We have some MAJOR questions. Warning: huge spoilers ahead.
UPDATE at 7:30pm PT: According to The Hollywood Reporter, Lincoln will continue to play Rick Grimes in three feature-length movies that will air on AMC, with the first one going into production in 2019. With only two months of production for each film, Lincoln will be able to spend more time with his family. Read more about the shocking decision here. Original story below.
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WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED?!?
Tonight's episode was officially Andrew Lincoln's last on "The Walking Dead," but unlike almost everyone else before him who's left the show -- save for Heath ('memba him?) -- his character, Rick Grimes wasn't killed off. That we know of, at least.
In a wise move for everyone involved, the show left the door open for Rick's return down the line, should Lincoln ever want to reprise his role after some time away. But the way his exit went down leads to a ton of new questions.
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We're getting ahead of ourselves, let's back things up a bit and go through this pretty great episode from the top.
Last week's cliffhanger put the "grim" in Grimes, as it ended with Rick getting impaled as a horde of walkers closed in on him. Tonight's nostalgia-filled hour began with our favorite survivor having a vision of himself talking to Season 1 Rick inside the hospital room from the first episode. It was the first of many visions he'd have as he continued to lose consciousness.
He woke up, pulled himself off the rebar, hopped on his horse and rode it to a cabin in the woods. There, he passed out again, only to come face to face with Shane (Jon Bernthal). It was kind of amazing seeing these two talk again, as they actually joked about Judith's paternity. "She hasn't got your nose, you're such an asshole," Rick said with a laugh. Shane -- unlike almost every other ghost who visited him this episode -- told him to keep pushing, to find the rage to stay alive.
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His second visit came from Hershel, as he was unconscious on the back of a horse who thankfully knew exactly where to go. First of all, raise your hand if you cried seeing Scott Wilson back on your screen. The way this scene was filmed with a warm, heavenly light made it all the more touching after the actor's death in October.
Rick apologized for the deaths of Beth and Glenn, as well as everything Maggie's suffered through, but Hershel said she's strong and he doesn't need to worry about her. Rick wanted to find his family, keep them together, but Hershel said he didn't have to keep going.
Sasha was next, as he pushed through the infamous "Don't Open, Dead Inside" doors (which now read, "Open, Dead Outside") to find the corpses of everyone he loved, including those who are still very much alive on the show. Sasha told him he's done his part and others will "draw strength" from him long after he's gone. Sonequa Martin-Green was fantastic here, telling him, "it's not about you or me or any one of us, it's about all of us."
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His last vision was the most heartbreaking of all, which happened after he led the horde of walkers right onto the newly-repaired bridge. As they started to gain on him, EVERYONE in the cast rushed out the woods and killed all the zombies. Michonne (Danai Gurira) told him to keep fighting, "fight for all of us," giving him the push he needed for a few final, all-important maneuvers.
Yes, the calvary really did show up eventually, but there wasn't enough time for them to save Rick. As Michonne (Danai Gurira) rushed to him, tears in her eyes, he took out his gun and fired at some dynamite in the middle of the bridge. It exploded, the bridge split and all the zombies walked right into the raging waters like fiery lemmings. That was followed by Michonne's screams and Daryl's heartbreaking cry face ... but it wasn't the end of Rick.
No, moments later Anne spotted Rick on the shore downriver, near death. She pulled out her walkie talkie and told the mysterious man on the other end that she had a "B" -- not an "A" -- with her and needed to be rescued immediately. "I'm trying to save a friend, a friend who saved me," she said.
Rick's last shot was in a helicopter, as she told him, "You're still here, you're going to be okay, I'm going to save you." He was last seen flying into the distance on a helicopter.
But the episode still had one more big surprise, as it ended with a group of five newcomers -- Magna, Yumiko, Luke, Connie and Kelly from the comics -- being surrounded by walkers in the middle of a field. They're saved by a young girl, and not just any young girl. As she put on her sheriff's hat, she said her name: Judith. Yep, we've got another time jump.
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It looks like the show will be working in this new timeline as it forges ahead, meaning wherever Anne took Rick, he's been there for years and could be there for many more. Whether she returns is another question.
While it's certainly possible she brought him to the Commonwealth -- a ritzy community that shows up after the Whisperers in the comics -- Rick doesn't seem like the type to leave his family behind. It's a frustrating note to leave him on, knowing he's the type of person who would fight against everything to get back to his family.
It'll be interesting to see what the world of "The Walking Dead" looks like without Rick, especially with this time jump. Hopefully, the communities have all found a way to get along, work together, get that charter going and piece together a stronger way of life with Georgie's plans.
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Also, will Negan still be in jail?
It's almost unfortunate that Maggie's big moment with Negan was also in this episode, as it won't get nearly as much attention as Rick's exit, but man did Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan nail that scene. Vowing to kill him, Maggie threw him out of his cell, where he then begged her to kill him. After all his nasty comments toward her, it became clear: he had a death wish. "Please don't make me stay like this," he told her. She, of course, did.
"I came to kill Negan and you're already worse than dead. That settles it," she said, before walking out. According to new show-runner Angela Kang, this was also Cohan's last episode for the season, though they've been in talks with the actress about continuing Maggie's story if the scheduling works out. Cohan will star on ABC's "Whiskey Cavalier," premiering in 2019.
Now that Maggie got her closure on Glenn's death, how long until someone decides it might be okay to let Negan out? Does the character ever get to find redemption of his own ... or will he still be rotting away when we see him next, years later?
With new faces, Cohan's upcoming exit, another Big Bad on the horizon (those aforementioned Whisperers) and new show-runner Angela Kang at the helm, "The Walking Dead" is very much a show in transition. While the ratings haven't been anywhere near as strong as years past, this season has been solid so far.
Now, we're very excited to see where it goes next.