Walking Dead season 11 puts a new twist on Rick Grimes’ death

The Walking Dead season 11 episode 23 spoilers follow.

It’s taken a while, but twenty-three episodes in, The Walking Dead’s penultimate chapter is finally giving us everything we could ask for. Real tension? Check. Smart zombies that are actually scary? Check. Major character deaths? Quite possibly, although Judith’s fate still hangs in the balance.

And for longtime fans, Judith’s storyline is also giving us all the Rick Grimes content we could ask for, short of him actually returning on screen.

Judith mentions her father a lot in this latest episode, for example when she picks up Rick’s gun and says he was “searching for mercy.” The latest intro monologue she delivers also reminds us of Rick, and that’s very deliberate, because the score happens to be the same one that played in Rick and Michonne’s final episodes (season nine, episode five and season 10, episode 13, respectively).

Given that Judith is sorting through her parent’s weapons at this point, this score gives us a sense that Rick and Michonne are still with their daughter somehow in spirit. But she herself might soon become a spirit as well after what happens in a later shootout with Pamela Milton.

Just when you started to think everyone in The Walking Dead has been wrapped up in some mighty strong plot armor, Lydia got bitten by a walker and Judith was shot by Pamela Milton. Now, that doesn’t bode well for anyone whose name doesn’t rhyme with Schmarol, Schmaryl, Schmaggie or Schmegan.

However, Lydia might still survive with one arm less than she started out with, and Judith could make it out alive too actually. Maybe we’re being too optimistic though. The episode ends on a cliffhanger that dangles Judith’s fate in the air, and things aren’t looking too good for her if the writers are drawing inspiration from the death of her father, Rick Grimes.

“But he’s still alive!” we hear you say. And yes, that’s true. Rick will soon reunite with Michonne in their own limited series. You know, the one that was supposed to be a bunch of films released in cinemas. But in the source material, Rick Grimes is well and truly dead. In fact, he was killed twice, first by Sebastian Milton, and then again by Carl, his son, when Rick returned as a zombie.

When Sebastian died earlier on in season eleven, it meant that this version of Rick could no longer like he did in the comics. However, the latest episode of The Walking Dead toys with this idea in a very different way, flipping things around entirely.

By the time comic book Rick was killed, he had established himself as the widely loved ruler of the Commonwealth. Except, not everyone loved him, because Sebastian turned out to be pretty resentful, sneaking up on Rick to shoot him in his own bedroom.

AMC

So that instance of a widely disliked Milton shooting a popular Grimes has now been turned on its head. Again, an unpopular Milton shoots a key member of the Grimes family, one who represents the future for many, but now it’s a mother shooting a daughter instead of a son shooting a father.

As predictable as The Walking Dead can be at times, no one could have predicted that the inverse of Rick’s death would come to pass here so close to the end. But does that mean Judith could survive then, after all? If everything has been flipped round, then that means she could survive when her father didn’t.

Scenes at the end where Daryl carries Judith after she was shot deliberately echo Rick running with Carl, her brother, after he was shot all the way back in season two.

Showrunner Angela Kang even confirmed that this parallel was intentional, explaining in a behind-the-scenes feature that: “We definitely wanted it to feel reminiscent of the scene where Rick was carrying Carl after he was shot. It’s kind of the question of, like, is history going to repeat itself with Judith and what’s going to happen next with her?”

Carl survived his gunshot wound, so it’s possible Judith might too, especially if Yumiko’s brother, Tomi, can be found in all the chaos.

Saying that though, Judith passed on Rick’s sheriff hat to her younger brother, RJ, before everything went to hell, which certainly hints at a passing of the guard. And it might not be a coincidence that Carl gave Judith the hat back when he was dying in season eight…

What we really need is Rick Grimes back for the series finale, and then The Walking Dead really will have given us everything we could have asked for here at the very end.

The Walking Dead season 11 airs on AMC in the US and STAR on Disney+ in the UK.

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