Before you dismiss this theory out of hand, hear me out. Those who have seen the season premiere of The Walking Dead know that there are three timelines, or so we assume. We assume there is a time jump with Old Man Rick of 3 to 5 years. That assumption is based on Robert Kirkman’s source material. We know from the graphic novels that a time jump arrives after the All Out War, and the cane that Rick is using in the TV show’s flash-forward is straight out of the comics. In the television flash forward, the jump takes us to what seems like an idyllic day in the future for Rick, Michonne, and Judith.
But what if it isn’t a time jump at all?
I’m not saying there’s a huge chance of this — maybe a 20 percent chance — but it’s possible that the audience is playing right into Scott Gimple’s hands, that we are believing everything that he wants to believe so that he can pull the rug right out from beneath us.
What if, instead of hewing closely to the source material, Scott Gimple takes a hard left turn and kills Rick off?
A friend of mine, who has no knowledge of the source material, had no idea that the Old Man Rick scene was a flash forward. In his mind, the flash-forward was similar to the scene we saw when Glenn and Abraham died: A beautiful moment of what could have been.
It makes some sense. Both scenes are filmed in the same ethereal, gauzy manner. In fact, Tyrese also had visions of his friends and family when he died.
So, there’s clearly a history on The Walking Dead of characters who have comforting visions when they die. So, what if the flash forward is actually Rick’s comforting vision, filmed in the same gauzy ethereal manner as Tyrese and Glenn’s deaths?
Is there any evidence for it? Well, there is the fact that, in the season premiere, Carl duplicates a Rick scene from the pilot, practically shot for shot. That could be a foreshadowing hint, suggesting that Carl will be taking over as leader after Rick’s death. There’s also the fact that Rick tells Maggie that he expects her to take the lead after the All Out War. Rick could be setting up a future in which he is no longer the leader.
There’s also the fact that Kirkman and Gimple having been teasing a future on The Walking Dead without Rick. Kirkman teased that it could even happen as soon as this season.
Andrew Lincoln himself suggested that Rick’ death could be the exact twist that The Walking Dead needs right now.
There’s only so many ways you can bend and stretch this and that. I’m not saying that the show would ever finish, but I certainly think that there’s an opportunity for the show to change at some point, and I think it should.”
For what it’s worth, there’s even an anonymous source speaking to OK Magazine who says that Lincoln wants off the show:
“Andrew Lincoln, who plays deputy Rick Grimes, wants to be zombie feed! His rep denies it, but our sources are reporting that the actor is tired of dragging his wife and two kids from their native England to Georgia where the show shoots, so he is planning his exit.”
If Rick is about to die, it would also change our perception of that third, intermediate timeline — the one after the present timeline but before the flash-forward, when a red-eyed Rick says, “May my mercy prevail over my wrath.” What if that is the scene where Rick ultimately dies? And the “flash forward” is the vision he has as he’s passing? Scott Gimple himself leaves that possibility open, telling THR: It could be a “dream or it could be the flash-forward, or it could be … I’m going to be quiet now!”
In other words, we just don’t know. Kirkman and Gimple could be playing this completely straight, pulling the flash-forward straight out of the comics. Or they could be preparing us to kill off Rick in the biggest fake-out in The Walking Dead history.