When I woke up this morning, I had a strange thought in my head, and it was this: What if Rick Grimes never woke up from his coma in The Walking Dead pilot and the entire series is a dream? I was like, “OH MY GOD, I’ve broken it open! I’ve solved The Walking Dead.” Then I rubbed the crust out of my eyes, had a cup of coffee, and realized how incredibly maddening and stupid an ending that would be. If you think the zombie apocalypse is bad, imagine what The Walking Dead viewers would do if, after 12 seasons of the series, Kirkman ended it on that note? Viewers would strip the skin off his bones and wrap it around his face and suffocate him to death with his own skin.
Turns out, however, that my “epiphany” wasn’t really all that novel. A quick Google search reveals that this has been a popular theory on chat boards for years. In fact, earlier this year, a commenter here, Thornus even posited the theory:
I’m waiting for the comic to end by it being Rick’s dying dream while in a coma after getting shot with Lori, Carl, and Shane by his bed crying as the heart beat monitor flatlines after the plugs are pulled
Elsewhere, on the Comic Vine boards, someone posited this ending to the series:
Imagine this, Rick Grimes never woke up from the coma and he’s in deep sleep. He’s imagining all this, he dreamt of the zombies and none of it really happen. He only dreamed of zombies because he loved reading stories about them.
In the last issue of walking dead, everybody [from] Rick’s team dies from the zombies and they’re trying to get him next. He screams really loud and than we have a scene with Lori in the hospital talking with the doctor. Lori asks,”Is he ever gonna wake up from the coma?”
“Probably not, he may stay like this for the rest of his life. For some reason, he keeps on [whispering under his] breath, what could he mean? How’s your son Ms. Grimes?”
“He’s doing fine. He recently graduated High School. He’s in college now.”
“Maybe it’s time to pull the plug Ms.Grimes?”
“sigh…Let’s give him more time.”
It’s also a theory that’s been posited on the Walking Dead forums here and here and on AMC here and this crazy person on YouTube has posited the theory and he has some sketchy evidence to “prove it.” Over on Reddit, it came up when people were theorizing how Rick could’ve survived in a coma for 46 days in the hospital without water.
It was, unbeknownst to me, a popular theory, and while it’s bullsh*t, I do like some of the suggestions. For instance, some have suggested that Hershel is Rick’s doctor. Maybe Maggie is a nurse. A lot of the characters could be medical professionals, friends, and relatives that come in and out of Rick’s room. Maybe that period in which Rick was crazy and talking to zombie Lori was actually Rick talking to real-life Lori through his coma haze. Maybe he actually woke up briefly and talked on the phone! Maybe Shane and Lori did have an affair in “real life” and Lori eventually left him for Shane. Maybe Carl is the only family member he has left who still has faith that he’ll survive. Maybe Gabriel is there to pray for Rick?