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The Walking Dead: Why was Rick Grimes smiling at the end of the final episode?

Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in Episode 24 of AMC's The Walking Dead Season 11
Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in Episode 24 of The Walking Dead Season 11. Pic credit: AMC/Curtis Bonds Baker

Episode 24 of The Walking Dead’s final season featured a surprise appearance by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira).

The pair have been missing in action for some time. Rick appeared to die in Season 9 of the zombie apocalypse series, but viewers knew he had been whisked away to safety by the Civic Republic Military (CRM).

Michonne discovered a little later on in Season 10 that Rick was still alive and set out to find him.

However, this secret was kept between herself and Rick’s daughter, Judith (Cailey Fleming), until the Season 11 finale when the news was shared with Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus).

While the rest of the community had a lot on their plate at the time, the show concluded with a little sneak peek into what has been happening with Rick and Michonne since they left.

And one shot showing Rick smiling has viewers perplexed as to what he was so happy about.

Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in the Season 11 finale of AMC's The Walking Dead
Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in the Season 11 finale of The Walking Dead. Pic credit: AMC/Curtis Bonds Baker

Rick is on the run from the CRM

The bonus scene shown at the end of the episode revealed that Rick was on the run from the CRM.

He appeared to have been so for quite some time as he was extremely dirty. However, it did reveal he was wearing a jacket with the CRM logo on it, making sure it was clear who exactly he was on the run from.

Then, a helicopter appeared overhead, and a voice on a loudspeaker told Rick that he had been located and that escape was futile.

“You’ve been located and are instructed to surrender. Remain in place with your hands up,” the man said before adding a more personal note.

“C’mon Rick. It’s like she told you. There’s no escape for the living.”

Most likely, the man is referring to Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond), who heads the Civic Republic Military. However, there is no indication as to who the mystery man is.

Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in Episode 24 of AMC's The Walking Dead Season 11
Andrew Lincoln stars as Rick Grimes in Episode 24 of The Walking Dead Season 11. Pic credit: AMC/Curtis Bonds Baker

Rick is smiling when captured

And more intriguingly, Rick is shown smiling when the man speaks, as though he is happy to have been caught.

So, what does that mean?

According to The Walking Dead’s chief content officer, Scott Gimple, there is a strange reason for Rick’s mirth.

“Rick still has some fight left in him,” Gimple told Entertainment Weekly.

“Rick is not yet broken, Rick is defiant. And Michonne is defiant. These people draw strength from this continuum of love that they have created out of nothing, or even out of tragedy and loss.”

Gimple then goes on to quote Ezekiel (Khary Payton) regarding why the character is smiling.

“And so he is totally screwed there — and I’m speaking like Ezekiel here — and yet he smiles, because he still has some fight in him, and he is not yet laying his head down.”

As to what happens once Rick is detained by the CRM remains to be seen, and viewers will just have to wait until the Rick and Michonne spinoff series drops in 2023.

All seasons of The Walking Dead are now available on AMC and AMC+.

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