How does Rick leave The Walking Dead season 9? And everything else you want to know

It’s finally happened. After much teasing and anticipation, The Walking Dead season 9 (opens in new tab) said goodbye to Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5, What Comes After (opens in new tab). No matter how you feel about the show’s declining quality in recent years, Rick Grimes’s exit marks a big moment in The Walking Dead, and it wasn’t the only major thing to happen in the episode. If you’ve seen What Comes After and you want to find out what it means for the future of the show and The Walking Dead franchise as a whole, or, alternatively, if you gave up on watching The Walking Dead a long time ago and you just want to know how Rick Grimes leaves so you can move on with your life (no judgement), you’re in the right place. We’re going to be discussing everything that happened in the latest episode, including the major questions we have after Rick Grimes’s exit, and what we can expect from the rest of The Walking Dead season 9. In case it isn’t obvious, there are major spoilers for The Walking Dead from this point onwards, so make sure you really want to know what happens before reading on.

After falling from his horse and being impaled on a steel rebar surrounded by Walkers in The Walking Dead season 9, episode 4 (opens in new tab), things didn’t look great for Rick. We join him just moments later in episode 5, as he attempts to pull himself off the rebar that has punctured a nice, bloody hole through his lower abdomen. Amazingly, he manages to do this before the slow moving Walkers can get to him and jumps (well, not quite) onto his horse - which has helpfully not run off - to get away from the clawing zombies just in time. Not out of danger yet, Rick can barely keep ahead of the horde as he drifts in and out of consciousness astride his horse, which keeps just ahead of the oncoming Walkers. It’s these moments of unconsciousness that lead to Rick’s reunions with past characters such as Shane, Hershel, and Sasha, as well as some beautiful sequences that mirror season 1.

Over the course of the episode, Rick and his horse make their way to the bridge that has been Rick’s baby for most of season 9. Although Rick makes it to the other side, he loses his ride, and realises that the bridge is going to hold and the Walker horde is going to make it across. He panics that the zombies will make it to Alexandria and everyone he cares about. Having already lost an incredible amount of blood and with no obvious way to stop the Walkers, Rick is about to give up as a Walker opens its jaws wide to take a good old bite out of him when... an arrow pierces the zombie’s head! It’s Daryl to the rescue as he and pretty much every other major character in The Walking Dead show up on the river bank just in time to see how dire things are for Rick. 

Michonne, Maggie, and the others run to get to the other side to try and lead the Walkers away as Daryl stays behind the protect Rick with his arrows, but Rick tries to tell them it’s no use. Waving a bloody hand for them to stop, he tries to tell them it won’t work… and that’s when he sees the dynamite conveniently lying on the bridge. With almost all the Walkers on the bridge now and little time left to stop them, Rick aims his gun at the box of dynamite and pulls the trigger just as Michonne and the others reach the opposite side. A huge explosion erupts as the bridge, Walkers, and Rick go out in a blaze of glory and are washed away down the river. But that’s not the end...

Jadis, who has been parked nearby for most of the episode waiting to be picked up by the helicopter, sees the smoke and watches as the river she’s stood by fills with body parts. It’s then that she spots a barely alive Rick on the banks of the river and calls the helicopter to tell them she’s got a ‘B’. Originally intending to double cross whoever is on the helicopter, she tells them she’s not planning anything anymore and that she’s just asking to save a friend. Rick’s eyes open aboard the helicopter as Jadis looks down on him and tells him: “You’re still here. You’re going to be ok. I’m going to save you.” They fly off to goodness knows where and the final sequence of the episode sees a group of survivors saved from Walkers by a grown-up Judith Grimes, indicating that many years have passed since Rick ‘died’. 

Wow. What an episode! Do you think it’s a satisfying way for The Walking Dead season 9 to say goodbye to Rick Grimes? Are you annoyed he didn’t die? Do you think it’s a bit of a cop out? Let us know in the comments section below and read on for the major questions we have after The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5 ending.

1. Will we ever see Rick again?

Yes. 100% yes. Sorry if you were hoping for a more ambiguous answer to the question of whether we would ever see Rick Grimes again after he left The Walking Dead, but AMC has already announced (opens in new tab) three Walking Dead movies starring Andrew Lincoln. "The story of Rick will go on in films," Scott M. Gimple, former showrunner and now chief content officer for The Walking Dead, tells THR (opens in new tab). "Right now, we're working on three but there's flexibility in that… Over the next several years, we're going to be doing specials, new series are quite a possibility, high-quality digital content and then some content that defies description at the moment. We're going to dig into the past and see old characters. We're going to introduce new characters and new situations." Not only do we know that Rick will appear in these three movies, but these comments also make it sound like other characters could find homes elsewhere in the shared Walking Dead universe. Watch this space. 

2. How is he still alive? Seriously...

There’s no way Rick should have even made it onto that helicopter at the end of What Comes After. He should have died long before Jadis ever found him. Not only had he lost so much blood from being impaled that he was hallucinating conversations with his long lost friends, but there were so many Walkers after him that surely one of them would have sung its teeth into is flesh before he made it to the bridge? Even if, after all that, he was still alive, he then literally blew himself up with dynamite. Do I need to repeat myself? He blew himself up with dynamite. And fell into a deep and fast moving river which washed him away from everyone he ever cared about. How did he not bleed to death, burn to death, or drown throughout all of that? When Jadis finds him on the banks of the river, he’s not even singed for crying out loud! Rick is clearly somehow immortal. 

3. Where is Jadis/Anne taking him?

Jadis is obviously taking Rick to wherever the helicopter is based, but we know so little about who controls the helicopter, what they want, and why Jadis is working with them that it could be anywhere. It’s probably safe to say that it’s fairly far away considering the time jump we witness at the end of the episode. If Rick hasn’t got back to Judith and his family by the time she’s all grown-up he’s probably either been held captive this whole time, lost his memory, or been so far away that it would take a long time to traverse the Walker-invested world to get back to them. The again, the helicopter has been appearing in The Walking Dead since the very first episode so you would think they’d be based nearby… perhaps we’ll find out in the first Walking Dead film that he dies not long after the helicopter gets back to its base. Now that would be shocking!

4. Who are the helicopter people?

This ties into the third question, and again, we don’t really know the answer. Presumably, who the helicopter people are and what they want will be a big part of the story explored in the upcoming Walking Dead movies, but my money is on some sort of secret government-led army base, which is conducting experiments on the As and Bs it’s kidnapped to try and find a cure for the zombie outbreak. We know they must have considerable resources - it’s not easy to fuel a helicopter this many years into a zombie apocalypse - and there’s clearly some shady business going on with the people they take. What the difference is between the As and Bs, we don’t know, but I think we can safely say the helicopter doesn’t offer the hope and rescue that some of the survivors thought.

5. How long has passed since Rick ‘died’?

I’m terrible at judging ages, but Judith looks about 10-years-old to me in the final scene in The Walking Dead, season 9, episode 5. If we say she’s about 3 when her Dad ‘dies’ then we’re looking at about a significant time jump between Jadis and Rick flying away and the continuation of The Walking Dead season 9. Seven years would be my rough guess-timate, but suffice to say it’s been a loooooooong time since Michonne, Judith, and everyone else said goodbye to Rick. What could have kept Rick away from his family for so long? Perhaps we’ll find out in the movies… or perhaps it’ll never be mentioned again and AMC will just drive is crazy with unanswered questions. Wouldn’t be the first time...

Lauren O'Callaghan

Lauren O'Callaghan is the former Entertainment Editor of GamesRadar+. You'd typically find Lauren writing features and reviews about the latest and greatest in pop culture and entertainment, and assisting the teams at Total Film and SFX to bring their excellent content onto GamesRadar+. Lauren is now the digital marketing manager at the National Trust.