'The Walking Dead' showrunner explains how they came up with Rick's surprising exit on the show

Gene Page/AMCRick was always destined to end the show with a helicopter.

Warning: There are spoilers for season nine, episode five, of “The Walking Dead, “What Comes After.”

Rick’s final episode of AMC’s “The Walking Dead” culminated with the character conveniently flying away on a helicopter.

It seemed like an easy way to resolve the mystery helicopter subplot that’s been hanging over the show for a while, but showrunner Angela Kang tells INSIDER the helicopter ending wasn’t something writers simply came up with late in the game. It had been planned out.

“[Former showrunner] Scott [M. Gimple] knew well before I did that Andy was thinking season eight would be his last season,” Kang told INSIDER Monday. “We did start feeding in that helicopter in season eight because the plan was fully that he, you know, that was his end date.”

In an interview on “Talking Dead” Sunday night, Andrew Lincoln mentioned that there were a few different ways he could have left the show on season eight. Among those options were that he would have died under the tree we see him under on season eight or a helicopter would have come and picked him up.

Walking dead rick tree 816AMCRick could have died or left viewers under this tree. We’re thankful that’s not how it went down.

“Fortunately, for us, fortunately for me, because I love working with Andy so much, he did sign on to do this five-episode arc to finish out the story this season,” Kang said of Lincoln sticking around for a few more episodes. “Starting from last year, we knew that the helicopter would be the end point for Rick. We didn’t know exactly how it was going to get there, but we knew that to exit the show, to go into the movies, it was going to be via this helicopter that leads you to another world.”

After Sunday’s episode, Gimple, who is now the chief content officer of “The Walking Dead” universe, announced on the series’ aftershow Grimes’ story will continue in at least three “Walking Dead” movies. It’s possible we may see Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh)appear there as well.

Production on the Rick Grimes’ movies, which are set to air on AMC, starts in 2019.


Read more: ‘The Walking Dead’ is going to continue telling Rick Grimes’ story in 3 movies

There’s just one gripe fans have with Rick’s six-year disappearance. How is it possible that he would stay away from his family for that long, especially when Rick’s final episode of the series is centered around him trying to make his way back to his family?

Rick 905 walking deadJackson Lee Davis/AMCWe’ve seen that Rick will do anything to get back to his family.

Kang has an answer for that, too.

“I think that’s a really big part of the movies so I can’t really speak to that because that’s not my realm, but that’s obviously something we’ve talked to,” Kang says of why Rick hasn’t made it back to his family after six years. “Rick would do anything to get back to his family, so if he doesn’t, what are the circumstances that prevent that? Also, a big part of our challenge for the show was we had to make our characters believe that Rick was dead. But, you know that our people must have looked for him as well. That’s part of the story going forward.”

You can read more on what Kang has to say about the show’s six-year time jump here and follow along with our show coverage here.

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