Is The Walking Dead Getting Good Again? (Spoilers for S09, E05: What Comes After)

Rick w/ tummy ache and gloomy horse
Tuning into The Walking Dead for the last few seasons has, honestly, felt more like a hassle than an enjoyable experience for me. Just another bad-and-getting-worse TV show that my OCD stubbornly refuses to abandon completely. This feeling has only been made worse by the shows ninth season announcement that the main character, Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln), is leaving, My natural assumption was, "Welp, that's it for The Walking Dead, I guess. I'll give it maybe a season and a half before cancellation; if they're lucky." I mean, without Rick, what's the point? They may say the show's about all the characters — but let's get real... we all know better. It's about Rick. Everyone else is disposable.

So I've spent most of my time just waiting for it to happen, knowing it's going to ruin whatever chance this show had left at being good, and dreading the cliche death scene that's surely to come. And then it finally happened: Rick fell on a piece of random metal (that was jutting out of whatever the hell) and spent most of the episode alone, bleeding out, and having the obligatory, cameo-filled hallucination montage that you'd expect before kicking the bucket.

I felt like vomiting at how forced it felt.

Next thing ya know, Rick's on a bridge, there are zombies coming to kill everyone, all Rick's friends have magically shown up (just out of reach, yet close enough to act as a grieving, hero-worshipping audience to his soon-to-be-self-sacrificing actions), Rick stumbles across some dynamite, shoots it, blows up the bridge, the zombies, and himself. Kablooey. The day is saved, Rick died for everyone, they all mourn, cue sad music and slow motion.

I felt like kicking my TV screen in at around this point. Predictable garbage.

Let the tears commence!
Then something amazing happened.

We come back from commercial, cut to a character that I've temporarily forgotten existed, there's a flippin' helicopter, and who's that we see washed up by a river of zombie corpses? Rick-flippin-Grimes, that's who! A little beat up, but still in once piece.

He's quickly tossed into said helicopter, some snazzy, upbeat music starts blasting, I'm inexplicably erect, and Rick is told that he's going to be okay. How do ya like them apples?

But wait just a cotton pickin' minute.

I thought this was Andrew Lincoln's farewell episode? I definitely saw that Comic-Con clip of him saying he was leaving the show. I'm not crazy, dammit (overlook my Let's Plays and comics). I saw it! So where is this story going?

I later learned that apparently there's going to be several made-for-TV Walking Dead movies that go more into Rick's story, and Andrew Lincoln (that sly bastard) is going to be in them. But even if that weren't the case, boy, was I happy that Rick was alive. And not because of the reason you'd think.

Now, I've heard several people commenting on the episode, making the same complaint they made about Glenn's near-death experience that occurred before his actual-death experience a few years back. You remember. When we all thought he was zombie food for several episodes, then it turned out he was alive all along? Yeah, that time. Just like then, people now complain about "fake outs" and suggest that these tricks imply no balls from the creators.

But my question is: why would anyone complain about a "fake out"? Being duped is awesome for TV and movies! After all, it's hard to be surprised by much of anything anymore, so when a good fake out happens, I gotta say, I appreciate it, personally. In this instance, what would the better alternative have been? They kill Rick because they owed it to us? Because that's just how it's done?

For myself, at least, I'm happy my expectations were subverted for once. It annoyed me that what we all thought was going to happen to Walter White is what happened. I rolled my eyes looking at the light go out of Jack's eyes on LOST. And don't even get me started on Roseanne and The Conners. Hit me from left field, surprise me, don't fall in place exactly how I think you're going to. If you have to fake me out to do that, great. Just do it.

Directly after that bridge explosion, I was more annoyed by the predictability of them killing off a main character who was leaving than I was just upset about a character I like dying. As I implied with my opening remarks here, I'd lost hope in The Walking Dead a long time ago. I'd stopped caring about these characters for the most part. My main source of frustration wasn't due to my heartstrings, but toward the fact that yet another thing I'd seen coming from a mile away was happening. So when it turned out I was wrong, I was excited. I was intrigued.

No, seriously, wtf?!
While there was a time that it was unheard of, these days it's hardly "ballsy" to kill off main characters when they leave a show or when a series ends. In fact, it's bordering on cliche, it's done so often. I had no idea about Rick going on to do Walking Dead movies after this, and genuinely thought he was leaving the show for good when I was surprised by the end of this episode. But, even then, I appreciated them actually doing something different than just killing him. Him surviving added an extra element of mystery and hope (however vain it may be), than just another cheesy, overly dramatic, self-sacrificing death gimmick. So thanks, The Walking Dead. Perhaps there's hope for you, yet.

Oh, and one more thing.

Judith Grimes: Already looking more masculine than Carl
We also jumped ahead in time! I'm unsure of how many years, exactly, but that little girl pictured up above is none other than Judith. So I'm guessing about 9 or so years.

With Ricks whole situation, the possibility of a reunion with everyone who thinks he's dead, the fear of there being no reunion at all, and the entire time jump, things actually look to be going in a very exciting direction for once.

If you'd have asked me just a week or two ago, I'd have said — with zero hesitation — this show was dead (the pun is incidental) and has been in those death throes for a very, very long time. And while that may still be true (time will tell), I actually have hope for it after tonight. And, for the first time in a long time, I'm genuinely curious to find out what happens next.