with Shane and had his child.
The two joke about how Judith has Shane’s eyes, but not his nose. Shane, played by Jon Bernthal, jokes that she doesn’t have his ears, either. We bet that last line was improvised. A few years back at New York Comic Con in 2016, Jon Bernthal joked with fans that Judith was his during a panel INSIDER attended. During that conversation, he made the same ear joke.
Shane brings up Rick’s two most vicious moments on the show from the season four finale and season five, episode three.
“I want you to think about how you bit that piece of sh—‘s throat out, A–hole in the church with the red machete… That is what I’m talking about. That’s the sh– that I need from you,” Shane tells Rick. “It is time. You want answers? You want to know what this is all about? This right here? It’s time. Kneel down. Find it…”
Shane, of course, is referencing when Rick ripped out Joe’s jugular on the season four finale after he threatened to rape his son Carl and Michonne. (For the record, Andrew Lincoln said in a farewell letter to press the prop tasted like chicken.)
On season five, Rick, Sasha, Maggie, and others butchered the Terminus cannibals so they could never eat anyone again. Rick used his red machete to hack away at their leader, Gareth.
Rick apologizes to dream Shane for what he did to him on season two.
In case you don’t remember, Rick killed his best friend in a field at Hershel’s farm after Shane came after him.
Rick felt he had no choice but to murder Shane after Lori basically told Rick to kill him. I guess she didn’t think he would go through with it, because when Rick told her what he did she looked disgusted with him. It was the right decision though, because “The Walking Dead” was beginning to become a soap opera clouded by their messy triangle.
Judith is making a bracelet with shells and it reminds us of Tara’s shell bracelet from Oceanside.
Cyndie gave Tara a shell friendship bracelet for her silence about the all-female group during season seven. That didn’t last long.
Michonne asks Maggie if she can live with “what comes after” killing Negan.
“What Comes After” is the name of the episode.
Once you watch Rick’s final episode, the title should hold a second meaning. It’s a throwback to a line Anne once said to Rick.
“What Comes After” isn’t just a line Michonne says on Sunday’s episode.
The title of season eight, episode seven is “Time for After.” In that episode, Rick is held captive by Jadis/Anne and the Heapsters. At the time, it all seemed like this was a very silly subplot. She kept telling Rick it was “time for after.” At the time, it appeared to be gibberish, but it looks like there’s a link between that episode and Rick’s final episode.
We learned on season nine that Anne had been trading people for supplies by marking them as either an “A” or a “B.” It was assumed by many, including myself, that Rick would have been an “A,” assuming that stood for a strong, leader type character. However, at the end of Sunday’s episode, Anne puzzlingly referred to Rick as a “B.” (Remember, just a few short episodes ago, Anne declared that she thought Gabriel was a “B,” but it turns out he’s an “A” before she nearly made him one of the undead.)
While discussing the episode with fellow “Walking Dead” writer Brandon Davis over at Comicbook.com, he suggested “A” may stand for “after” someone is turned into a walker and “B” for before. That seems like a solid theory. It looked like Anne was going to turn over Gabriel after he was bit and, possibly, turned into one of the undead to the chopper in exchange for a ride to an unknown location.
If Jadis succeeded in turning Rick into a walker during season eight and had him taken away by the helicopter people, we would have seen “what comes after.” On Sunday’s episode, though Rick wasn’t turned, Anne finally got Alexandria’s leader on the helicopter. Essentially, the ending to Rick Grimes’ story, for now, is also a nod to that season eight episode.
Update: Showrunner Angela Kang tells INSIDER “A” and “B” do not stand for “after” and “before,” but she said it’s a great guess.
Maggie tells Negan to get on his knees. It’s exactly what he told her, Rick, Glenn, and more to do during the season six finale.
Before Negan’s pointless game of Eeny, meeny, miney, mo to decide which of Rick’s group to kill (remember, Negan later told Rick he knew he was going to kill Abraham all along), he made the entire group, including an ill and pregnant Maggie kneel down before him.
Negan not only killed Abraham, but also Glenn.
The scene of Negan begging Maggie to kill him is a remix of a recent scene from the comics.
“Please kill me. Just do it.” says Negan.
He tries to taunt Maggie by saying he enjoyed killing Glenn over a year and a half ago, but she notices something’s off. When she asks him why, she learns that Negan was just saying all of that to get her to set him free from rotting in Rick’s jail cell.
“So I can be with my wife. So I can be with Lucille,” says Negan. “It has to be you because I can’t do it. I’ve tried. I can’t be like this. Please don’t make me stay like this.”
Maggie recognises that Negan is “already worse than dead” and leaves him to rot. In the comics, Maggie comes across Negan years later when he’s out of his cell in issue #174. Similarly, she attempts to kill him, but decides against it after finding a much more subdued Negan who, not only apologies to Maggie for what he did years ago, but accepts his death willingly. He even offers Maggie to kill him with his new bat.
Instead, Maggie decides it isn’t worth it because she doesn’t want to give Negan what he wants.
“You have to live with what you’ve done,” she ultimately decides before leaving him alone.
Rick apologizes to Hershel for what happened to him, Glenn, and Beth.
Rick wasn’t able to save Hershel when he was captured by the Governor and shockingly beheaded on season four. He couldn’t prevent Beth’s accidental death when she was inches from him at Grady Memorial Hospital, and he couldn’t save Glenn from Negan’s bat.
The scene between the two is extra special because Scott Wilson, who reprised his role as Hershel for the episode, died right before the season nine premiere.
In another dream sequence, season nine Rick walks by another iconic moment from the season one premiere.
The “Don’t Dead, Open Inside” sign on doors within a hospital has become a huge symbol of the show. This time around the sign reads, “Don’t Open, Dead Outside.”
Rick opens up the doors and finds himself in a field of dead bodies, another nod to the comics.
You can see Daryl, Carol, Rosita, Eugene, Jerry, Morgan, Jesus, and more lying in the heap. People who look like Beth and Carl are also seen in the pile. It’s Rick’s worst nightmare and a callback to a variant cover of issue #100 which shows comic Rick standing upon a similar heap.
Sasha references a speech Rick told Michonne during season seven.
“We don’t die. It’s not about you or me or anyone of us. It’s about all of us. And I don’t think it just evens out,” Sasha’s spirit tells Rick. “I think it always crosses over toward the good, toward the brave, toward love.”
One of the saddest moments on “The Walking Dead” is during season seven, episode 12 when Rick tells Michonne she can carry on without him.
“You can lose me. Yes, you can. I can lose you,” Rick tells a teary-eyed Michonne. “We can lose our friends, people we love. It’s not about us anymore. It’s about a future. And if it’s me who doesn’t make it, you’re gonna have to lead the others forward because you’re the one who can.”
Michonne tells Rick they don’t die and it goes back to one of the most invigorating wake-up calls she gave him on the series.
The Michonne hallucination referenced a speech she gave Rick to reinvigorate his spirit to fight Negan and the Saviors on the season seven mid-season finale.
“You said that. We’re the ones who live. That’s why we have to fight,” she said to Rick. “For Judith. For Carl. For Alexandria. For the Hilltop. For all of us. We can fight them, Rick. We can find a way to beat them. We can do this, but only if we do this.”
Rick points his cobalt at the TNT and it mirrors a scene from the series’ premiere.
It’s very similar to when Rick first pulls his gun on a young walker at the start of the series’ pilot.
If you listen closely during this part of the episode, you can hear the show’s theme song playing in the background.
When Rick gets taken away on the helicopter, the song that plays is from the very end of the show’s first episode.
“Space Junk” by Wang Chung plays at the end of the “Walking Dead” pilot as Rick Grimes’ fate trapped inside a tank is left uncertain. You can listen to the song here.
Rick’s abduction is also a mini nod to fans of the comic who have been reading for years.
If you read the “The Walking Dead” comics then you’re familiar with the letters section at the very end of each issue. Early on, a fan wrote in to the “Walking Dead” asking how this story could possibly continue on forever.
Creator Robert Kirkman famously joked the plot would change up in issue #75 with an alien invasion. Kirkman made good on that promise and purposely included a short alternate gag sequence with Rick getting abducted by aliens in the original print of the issue. Then he runs into a bunch of his other friends who had died and been turned into super soldiers to help the aliens on their own mission to harvest the Earth’s water. It’s weird!
All these years later, comic fans are finally seeing Rick abducted on the show. While he’s not taken by literal space men, in some sense, Grimes is taken away by people who are alien to him.
There was a big hint about Rick’s open-ended fate early on Sunday’s episode.
When Rick heads to the cabin in the woods, the camera lingers for a moment on a mailbox named Cardille. Many fans started racking their brains over the mailbox when AMC released an early photo for Sunday’s episode featuring the mailbox. It was a big hint that Rick would get taken away on the helicopter all along.
Cardille isn’t a mashup of any character names on “The Walking Dead.” It’s most likely a nod to actress Lori Cardille who appeared in 1985’s “Day of the Dead.” Near the movie’s very end, Cardille’s character, Sarah, among others, escape the zombies to flee to a deserted island. Sarah then marks off a day on a calendar. It reads November 4, the same day that Rick’s final episode aired.
Maybe that’s where Rick went off to at the episode’s end and that’s why he can’t get back home.
The movie was some of episode director Greg Nicotero’s first work on film. He has told INSIDER over the years of the many horror movie Easter eggs he loves inserting into episodes of the AMC show. Notably, he enjoys inserting nods to George A. Romero’s work onto the show when possible. Romero died in July 2017.
Thanks to Steve Zanella for reminding us of this.
Judith Grimes carries around reminders of all her family members.
She has a sword like Michonne and wears Rick’s hat in her brother Carl’s honour.
It also appears that she has Rick’s gun, which is interesting since it should have fallen in the river with him after he blew up the bridge. Maybe that means that the group went searching for Rick after the bridge fell and only found his Colt Python.
The new group teased at the episode’s very end are also introduced in the comics during a time skip.
The comics only jump ahead about two years after the war with Negan is over. The show just made its second big time jump in a half season to introduce a group from the comics which includes characters named Magna, Yumiko, and Luke.
Their introduction in the comics is a little different. Jesus, Heath, Aaron, Eugene, and Rosita are among the survivors to save the new group from a herd of the undead. At the same time, the original “Walking Dead” crew shows off how they have mastered controlling giant groups of walkers from the communities.
Expect to see much more of them on next week’s episode of “The Walking Dead.”