- Warning: There are spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead” series finale.
- Rick and Michonne’s surprise return to “TWD” resulted in the original ending of the show getting cut.
- Two individuals familiar with the series confirmed the original series’ ending with Insider.
“The Walking Dead” ended its 11-season run with the return of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) teasing their spin-off series.
If the duo didn’t appear in a surprise coda, which was filmed in August, months after the series wrapped, viewers would’ve seen a very different ending to “TWD” that paid homage to both Robert Kirkman’s comic series and the show’s pilot from 2010.
During an interview with finale director and executive producer Greg Nicotero, he shared that the insertion of the Rick and Michonne scene resulted in a cut scene from the finale.
“There was a scene that we had shot, but when it was decided to put the coda in we felt like it would conflict with the Rick and Michonne bit. So we took it out,” Nicotero told Insider over Zoom.
An individual close to the series later told Insider the “cut scene” was actually the finale’s original ending, which would’ve jumped forward in time. A second individual familiar with the series, who asked to remain anonymous, but whose identity is known to Insider, corroborated the below.
Here’s how the original ending of “The Walking Dead” was described to us:
After Daryl rode off, we cut forward to the Freedom Parkway, outside Atlanta — where the iconic shot of Rick rode down from the pilot. See an ethanol-modified van, with a young woman and man in the front seats (in their twenties). And through the scene, we come to realize it’s adult RJ and Judith. Other adult versions of the kids are in the back — Coco, Gracie, etc. They’re out there, looking to escort any survivors back to their communities. Continuing the legacy of their parents. As RJ speaks over the radio, he finishes with: “If you can hear me, answer back. This is Rick Grimes.” (Which, of course, is his name — and the line Rick said in the pilot.) Then we end with the voice of a survivor answering back: “…Hello?”
One individual told Insider they thought the original ending brought things full circle, saying, while “it’s not a ‘universe’” or a “‘world building’” ending, they believed “it was fitting, emotionally.”
A second individual told us they believe the original ending “was canned” because it may not have made sense to “end the show on ‘new versions’ of characters we don’t really know.”
A nostalgic end, but probably not the right one
The small narrations from Judith opening the past seven episodes were supposed to serve as a setup for the original finale.
Though the original ending would’ve been a homage to the comic jumping forward 25 years at the very end and the show’s roots, it would’ve lacked the emotional connection to some of the other kids who the show never really spent time fleshing out, even if they are the next generation.
An ending with new actors probably didn’t feel as strong as one that featured beloved franchise favorites that fans have been clamoring to see. Additionally, to the network, a flash-forward with a grown Judith and R.J. may have felt like it limited any potential future stories in “TWD” universe with those characters.
Instead, the show only jumps forward a year and shows everyone peacefully living at one of three communities. It then cuts to Rick and Michonne’s extended scene that basically plays as a giant spin-off ad. It could’ve ended there, but then it briefly cuts once more back to Judith and R.J. in the present.
The original ending and coda never would’ve worked together because they pulled viewers in two different directions.
AMC went with the safer ending that would get people to tune in even if they weren’t watching live just to see a glimpse of Lincoln and Gurira.
Neither of these two endings are completely satisfying.
One of the best ending theories over the years came from Lincoln who suggested it should end with Rick getting bit and learning he’s been the cure all along.
But ever since Rick left the series in 2018, many fans have wanted to see Rick and Michonne reunite with everyone at the Commonwealth or Alexandria by the episode’s end. The Rick and Michonne spin-off could’ve easily been a limited series where the couple shared how they arrived back home.
Maybe we’ll eventually see them reunite with everyone at one of those communities in the spin-off.
You can read more on how Rick and Michonne’s finale cameo came together here.