The Walking Dead showrunner Scott Gimple has shot down a popular fan theory concerning the show's Old Man Rick tease. The appearance of Rick Grimes, significantly aged and apparently injured, in a season 8 trailer has led to loads of speculation about where the character and the show may be headed.
The most popular theory holds that Old Man Rick is part of a flash-forward that is setting the audience up for a major time-jump like the one executed in the comic books after the conclusion of the all-out war against Negan. Another somewhat wilder theory says that "Old Man Rick" is actually Rick from the beginning of the series waking up in the hospital from his coma, potentially making everything that happened in the show from Season 1 onwards just an elaborate dream.
Showrunner Scott Gimple isn't giving much away about what Old Man Rick signifies and where the story will go down the road, but he has at least now gone on record to shoot down the "it was all just a dream" theory. Gimple told EW:
“I can say that that is not him waking up from the coma in the hospital. Some people thought that, and it’s not that.”
No rational person believed Scott Gimple, Robert Kirkman and company would really pull a Patrick Duffy Dallas twist and throw out seven seasons worth of story, but nevertheless it's good to have official confirmation that we're not about to witness one of the worst developments in major television history. The Walking Dead has done lots of questionable things over the years but executing a Roseanne season 9 plank-walk would have taken the cake.
This still leaves open several avenues of speculation about Old Man Rick, the big one being that the show is preparing to leap forward in time perhaps as much as a decade. Andrew Lincoln recently gave his own thoughts about Old Man Rick and said he was "shocked" to learn about the development, but did find it to be a "great storytelling device." If it is a storytelling device, the writers could be framing the first half of the season with flash-forwards in preparation for a full time-jump later on. Scott Gimple himself has said that Old Man Rick will show up in the season 8 premiere but that the full story won't be explained until much later.
We may not know exactly what Old Man Rick is all about, but there are a few things we do know already about The Walking Dead season 8. We know Carol will be in full-on destruction mode after reuniting with Daryl - and we know Maggie's baby won't be coming. Negan and the Saviors are headed into all-out war with Rick, the Alexandrians and the Kingdom, and we can expect lots of zombie-related mayhem along the way.
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