If the rumours are true, Rick Grimes only has two weeks left in The Walking Dead season 9 before he bows out for good. While there's been plenty of speculation over the nature and timing of the character's exit, The Walking Dead season 9 episode 3, which aired over the weekend, may have just revealed the truth. Be warned, there are major spoilers for The Walking Dead so far beyond this point.
So, as you'll know if you've seen the episode, Anne is back in cahoots with the mystery helicopter that has been a long running Easter egg of The Walking Dead since the very first episode, as it's revealed she's been trading people with the community in exchange for supplies and favours. Interestingly enough, when bargaining with the pilot, Anne refers to these trafficked people as "A"s or "B"s, which also happens to be another Walking Dead symbol that has shown up time and time again throughout the show's history.
Taken together, fans are starting to suspect that the helicopter will be involved in Rick's departure in a big way. Thematically, it certainly makes the most sense, as it allows AMC to close the books on two major Easter eggs that have been around almost as long as the character himself, cleverly showing that the signs for Rick's goodbye have always been secretly hiding in the background.
Story wise, the details are less clear. Is Rick going to be abducted by Anne in the same manner as Gabriel, or will he leave willingly, for reasons that aren't yet known to viewers right now? Given that Anne reveals that this helicopter-owning community are far away, taking Rick there would also be an open-ended exit that allows for the possibility of Andrew Lincoln returning to the show sometime in the future.
Season 9 showrunner Angela Kang has also shed a bit more light on the whole A/B distinction in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, explaining that "it has something to do with the thing that [Anne] was involved in which was human trading, and it was a way to differentiate between classes of people. She thought that Gabriel was a B. She knew that Rick and Negan were As but she now thinks that Gabriel is also an A.” Hmmm...
While this theory certainly seems like the most convincing prediction right now, a lot can change in two episodes of The Walking Dead, so we'll have to wait and see how Rick's last scenes will actually play out over the coming weeks. Prepare thy tissues; it's sure to be a blubber fest.
If you're still out of the loop, our The Walking Dead season 8 recap can have you all caught up on the zombie show in minutes, just in time for Rick's final adieu.