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the walking dead rick grimes
Gene Page/AMC
You can’t accuse AMC of not shooting its shot.
FINESSED

“The Walking Dead” just can’t quit itself

By Adam Epstein

After months of hyping “the final episodes of Rick Grimes,” AMC aired the last Walking Dead episode with its star last night (Nov. 4), closing the chapter on the zombie drama’s main character. But if we know anything about this TV show, it’s that there’s always another chapter. Always.

In the episode, Grimes, a former sheriff leading a group of survivors in the zombie apocalypse, seemingly blows himself up on a bridge, only to miraculously survive and be whisked away on a rescue helicopter to an uncertain fate. So that’s the last we’ll see of the character, right?

Absolutely wrong! Minutes after the episode ended, The Walking Dead chief content officer (that’s his real title) Scott M. Gimple divulged in a series of interviews that Grimes will be getting his own film trilogy.

“The story of Rick will go on in films,” Gimple told the Hollywood Reporter. “Right now, we’re working on three but there’s flexibility in that…Over the next several years, we’re going to be doing specials, new series are quite a possibility, high-quality digital content and then some content that defies description at the moment.”

What’s that now?

AMC had been marketing Grimes’ end since the start of the show’s ninth season in October. (You may have seen the commercials.) The network didn’t explicitly promise that the character would die. But the implication was that this was going to be a definitive end for the character—you’d better tune in if you want to see how this guy’s story ends.

Except it’s not ending, not even close. Grimes’ end, and the long lead-up to that end, was just a promotion for another Walking Dead product. The AMC series will plod on without Grimes, and Grimes will march merrily to Hollywood without the series that birthed him, neither dead nor undead. He’s still alive, and now he’s a movie star, baby.

(Prior to landing the lead role in this juggernaut of a zombie show, Andrew Lincoln, the British actor who plays Grimes, was most famous for his iconic scene in the 2003 rom-com Love Actually, in which he declares his love to his best friend’s wife with a series of handwritten signs—which he later admitted was a little creepy.)

In retrospect, Walking Dead fans should have seen this coming. It’s not the first time the series has played with viewers’ expectations and emotions. The series strongly implied a beloved character would die in the sixth season finale, and someone did die, but viewers weren’t shown who until the following season premiere, months later. Fans were rightfully vexed; a number of TV critics vowed to stop reviewing the show altogether.

Ratings for both The Walking Dead and its spin-off show Fear the Walking Dead, which launched in 2015, have been trending down for years, but that hasn’t slowed the zombie franchise’s expansion. (The Walking Dead was still the highest-rated American cable drama on TV last year, a distinction its maintained for much of its nine-year run.) In fact, it’s done the opposite. Gimple said the show could go on for 20 years or more. AMC executives have an even rosier outlook. But if the zombie show keeps pulling cynical stunts like this one, there may not be any viewers left on earth to care.