Home LIFESTYLE Style News The Walking Dead Finale Was a Turning Point for Rick Grimes—And Maybe the Series

The Walking Dead Finale Was a Turning Point for Rick Grimes—And Maybe the Series

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This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 finale, “Wrath.”

On Sunday night, Rick Grimes’s war with the Saviors finally came to an end. But rather than a grisly murder, Rick’s feud with Negan wrapped up with an act of mercy: after a near fatal blow, Rick chose to revive his longtime enemy rather than letting him die. Contrary to what Rick’s behavior throughout this season has suggested, it seems the Grimes patriarch finally learned the lesson his son tried to instill from his deathbed: mercy is the only way forward in this apocalyptic world, where the dead walk and death gets doled out seemingly indiscriminately. As Carl put it to Rick just before he died—and as Rick repeated to his allies and the surrendering Saviors—“There has to be something after.”

Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman explained on Talking Dead that this was a “huge turning point” for Rick. Even more importantly, it may also be a turning point for a series that has long felt lost.

Just after Rick slit Negan’s throat, Negan murmured something curious: “The kid didn’t know a damn thing.” In his letters to both Rick and Negan, Carl had pleaded for mercy—for the two to put the cycle of violence behind them and work together toward a better future. As Rick heard Negan’s dying words, he realized that by letting Negan expire, he would effectively become his own worst enemy. “I think in that moment, in that fleeting moment, that’s when he decides, if I continue with this, if I don’t try to save this man’s life, it’s over,” Andrew Lincoln said of his character on Talking Dead. “So I think it is ultimately a story about restraint rather than revenge and love rather than hate, which has always been integral to our show.”

But while this has, at times, been the case, the past few seasons of The Walking Dead have occasionally forgotten that distinction. After Glenn and Abraham’s violent deaths in the Season 7 premiere, many critics wondered if the series had officially gone too far—by manipulating its audience, and by using gruesome deaths as a crutch in place of real emotional substance. “Love” seemed less central to the series than simple heartbreak; its emotional arcs were too often punctuated by horrifying deaths that almost always played out on-screen.

On the surface, Carl’s death this season could have been seen as further confirmation of that phenomenon—but upon closer examination, it also held a hint that the show had finally learned better. With his dying breaths, Carl pled for the violence to stop—and his own death took place off-screen, which made it feel more emotional and less exploitative. Viewers were not asked to revel in it, nor were they subjected to the gut-wrenching pain of watching him die. Instead, the focus was on Carl’s wish to create a future in which death isn’t so commonplace.

As Kirkman himself put it on Talking Dead, “Every major conflict in the history of The Walking Dead has ended with a huge death or someone dying.” But here, instead, Rick chose life. “This is him turning over a new leaf and deciding there’s a different way forward. . . . It shows that from this point on, the stories are going to be very different.”

With new show-runner Angela Kang stepping in for Season 9, the potential for change seems even more pronounced. After all, Fear the Walking Dead is already changing for the better with its own new show-runners in place. And while it seems too early to call this a surefire sign that The Walking Dead is deliberately changing its course, it’s certainly a step in the right direction.

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Full ScreenPhotos:What Time of Year Is It on The Walking Dead?
Daryl Dixon

Daryl Dixon

This photo has a lot of layers—both literal and figurative. Clearly, the hat is a nod to the blistering sun—which, ostensibly, is also responsible for the impressive amount of sweat soaking through Daryl’s shirt. Then again, if it’s so hot, why on earth is Daryl—the king of bare biceps—wearing this loud button-down shirt? For the love of God, if we’re going to give him an unnecessary layer, make it a poncho.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

King Ezekiel

King Ezekiel

King Ezekiel looks like he’s ready for a snowy hiking trip with Bane in that long, fur-lined leather jacket. Somehow, he barely seems to be breaking a sweat—not that you’d see it through that coat.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Rick Grimes

Rick Grimes

It’s been many a moon since we’ve seen Rick with dry hair. His perpetually sweat-soaked button-downs and water-logged locks are worthy of the desert—or Disney World in the summer. Yet, there he is, talking to be-leathered, unbothered King Ezekiel. If the rule of good leadership is “never let ’em see you sweat,” Rick should be fired immediately.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Carol Peletier

Carol Peletier

Carol has taken to wearing a heavy-looking, camel-colored coat. And apparently it’s so cold in this scene that even the zombie had to put on her cardigan before stalking her prey.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Sasha Williams

Sasha Williams

I guess it’s warm? I mean, everyone is definitely less layered than they were during the season premiere, as they all sat in a semi-circle shaking with fear in their jackets and over-shirts and long sleeves. Sasha’s even wearing short sleeves now!

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Maggie Greene

Maggie Greene

Then again, here’s Maggie, in long sleeves and an undershirt with no pit stains! Oh, to have that superpower.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Enid and Carl

Enid and Carl

I give up. Here are Enid and Carl on roller skates. Enjoy the midseason premiere on Sunday night. I’ll be here, staring at everyone’s clothes and dejectedly muttering to myself.

Photo: Courtesy of AMC.

Daryl Dixon

Daryl Dixon

This photo has a lot of layers—both literal and figurative. Clearly, the hat is a nod to the blistering sun—which, ostensibly, is also responsible for the impressive amount of sweat soaking through Daryl’s shirt. Then again, if it’s so hot, why on earth is Daryl—the king of bare biceps—wearing this loud button-down shirt? For the love of God, if we’re going to give him an unnecessary layer, make it a poncho.

Courtesy of AMC.

King Ezekiel

King Ezekiel

King Ezekiel looks like he’s ready for a snowy hiking trip with Bane in that long, fur-lined leather jacket. Somehow, he barely seems to be breaking a sweat—not that you’d see it through that coat.

Courtesy of AMC.

Rick Grimes

Rick Grimes

It’s been many a moon since we’ve seen Rick with dry hair. His perpetually sweat-soaked button-downs and water-logged locks are worthy of the desert—or Disney World in the summer. Yet, there he is, talking to be-leathered, unbothered King Ezekiel. If the rule of good leadership is “never let ’em see you sweat,” Rick should be fired immediately.

Courtesy of AMC.

Carol Peletier

Carol Peletier

Carol has taken to wearing a heavy-looking, camel-colored coat. And apparently it’s so cold in this scene that even the zombie had to put on her cardigan before stalking her prey.

Courtesy of AMC.

Negan

Negan

Again: here’s our Big Bad, zipped into his leather jacket, which looks like a thick summer sausage casing—and looking pretty comfy. In one episode, we see Negan all layered up and then totally comfy on the porch with Carl—sporting bare arms. One of those two outfits must be uncomfortable, right?

Courtesy of AMC.

Paul Rovia (Jesus)

Paul Rovia (Jesus)

Jesus might be the key to unlocking this puzzle. In recent episodes, he’s been seen without his beanie and jacket—which would imply to us that it’s getting warmer. So perhaps it’s spring? But if that’s the case, how are Ezekiel and the Kingdom growing such luscious apples and pomegranates? Back to Square One.

Courtesy of AMC.

Tara Chambler

Tara Chambler

Far be it for us to tell a woman how to dress—but why layer two short-sleeved shirts? If it’s warm, this would theoretically be uncomfortable—and if it’s cool, wouldn’t it be easier to simply wear sleeves? Perhaps long-sleeved shirts are in short supply during the zombie apocalypse.

Courtesy of AMC.

Morgan Jones

Morgan Jones

Morgan is wearing the same clothing as Rick these days, yet he produces less sweat. That kind of biological poise is why he belongs in a place called the Kingdom, and Rick does not.

Courtesy of AMC.

Michonne

Michonne

Speaking of the Kingdom: my kingdom to whoever can explain to me Michonne and Ezekiel’s clearly polar opposite body temperatures.

Courtesy of AMC.

Eugene Porter

Eugene Porter

God, of course Eugene wears cargo shorts. Or, wait a minute, are those. . . cargo pants? Rolled up? Somehow that’s even more fitting, isn’t it? Yet, you’ll note, as Eugene sweats through his summer look, there’s Negan. In leather. Barely sweating a drop.

Courtesy of AMC.

Dwight

Dwight

I don’t know, man. I just don’t know.

Courtesy of AMC.

Sasha Williams

Sasha Williams

I guess it’s warm? I mean, everyone is definitely less layered than they were during the season premiere, as they all sat in a semi-circle shaking with fear in their jackets and over-shirts and long sleeves. Sasha’s even wearing short sleeves now!

Courtesy of AMC.

Maggie Greene

Maggie Greene

Then again, here’s Maggie, in long sleeves and an undershirt with no pit stains! Oh, to have that superpower.

Courtesy of AMC.

Enid and Carl

Enid and Carl

I give up. Here are Enid and Carl on roller skates. Enjoy the midseason premiere on Sunday night. I’ll be here, staring at everyone’s clothes and dejectedly muttering to myself.

Courtesy of AMC.

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