AMC revealed a shocking time jump for their flagship show, with Judith stepping up in a major way, while revealing an even more mind-blowing journey for Rick Grimes.
"The Walking Dead" still has a pulse, if the social media reaction to Andrew Lincoln's final episode is any indication. The show's name was the top trending topic on Twitter Sunday, while Rick Grimes got plenty of attention, too.
While a lot of people have come and gone through eight seasons of "The Walking Dead" so far -- it's kind of embedded in the DNA of the show -- this is by far the biggest shakeup as Lincoln was the undisputed lead of the show. The only one that comes close was last season's farewell for Rick's son Carl (Chandler Riggs).
But while Carl succumbed to a stray walker bite, Rick's fate proved far more surprising. In fact, his ultimate fate is pushing the larger "Dead" franchise in a whole new direction, with AMC revealing that Rick's story would continue in three feature-length films.
Rick spent most of the hour on the run from a massive horde of zombies, bleeding out from a rebar wound in his gut. Somehow, though, he managed to survive everything the episode threw at him, including his ultimate decision to blow up the bridge he'd spent all season working on to save the communities from the horde.
In the end, he wound up on a helicopter with Jadis/Ann (Polyanna McIntosh) on his way to an uncertain future. "The Walking Dead" continues without him, and his story will continue without them in AMC's "Walking Dead" telefilm franchise.
And then the episode closed with another time jump, bringing us full circle in a way as Judith shows up at roughly the age Carl was in the pilot. She was sporting Michonne's sword, rescuing people and wearing that iconic sheriff's hat both Rick and Carl donned.
And then the teaser for the next three episodes blew everyone's mind with whispering zombies, badass Eugene without a mullet and Carol with long hair! It's been a long time since we've been this excited about the future of "The Walking Dead." New showrunner Angela Kang is killing it this season and she's just getting started.
Fans spent the evening processing Rick's "Dead" farewell and his "Dead" future, as well as the future of the show without him. The good news is that the episode was a fantastic return to form for the series that has faltered in recent seasons with repetitive storytelling and a molasses-like pace.
Here are the most passionate responses about what went down on AMC's flagship series:
This episode hands down is my favorite episode of #TheWalkingDead to ever exists. Brought back so much nostalgia and just overall was a flawless episode. Beautifully done.
Don't get me wrong you don't know how excited I was to see Rick on that helicopter....But that time jump??I'm suppose to be ok with the fact he doesn't see his family for 6years???#TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/2Hn1whygv9
the entire episode rick is “looking for his family” and than he sees Michonne yelling for him and he says to himself that “he found them” THAN HE LITERALLY SACRIFICED HIMSELF MY HEART WAS NOT EQUIPPED FOR THAT TYPE OF HURT RIGHT NOW #TheWalkingDead ok i'm done talking about this pic.twitter.com/7WIuEicxu6
#TheWalkingDead When you realize that the song playing while Rick was flying away in the helicopter is the same song that played at the end of the very first episode when he was hiding in the tank in Atlanta... pic.twitter.com/nD1he8g3vc
Okay so let me get this straight we thought for months that rick would be killed off and instead rick is alive in a helicopter with jadis going somewhere AMC I'm changing our relationship to it's complicated #TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/OJQyvTZ9vJ
They want you to get the thought of rick returning to the show so you'll be blown away when he returns for the final episode of the series years down the line. .& I'm cool with that,I can wait. #TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/vxHqMto6qk
WAIT. Judith as a lil asskicker and taking on Carl's role in the comics?? Carol with long hair, Michonne rocking her dreads on one side, Eugene's mullet gone? New people joining them??? #TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/GZIXC0Tj18
You're telling me that Rick spent that entire episode searching for his family only to be taken away on a helicopter by the trash lady and he never gets reunited with the people he fought so hard to find?#TheWalkingDead pic.twitter.com/nRADDtUGEx