Warning: The following contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 11 premiere.
As The Walking Dead winds down to a close in its final season, it’s becoming clear that the series needs to bring Rick Grimes back in season 11. While the franchise originally planned on bringing the sheriff back for his own movie trilogy, very little progress has been made on the movie series since they were announced in 2018. The idea of a movie trilogy was attractive, but with the series wrapping up, it’s too late for the Rick Grimes movies; Rick needs to be brought back to the series before its conclusion.
Now in its final season, The Walking Dead is taking on its last big bad — the Commonwealth, an advanced community with a massive population. Rick Grimes has a very integral part of his comic storyline in the Commonwealth; it’s where his character dies in the comics, after all. Andrew Lincoln’s desire to step back from filming in 2018 sent Rick on a very different storyline, putting him at the mercy of the Civic Republic Military. The movie trilogy intends to follow Rick on his encounter with the CRM; and while that story could prove interesting, it would ultimately be a waste of Rick Grime’s character. With 24 episodes reaching well into 2022, there are plenty of opportunities to bring Rick Grimes into The Walking Dead season 11.
Fans have been waiting a long time for any word of Rick’s fate. Despite a few hints toward him still being alive in season 10, audiences haven’t heard any updates on Rick’s story since 2018. Rick has been an integral part of the storyline since episode 1; having him missing from the final season would be a disservice to both the show and his character. It’s unlikely the movies would be released before the series ends since the first movie has yet to even start filming, meaning Rick’s conclusion would have no effect on the storyline. For a character who was so important to the series, he deserves more than a spin-off ending that could be considered optional viewing. Bringing Rick back would also increase audience interest in the final season.
Rick’s death also carried great meaning in the comics. Dying at the hands of Sebastian Milton, the Commonwealth leader Pamela Milton’s son, Rick’s death was a testament to confirm he’d finished his job. Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead comic creator, explained in an interview with Comicbook.com that Rick was only able to die at Sebastian’s hand because he’d “fixed the world to the point where he was so safe that he could be killed by the weakest character in the book,” and that it was a testament to the good job he’d done. With his current ending, Rick may never be able to see the new world he worked so hard to build for those he loves. A reunion with his daughter Judith — and getting to see his son RJ for the first time — would also be a beautifully touching moment to add to the final season.
In the comics, the Commonwealth runs on a class system, making it unlike any adversary the group has encountered before. There is a clear parallel between Rick and the Commonwealth’s questioning processes, and having Rick’s diplomatic abilities would be a powerful weapon against a politically-minded group like the Commonwealth. There are other capable leaders left in the group, but with Maggie currently missing and Michonne on the search for Rick, those who would be able to keep up with Pamela Milton are quickly dwindling. Returning Rick to The Walking Dead would give our survivors a better chance at defeating the Commonwealth.