As we near the end of Andrew Lincoln's tenure as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, it's understandable that emotions are running high among the show's fans. There's sadness, anger, maybe even some confusion, but after Sunday night's episode all of those emotions were redirected. Suddenly those feelings weren't aimed at Rick or Lincoln or another of the human characters, but at a horse.
*Spoiler Warning: There are spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9, Episode 4, "The Obliged," below.**
Sunday's episode, "The Obliged," ended on a cliffhanger after Rick found himself in a rather precarious situation. Caught between two herds of walkers, his horse was spooked, and he couldn't calm the animal down fast enough. The horse threw Rick, he landed in a pile of debris, and was impaled on a piece of rebar. That's where it ends, with Rick gravely wounded with just one more episode remaining in Lincoln's run as the character.
Needless to say, fans were shaken, angry, and even laughing over the implication that after all he's been through, a horse would be the thing that finally brings Rick down.
Of course, many fans were also quick to point out that it's probably no accident that the writers happened upon a horse as the catalyst for Rick's death. There's a bit of symbolic mirroring happening there that goes all the way back to Season 1, when Rick rode a horse into Atlanta and got trapped within a walker herd. He ended up sacrificing that poor animal to distract the walkers, so maybe this is some kind of karmic justice from a vengeful horse god, or just a personal vendetta.
In fact, it didn't take long after the episode aired for a whole Reddit thread to spring up, built around the possibility that the real story of Rick's demise is a horse who found out a relative of his was killed by some guy in Atlanta, and he's been hunting for the killer ever since.
However the incident with the horse was put together, the episode ends with Rick in very bad shape, and the preview for next week's episode is full of apparent hallucinations he's having while he bleeds out. However it ends, we've got precious few moments left with Rick Grimes, and that horse drove that point home for us all Sunday night.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. EST on AMC.