We get it. Things aren’t looking great for Rick Grimes.
The last we saw him, Andrew Lincoln’s character was riding around on his white horse, a la Khaleesi, trying to lead the zombie herds away from the super sick camp they’ve all built, where everyone happily gets along during the times when there’s not a mutiny.
But Rick’s horse got spooked when another large zombie herd showed up, throwing him off so violently he gets impaled by some metal sticking out of concrete rubble. Rick passed out as the two large herds closed in.
It wasn’t ideal.
It sure seemed like a cliffhanger. We’re heading into Rick’s last episode after all. However, “Walking Dead” might’ve already spoiled how Rick survives the latest chaos.
In a trailer that aired at San Diego Comic-Con over summer, a few different shots might have given away Rick’s fate. I’ve scoured footage from the previous Season 9 episodes and can’t find the scenes anywhere, which leads me to believe they’ve yet to air.
One of the moments is a quick clip in which Rick appears to be waking up as a zombie approaches, gaining consciousness just in time to possibly thwart an attack. (Hey, it could just be Norman Reedus stirring him up in the morning to say hello. But I’d lean toward the former.)
Another shot shows someone in boots, leaking blood out all willy nilly, seemingly walking on that bridge Rick cared so much about building all season. If those are Rick’s boots, it means he somehow picked himself off the metal bar that impaled him. As long as he’s had his tetanus shot, our boy’s got a chance!
It also plays into the next shot from the trailer.
OK, the coup de grâce. There’s no question who we’re looking at in this one. It’s Mr. Grimes favoring the side of his body that’s been spouting blood everywhere. He’s just chillin’ on the bridge while his friends run to the rescue. Yay!
But wait. They can’t come to the rescue. We’ve been told over and over again in AMC marketing that Rick is off the show and next Sunday’s episode is his last.
Lincoln recently wrote a long goodbye letter to the media, in which he waxed poetic on his “wild ride.” So what gives?
There are a few potential answers.
If these trailer shots do spoil what’s happening in Episode 5, it’s possible they are all just Rick’s hallucination as he’s dying. The promo for Rick’s final episode showed him revisiting some past “Walking Dead” locations, which could be part of a fever dream. We also know a lot of past characters are appearing on the show in Season 9, including Jon Bernthal’s Shane and Scott Wilson’s Hershel. Characters on “Walking Dead” have hallucinated on death’s doorstep before, and it’d make sense to include some of those returning ones in Rick’s sendoff.
To top it off, everything about these shots seems a lot like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Just as the Confederate plantation owner in that late 19th-century short story falsely imagines escaping the noose, perhaps Rick is imagining escaping the zombies when he’s actually set to become a buffet. Oh, and there’s a bridge.
If the shots don’t amount to a hallucination, Rick’s story could be left open-ended.
If Rick’s story is left open, perhaps he slips into a coma from the blood loss, leaving the show the same way his character came in.
My personal theory is that the group of people who’ve been operating the mysterious helicopter tasked Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) with capturing victims as an experiment. The captives are deliberately infected with the zombie virus, and then used as test animals for a cure. As part of the experiment, the group needs the victims they label A (Alphas?), because they are assumed to be strong enough to survive a bite. Rick is certainly an A, so it would make sense that the helicopter people would attempt to save him, were he bitten by a zombie, in an effort to further their experiment.
Or there’s also this bizarre yet amazing theory from a Reddit user claiming the helicopter people are actual helicopters, like the cars in Pixar movies:
Five helicopters will surround Rick’s dying body, and they’ll explain they can save him, but they’ll need to change him. Holding back tears, Michonne agrees, and the surgery begins.
Later, Rick wakes up, and he’s okay, but now he’s a helicopter too. He and the other helicopters fly away from Alexandria and into the sunset. As he flies away, Maggie says “I believe in Copter Grimes.”
Is it a hallucination? Is it literal helicopter people? Will he roll under a dumpster at the last minute? We’ll find out next Sunday. Until then, Copter Grimes.