The Walking Dead's Time Jump Has Reinvigorated The Show
The Walking Dead has shot so far into the future that it's basically had a fresh start. With the memory of Rick still there, characters have been able to move on in ways they think best honors him. The Walking Dead has been able to give more screentime and development to a whole host of survivors, but also change up its tone and format.
This was the point of Season 9, which has new showrunner Angela Kang, but until Rick's "death" it was still stuck with one foot in the past. This decision has forced The Walking Dead into making some serious changes and having to freshen things up, in a way it hasn't been pushed to for far too long.
What's Rick's fake-out death has done - and Jesus' death is another similar example of this - is make The Walking Dead unpredictable again. That's one of the strengths it was built on, but it's been a predictable snoozefest since the Season 7 premiere. Thanks to the time jump, which in turn has led to The Whisperers, there's a sense of danger and dread. The Whisperers themselves represent the most exciting villain the series has had in years. Rick and Jesus were both interesting characters who might've had more to offer, but it's also clear The Walking Dead has finally been given the major shake-up its long been in desperate need of.
Rick's "Death" Allowed The Walking Dead To Move Forward
Rick's exit may not have been quite the event it should have, but its combined twists have done one thing: allowed The Walking Dead to move forwards. That's not to say The Walking Dead is better without Rick, but once Lincoln made up his mind, the writers and producers were forced with the difficult challenge of how to continue without the character who had been the show for so long.
If he had died for real, then they would've needed to explore the fallout from that and the immediate aftermath. We'd need to see the sense of loss, the sadness, the grief, and a funeral. Rick's shadow would've hung over everything. If he'd had a more open exit that the characters knew about, then again, the show could just continue on its old timeline. And again, the specter of Rick Grimes would be looming.
By having audiences know he's alive, but all of the characters (sans Anne) thinking he is dead, that meant they could do the six-year time jump. After all, there's no need to watch characters go through so much grieving for a hero we know is still alive. And it's that time jump that has really allowed The Walking Dead to move on and start again.
Judith Grimes (Star Wars: The Force Awakens' Cailey Fleming) is a great example of this: she was far too young to have any sort of impact before the time skip, but is now a genuinely fascinating character. She's someone who wants to honor her father's legacy, and has an inherent goodness to her, while showing what's it's like to grow up as someone born in the midst of an apocalypse.
So many other characters have benefited too, with the time jump - and the extra screen time - allowing them to be more fleshed out. Daryl and Carol are back to being two of the show's most interesting survivors, and the likes of Ezekiel and Rosita, who were beginning to outstay their welcome, feel like important parts of the series again. It's given itself a clean break from Rick Grimes, which means it can be defined as a whole new era, rather than existing simply in the shadow of his exit. For the first time in a long time, The Walking Dead is moving forward with a genuine sense of purpose, rather than simply stumbling around, lost in the woods.