‘The Walking Dead’: What does mid-season premiere’s head-scratching final scene mean for Rick?

The Walking Dead” can be cruel to its loyal fans. After watching Carl (Chandler Riggs) succumb to the zombie virus and take his own life, viewers barely had time to wipe their tears dry before the show hit them with a shocking coda.

In the final moments of the show, none other than Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) appears in Carl’s idyllic vision of Alexandria at peace time. The villain is gardening and greeting Judith as if he’s one of the gang. Then a scene more shocking and confusing takes place. Rick (Andrew Lincoln) sits beneath a tree with stained glass windows hanging from its boughs. The shot is serene except for the fact the Rick is crying, his hand drenched in blood, and it looks like he has a wound on his stomach. So, what on earth does this all mean?

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The final shot is almost certainly the same setting from the premiere which saw a distraught Rick saying, “My mercy prevails over my wrath.” If the heaven-like visions with Negan are just Carl’s ideal, the more realistically shot tree scene appears to be a glimpse into the very real near future. The phrase Rick mutters can be found in Koran and it’s also spoken by another character in the Season 8 premiere “Mercy.” When Siddiq (Avi Nash) begs for help from Carl, he mentions, “I’ve been through things too, my Mom, she also said that may my mercy prevail over my wrath.” So future Rick likely picked up this mantra from Siddiq.

Since Carl’s dying wish was for his Dad to stop fighting and find a path towards peace, it may be possible that Rick finds a way to end the war without murdering all of The Saviors. In that case, this scene could take place directly after Rick’s final confrontation with Negan, and the sheriff would allow his nemesis to live. But will Rick actually be able to show mercy after losing so many allies to Negan’s brutality?

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It would seem the confrontation may not go well for our hero, as evidenced by the blood and possible wounds. His bloody hand will surely spark fan speculation that the TV series will finally follow “The Walking Dead” comics and see Rick lose his hand. The graphic novel version of Rick lost his hand ages ago thanks to a confrontation with The Governor, but the special effects involved in creating it for a television show were always deemed to complicated and expensive to execute. But since the series has teased fans with hand injuries before and Andrew Lincoln on the record as a fan of the idea, perhaps showrunners have finally figured out a cost-effective method of filming a one-handed Rick.

Will this season’s war end with Negan on Team Alexandria and Rick down an appendage? Whatever the result, it’s clear that despite the horrors of losing his friends and son, there is still suffering in store for Rick.

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