Warning! MAJOR SPOILERS ahead for The Walking Dead #192.
The Walking Dead comics have gone and done the unthinkable - they've killed off Rick Grimes. But how is it that the seemingly invincible Rick Grimes can die?
AMC's The Walking Dead season 9 did something similar, removing Rick from the series in such a way that all the characters believe he's dead even though he's not. On television, Rick is last seen being taken away in a helicopter for some unknown destination, but he's set to return in three TV movies that will explore what's happened to him since. The Walking Dead comics, however, aren't interested in simply sidelining Rick and instead choose to remove him from the series permanently.
At the very end of The Walking Dead #191, Rick is shot by Sebastian Milton, the son of The Commonwealth's leader, Pamela. He doesn't die, not yet anyway, but the issue's cliffhanger ending had many a fan wondering if this really was the end for Rick. As it turns out, it is the end - and an end which creator Robert Kirkman reveals he's been planning for a long time, disputing claims in the issue's letters column that Rick's death in the comics is in any way a response to Rick's not-death on the show. Kirkman has always said that anyone can die in The Walking Dead comics, and in issue #192, that time has come for Rick Grimes.
Rick Is Shot & Killed By The Commonwealth Leader’s Son
The Walking Dead #192 opens exactly where issue #191 leaves off - Sebastian Milton pointing a gun at Rick, one shot already in his chest. Realizing what he's done, Sebastian panics and fires three more times, shooting Rick dead. It's a brutal opening to an issue, but how did nearly 200 issues of comics come to this? How does some punk kid kill Rick Grimes? A man who's not only survived for 190+ issues of The Walking Dead, but made sure that a lot of people survived that much or longer.
Rick's death, sadly, is a result of the world he's been building, stemming from his recent interceding in the affairs of another community - The Commonwealth. This community is much larger and more advanced than Alexandria or Hilltop, but they've only managed this thanks to their heavily stratified society of haves and have-nots. Unsurprisingly, The Commonwealth's inequality leads to unrest - something that was already brewing before Rick and his people came there, but is only exacerbated by Rick's galvanizing presence. However, rather than stoking the fires of revolution, Rick desperately tries to keep the peace between Governor Pamela Milton and her rebelling citizenry.
In the end, Rick stops a full-blown war from breaking out and gives a rallying speech. He implores them all to seek a better future, one that learns from the mistakes of the past and doesn't allow for only a select few to rule over the many. Rick tells them that he used to believe savagery was the only to way to survive in this world, but that he has since come to believe there's a better, more civilized way. And in an inversion of an earlier speech, Rick yells to the gathered crowd - "We are NOT the Walking Dead!" - putting a positive spin on what was previously his bleak outlook. Rick's speech inspires The Commonwealth just as he has inspired countless others before, and soon, change is inevitable.
For the vast majority in The Commonwealth, these are good changes, with plans for elections giving them a say in how their community is run. But for those who were in power, the proposed changes are a shock. For Sebastian, the governor's 20-something entitled jerk of a son, he can't cope with idea that his family won't be in charge anymore and he blames Rick for all of it. He lashes out and kills Rick in his anger without even thinking through the consequences. Rick's death is therefore a tragic one, not coming at the hands of some terrible villain or the undead, but rather as result of the backlash to the better world he envisions for the future.
Rick Becomes A Zombie - And Is Put Down By Carl
The tragedy of Rick's death in The Walking Dead #192 doesn't end there, however. By the time his body is discovered by Carl the next morning, he's already turned. Faced with a zombie-version of his father, Carl barely flinches as he immediately grabs his gun and shoots. It's only once Rick is dead again that Carl can even register what's happened, collapsing to the floor in his grief. Rick's death is upsetting, obviously, but having it be Carl who must then put down his undead father is a gut punch, reminding us how cruel this world still remains.
And yet, there is a glimmer of hope in Carl's reaction to his father's murder. When Carl is told that is was Sebastian who killed his father, he doesn't get angry and demand revenge. Instead, he's satisfied that Sebastian has been locked up and will remain so for the foreseeable future. Carl recognizes that imprisoning Sebastian is what Rick would have wanted, saying it's a more civilized punishment. It's also, Carl notes, a fate worse than death because now Sebastian must reflect on what he's done, and Carl can visit him anytime he likes to see how miserable he is. Before he leaves, though, Carl does warn Sebastian that if he ever escapes, he will hunt him down and hurt him before returning him to his cell, using a little of that intimidation his father also taught him.
In the aftermath of Rick's death, it isn't exactly clear what happens next. The immediate future sees Carl leading a massive funeral procession made up of characters both new and old back to Alexandria where Rick will be buried. Carl does actually break down during the journey, confessing to Michonne that he can't go on without his father. But this couldn't be further from the actual truth. Rick has more than prepared his son for a life without him, as evidenced by just how well Carl is coping in the wake of his father's death. That doesn't make Rick's death any less sad or Carl's grief any less painful, but it does mean there's hope for the future of The Walking Dead. A future that only exists thanks to Rick Grimes.