The Walking Dead season 11 finds a way to remind viewers that the Rick Grimes movies are still happening, even if it feels as if little to no progress is being made. Currently airing on AMC (with episodes premiering a week earlier on AMC+), season 11 is the final season of The Walking Dead and will wrap up its decade-long story in 2022. The universe is continuing, though, as AMC has ordered multiple spinoff shows in addition to the Rick Grimes movies.
Ever since The Walking Dead season 9 episode that saw Rick “die” in a bridge explosion, audiences have been anxious to learn any news of where he’s been and what he’s done. In season 10, Michonne discovers just that – evidence of Rick not only being alive, but also some of the locations he’s been since his disappearance. With this knowledge, she sets off in search of Rick, marking Michonne’s own departure from The Walking Dead. Since then, it’s been announced Danai Gurira will return alongside Andrew Lincoln’s Rick in the movies, though this was one of the last significant updates given about the movies. As the original TV show is winding down and the Rick Grimes movies have yet to film, it’s looking all the more likely these movies will debut after The Walking Dead ends. Still, that doesn’t mean they won’t happen at all, as season 11 again reminds viewers.
In The Walking Dead season 11, episode 3 “Hunted,” a few scenes take place back in Alexandria with the growing group of children who live there: Judth, RJ, Gracie, and Herschel. While playing a card game, the kids discuss the frequent absences of their parents and how they always promise to return. And for the most part, these children’s parents have always returned, albeit with a few exceptions. Herschel’s father, Glenn, is truly gone, as is Judith’s birth mother, Lori, and Gracie never actually knew her real parents. But as of the more recent Walking Dead seasons, their parents have kept their promises. So when Judith says, “My momma always comes back,” she’s right. On top of that, viewers know she’s right because Michonne will be back in the movies with Rick. In a way, Judith is not only reassuring herself but reminding the audience that these movies are still happening.
Progress on The Walking Dead movies has been slow going, having been delayed not only by the pandemic but from a desire to get it right. These movies are intended to be a cinematic experience, with the plan being for them to first screen in theaters rather than on AMC. This means a larger production and more money to retain the level of quality viewers have come to expect from The Walking Dead. Additionally, the story needs to necessitate the move to the big screen and not just come across like three regular episodes strung together. When combined with the restrictions currently placed on filming due to the pandemic, it’s understandable why AMC isn’t in a rush to start production on the Rick Grimes movies.
The hope is the movies will be worth the wait, but the longer that wait becomes, the higher the expectations are. In which case, there’s a chance Rick and Michonne could actually return to The Walking Dead before the first film premieres. With season 11 being an extended farewell to the long-running show, there’s ample opportunity for them to return just in time to close out the series. In fact, as the first Walking Dead movie is expected to cover the events directly after Rick is lifted away in the helicopter, there are years of time for the movies to catch up on. This could mean the first Rick Grimes movie is more of a flashback, filling in backstory after he and Michonne have already returned to the group for the series finale. Were this to happen, it would help to lessen the increasingly high expectations for the movies and end the show in a way that includes some of its most beloved characters.
Still, even if Rick and Michonne first return to The Walking Dead in a last-minute season 11 surprise, the movies are happening. There are answers only the movies have the time to answer, like where Rick went in the helicopter and how Michonne eventually finds him. Viewers know Judith is right about them coming back, and it’s only in the movies that The Walking Dead will reveal how.