Last year, AMC announced that a trilogy of TV Walking Dead movies were in the works, and would focus on Andrew Lincoln's Atlantan Sheriff Rick Grimes, now that the character departed the mainline show for good in The Walking Dead season 9. Lincoln himself, in an interview with The Hollywoord Reporter, recently stated that this trilogy will "complete" Rick Grimes' story in the zombie apocalypse, suggesting they could mark the character's final appearance once and for all.
As The Walking Dead season 9 gears back up for its mid-season premiere next month, we're naturally still left with a lot of unanswered questions surrounding these newly announced movies, and the nature of the story they plan to tell. So, with major spoilers for the show so far, here’s our best guesses about what to expect from The Walking Dead movies, the first of which is reportedly due out as early as next year.
1. When and where will they be set?
The most pressing question we have about The Walking Dead movies regards the setting, both in terms of their geographical location and place in the canonical timeline. This latter point is especially pertinent, since the series jumped six years into the future as soon as Rick left. Will these Walking Dead movies take place in the same timeline, or will they fill in the missing gaps over the past six years we’ve just skipped ahead of? Heck, they might even be set far into the future, and we’ll finally see Old Man Rick in all his grey bearded glory.
But it's as much a question of space as it is time. In The Walking Dead season 9, episode 3, Jadis (who took the helicopter with Rick) revealed that the community she was in contact with was “far [away] from here”, so Rick’s new home can’t be anywhere close to Atlanta. Heck, it may not even be in the United States altogether especially given that Andrew Lincoln left the show to be closer to his family, which potentially answers my next question before I’ve even asked it...
2. Why hasn't Rick come back to Alexandria?
Throughout the entirety of his final episode, even while bleeding out in a state of near fatal delirium, Rick is determined to get back to his family, referring not just to lifelong love Michonne and last surviving child Judith, but to the friends and comrades he’s been surviving alongside for years. That makes it all the more strange that, six years on from his disappearance, the character apparently hasn’t returned to Alexandria. You’d think that, upon recovering at the mysterious community, Rick would want nothing more that to make it back to his loved ones, so what’s been stopping him this whole time?
Perhaps, as I’ve already suggested, the helicopter has taken him to another country, where it’s literally impossible to get back stateside without access to a working air or sea vehicle. Alternatively, the new community he’s now with may not let him leave, with a North Korean style border policy enacted to supposedly protect its inhabitants. Or, and this is where things get really outlandish, Rick’s fall into the river somehow inflicted him with long-term amnesia, and he wakes up at the beginning of the movie with no memory of his former exploits. Please, AMC, don’t you dare even think about side stepping this plot hole with an explanation as stupidly convenient as that.
3. For the last time, who's in that helicopter?!
Ever since mysteriously appearing in the background of The Walking Dead season 7, fans have been wondering about the identity of the passengers within the helicopter that eventually escorts Rick out of Atlanta in his final episode. For several years, many presumed the vehicle belonged to either The Commonwealth or The Whisperers, two iconic communities from the comic books, but both of these groups have now shown up in the TV show, reducing the likelihood of their presence in the upcoming movies.
Alternatively, AMC could be cooking up something completely new for Rick to wake up to in his first movie, which leaves the door open for a community not seen in any Walking Dead setting before. So far, we know this group has worked with Jadis before, are situated far from Alexandria, and have a keen interest in human cargo, but that’s about it.
4. What is the meaning of "A" & "B"?
For years, The Walking Dead has featured several allusions to the letters “A” and “B”, and the whole thing comes to a head in Rick’s final episode when we learn that this is the code Jadis uses when trading with the helicopter community, who use the two symbols to distinguish between different types of human cargo. However, we still don’t know what precisely differentiates an “A” from a “B”.
Jadis apparently presumed and hoped that Gabriel was a “B”, before injuring him and labelling him as an “A” when he decides to tell Rick of her plans. Meanwhile, Rick is labelled as a “B”, though the helicopter pilot seems somewhat peeved that Jadis doesn’t have an “A” for him in his last scene. It’s all very confusing, potentially referring to leadership ability, health condition, or willingness to be transported in the helicopter itself, so hopefully this is something the first Walking Dead movie can clarify once and for all.
5. Could other familiar faces appear?
For now, it looks like Michonne, Judith, Daryl, and the rest will be staying where they are to lead the show without Rick, but that doesn’t mean key characters from The Walking Dead's past, or indeed from Robert Kirkman’s source material, could pop up in Rick’s movie. Case in point: anyone remember Heath? He’s the guy who randomly went missing in The Walking Dead season 7 and hasn’t been seen since. There’s a running theory that he, too, was kidnapped by Jadis and smuggled to the community that Rick is now heading towards, so perhaps this movie will finally show us what he’s been up for the last two seasons.
There’s also an opportunity for Fear the Walking Dead’s enigmatic Daniel Salazar or Rick’s little brother, Jeffrey Grimes (of spin-off comic The Walking Dead: The Alien fame), to appear. Upon announcing the movies, Chief Content Officer Scott Gimple promised trips to “yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show’s past”, so nothing’s off the table.
6. Can they save The Walking Dead's declining popularity?
Seriously, what are the chances for these Walking Dead movies to succeed? At this point, the only people who’ll sjpw up to find out what’s happened to Rick are those who’ve stuck with the show for all these years, which is an audience that has been shrinking steadily since season 6. With that in mind, there’s all the possibility that this first planned movie could flop, which would then debilitate the prospects of any follow ups.
Alternatively, reigniting Walking Dead fever with a feature movie could have a positive knock-on effect, and boost the show’s declining ratings back up to healthier standards. Sadly, to achieve anything close to that potential, this movie will have to be an unmissable tour de force of cinematic magic. Given the show’s history, I wouldn’t count on it.