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This Rick Grimes Twist on The Walking Dead Shows We Really Don’t Need Everything to Be a Cinematic Universe

Make like Kylo Ren and let the past die.

rick grimes

It’s been a long time since I engaged with The Walking Dead. Season three was such a disaster of dropped plot threads, characters making OOC decisions, and sexism that I dropped the show, and the comics about a year later. I’ve kept vaguely up with what has happened since to generally stay afloat during pop culture conversations.

When the news broke about Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) having a big final episode, I was intrigued by the concept, by how boldly they marketed it. I’m always here for a concrete, definite ending, and on occasion still have fondness for Andrew Lincoln’s performance in the first two seasons. I couldn’t watch the episode live, so imagine my shock when I checked twitter and saw that no, Rick Grimes isn’t dead. He’s just moving onto the TWD cinematic universe.

The official release from Scott Gimple, who will be writing the series, states:

“We have a lot on the horizon – starting with a new epic featuring one of the greatest leading actors in television history and one of the best people I’ve ever met. These films are going to be big evolutions of what we’ve been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features. We’re starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show’s past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by TWD veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that’s captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the Dead.”

Lincoln voiced excitement too, saying: “I like the idea that we get to tell a bigger story, maybe with a sort of wider vista. And I’ve always been interested in what’s going on out there, you know, whether or not there is contact with the wider world. I want to know the meta of it all. And I suppose to be able to kind of touch upon that in a contained story for me is a very exciting proposition. Maybe it’s the start of a bigger story.”

For those of you who missed last night’s episode, the promised final episode ending with Rick being presumed dead by his friends and family. Instead of death though, he is airlifted away in a helicopter that’s been haunting the series for a couple seasons now.

There are other twists and turns, including a return by always-too-good-for-the-show Jon Bernthal (while Shane was the bane of my existence, to deny Bernthal gave the best performance in those early seasons is silly), and a time jump. But all of these twists and surprises pale next to the sudden decision to save Rick Grimes and try to pull a Marvel.

Joshua Rivera, writing for GQ, said it best when he wrote:

“AMC’s expansive new multi-year plan is said to include “additional films, specials, series, digital content and more,” which makes The Walking Dead feel less like an entertainment franchise and more like the plague it depicts, infecting its network and slowly turning its entire output into a shambling, decaying corpse, hungrily grasping at the closest and easiest prey. Andrew Lincoln—who has not starred in a non-Walking Dead related role since the show began—is its Patient Zero, refusing to die, because, as we’ve known since season two, we are all the real Walking Dead, just biding our time until we give up and rise again, to watch Walking Dead shows on AMC until the apocalypse takes us all.”

Not everything needs a cinematic universe. Marvel’s success came not only because they had decades of material but also a game plan and films that were interesting enough to keep audiences coming back for more. Star Wars is the legacy franchise that merits more stories by the expansive universe it inhabits.

But The Walking Dead was always the story of Rick Grimes, not of the zombie apocalypse. The comics are inarguably about Rick and his son Carl, something AMC put an end to when they killed off Carl (Chandler Riggs) last season in a twist that left comics fans unhappy, and so it makes sense to assume the show would have followed a similar arc. Now Rick is off to star in Zombie One: A Rick Grimes Story, leaving behind his partner Michonne (Danai Gurira, who deserves far better than this show) and his daughter Judith.

I suppose the protagonist spot will fall to AMC’s bland OC Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), showing that they’ve finally stopped pretending that they care about any other character outside of the inexplicable fan favorite.

Ratings have been steadily falling for The Walking Dead, but somehow it shambles on. AMC, once the home to two of television’s most prestigious dramas with Mad Men and Breaking Bad, now struggles to stay relevant against channels like FX, which dominate the critical discourse. The Walking Dead is their biggest franchise, so naturally they’re going to want to keep milking it until it runs dry.

Unfortunately, this means sacrificing narrative integrity. With no end in sight for the zombie giant, AMC is free to continue to drag out the show forever. Pretty soon, the next iteration of the Governor will show up, be given some tragic backstory, and will cause problems and then the cast will learn that they can’t just kill at random or they aren’t any better than the zombies, and we’ll wash, rinse, repeat.

I assume the films will follow the same formula. Rick will suddenly not care about Michonne or Judith or anyone he left behind. He’ll be angry. There will be machetes and headshots and zombies galore and Rick will learn all about the zombie apocalypse, ruining the mystery of it all. This will drag on for three films, that will spawn a universe with whichever characters the audiences are drawn to, and as Rivera wrote about, we’ll be watching this until the actual apocalypse hits.

It’s exhausting. Some things, no matter how popular they are, do not need to be dragged on forever. Not everything needs to be a cinematic universe. Sometimes, stories can end. Rick Grimes’s story needs to end. The Walking Dead probably needs a better idea of an endgame.

Don’t carry things on for the sake of money, because by the end of it, even your diehard fans will think enough is enough. There are only so many places this story can go, so why not steer it to a proper ending?

(via Comic Book Movie; Image: AMC)

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Kate (they/them) says sorry a lot for someone who is not sorry about the amount of strongly held opinions they have. Raised on a steady diet of The West Wing and classic film, they are now a cosplayer who will fight you over issues of inclusion in media while also writing coffee shop AU fanfic for their favorite rare pairs.