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Bringing back Rick & Michonne was always part of the plan for 'The Walking Dead' series finale
"We're the ones who live."
Fans of The Walking Dead rejoiced last night when the series finale brought back a pair of fan favorite characters — Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) — for a brief epilogue sequence. With the duo taking center stage in their very own spinoff on AMC+ next year, it only made sense to set the stage for what TWD brand manager Scott M. Gimple has described as "an epic and insane love story." Speaking with Entertainment Weekly about the big reveal, outgoing showrunner and executive producer Angela Kang admitted that she wanted to incorporate both characters into the Season 11 swan song from the very start.
"From the first pitch I did for the ending of the series, I said to the network and the producers, 'Hey, I really feel in my heart of hearts that the show is not going to feel totally complete unless we have Rick and Michonne back. I know that there are all these universe implications where I don't have total control. But I'm putting it out there that this is the ideal version,'" she explained.
Turning this idea into a reality, however, took some finagling, given the fact that "there were all these moving pieces in the universe," Kang added. During a conversation with Insider, she stated that one of those "pieces" was the now-defunct Rick Grimes film trilogy. "I had a different wish for what we could see, but that's so dependent on universe things and, at that time, the movie was still possibly being made and so it was complicated and everybody's like, 'Yep. We hear you. That's cool. We don't know if it's gonna happen.'"
Lincoln and Gurira didn't come aboard until "very late in the game," which meant their scenes had to be filmed after production on Season 11 had already wrapped. As Gimple told EW, the Rick and Michonne bits were shot with "a smaller crew" on a condensed timeline. "We knew pretty much every shot. This wasn't tons of footage to go through," he said. "We didn't have that kind of time. And yeah, we poured over what was said and what was shot and certainly the relationship to stories in the future, but luckily, we knew a lot of where this was going."
In terms of the coda itself, the epilogue flits between the two lovers as they somberly reflect on the people they've either lost or left behind over the years. Michonne rides across the zombie-infested wasteland, looking for her man, while Rick finds himself captured by the enigmatic Civic Republic Military. Kang confirmed to Insider that the dual narratives take place in separate timelines. The moment of Rick surrounding to the CRM, for example, actually unfolds before Michonne travels to Bloodsworth Island in Season 10.
"To finish the story of The Walking Dead, we needed Rick and Michonne," Gimple continued during his interview with EW. "And to show Rick and Michonne, we had to show them in circumstances that they're in. And it really was like, no matter where these characters are, the situations they're in, whether they're living or dead, they're forever connected by their time with each other. That they are part of a family that is unbreakable. And that is in some ways one long life, which is something thematically we have invoked throughout the series and in the even earlier moments of this finale. And that's what we started with."
When asked about why Rick suddenly smiles in the face of a CRM helicopter looking to capture him and take him to God knows where, Gimple answered: "Rick is not yet broken, Rick is defiant. And Michonne is defiant. These people draw strength from this continuum of love that they have created out of nothing, or even out of tragedy and loss."
Seasons 1-10 of The Walking Dead are currently streaming on Netflix. The jumbo-sized final season can be found on AMC+.
If you're looking to satisfy your zombie craving immediately, head over to Peacock and check out the movie that kickstarted the entire genre: George A. Romero's Night of the Living Dead. Or check out the SYFY original series, Day of the Dead.