Warning: MAJOR SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 9, episode 4 ahead!
Tonight's episode of The Walking Dead may have revealed how Andrew Lincoln will exit the show, ending on a scene that finds Rick Grimes in a very painful and potentially deadly situation. We've known for some time that Rick's tenure on the AMC series was coming to close, but the manner in which he'll exit has remained a mystery. Now, however, we may just have seen how it is Rick dies.
When the news of Lincoln's departure broke earlier this year, it was huge surprise. After all, Rick is the show's undisputed lead character and audiences have been following him since The Walking Dead's very first episode. It's difficult to even imagine what The Walking Dead could be like without Rick, and in the comics - which are much further along in the story - Rick is still alive and well. Not that the TV series hasn't deviated from the comics in the past (they actually do it quite a bit), but even Carl's death last season didn't carry with it the same significance as Rick's inevitably will.
"The Obliged" is Rick's second-to-last episode, so it only makes sense that it would in some way hint at the character's exit. And if the final minutes of tonight's episode are any indication, the end for Rick begins just as he and Daryl escape the incredibly large hole they fell into earlier in the episode. Once topside, Rick and Daryl are immediately surrounded by a herd of walkers. Daryl wants to run, but Rick - fearing that the herd will destroy the nearby work camp - decides he will lead the herd away before doubling back. And after the timely arrival of a (rather convenient and seemingly significant) bright, white steed, Rick sets out to do just that.
However, Rick's plan doesn't go smoothly at all. As he leads the herd away from the camp, he's flanked by yet another herd of walkers who spook his horse. Unable to hold on and stay upright, Rick falls off and lands on a concrete block. The hard landing is enough leave Rick in a daze, but it's the steel rebar puncturing his side that's sure to leave one hell of a mark - if not be the eventual cause of his death. Making the situation all the more deadly and dangerous are the many, many walkers slowly closing in while Rick is so gravely injured. Could this be the end of the beloved, hatchet-wielding sheriff!?
Seeing as we've known Rick's time was just about up, this situation sure seems a likely cause for his demise. And yet, it also seems highly unlikely that The Walking Dead will return next week and reveal that Rick was eaten while stuck on that block. Instead, Rick's final moments are sure to be a drawn out affair not so unlike Carl's death last season. Already, several former actors are set to return for Rick's final episode, including Jon Bernthal (Shane), Scott Wilson (Herschel), and Sonequa Martin-Green (Sasha). Just how these now-deceased characters will be implemented in Rick's final story is unknown, but speculation suggests Rick will experience a series of hallucinatory visions as he lay dying that will feature characters both alive and gone.
If that's the case, expect The Walking Dead's next episode to be a highly emotional one as the series not only says goodbye to its star but includes a sort of reunion of departed characters (and especially in light of the actor, Scott Wilson's recent passing). Suffice to say, whatever comes next on The Walking Dead, next week's episode will be one not to miss.
The Walking Dead season 9 continues next Sunday, November 4th at 9:00pm/8c on AMC.