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"What Comes After" is the fifth episode of the ninth season of AMC's The Walking Dead. It is the one-hundred and twentieth episode of the series overall. It premiered on November 4, 2018. It was written by Matt Negrete & Scott Gimple and directed by Greg Nicotero.
In a dream state, Rick talks to his past self in the hospital room from when he was in a coma, telling him to "wake up, it's time to go". Suddenly, Rick sees a flock of birds outside transform into helicopters, and then looks down to find his abdomen covered in blood. His past jokingly tells him to wake up.
Back to reality, Rick wakes up, still pinned to the rebar. With walkers closing in, Rick uses his belt to painfully lift himself off of it. He crawls himself back on his horse and barely escapes the herd.
On the horse, Rick tells himself that he needs to keep the horde close to lead them away. He goes in and out of consciousness and briefly dreams up an image of Hershel's farm, the criminals' flipped car and his hospital room. He rides to an old shack and finds a tablecloth he uses as a tourniquet before passing out.
In another dream, Rick rides on horseback into Atlanta and finds Shane in their old police car. Suddenly he's inside and they're back at the field on the day he was shot, eating burgers. Rick tells Shane he's looking for his family, and Shane jokes that it's technically his family and asks if he is taking care of his daughter. Rick jokingly calls him an asshole. Shane compliments him for killing him, biting Joe's throat out, and slaughtering Gareth, but then asks why he let Negan live. He encourages him to find his rage and "get it done".
Rick looks down at the burgers, which are now dust, and apologizes to Shane for what he did to him. Shane forgives him and furiously tells him to wake up, waking Rick back into reality long enough to avoid several walkers entering the shack. He barely escapes out the back and gets back on the horse.
Back in Alexandria, Maggie arrives outside Negan's cell with a crowbar before getting stopped by Michonne. She tells Michonne that Negan should have died under that tree and Michonne asks if this is what Glenn would have wanted. "I don't know what he would want, because I never got to say goodbye", Maggie says. Michonne eventually gives her the keys to his cell and Maggie walks in. Negan chuckles at her as Maggie demands he get on his knees.
Negan taunts Maggie about killing Glenn and begs her to kill him. She opens the cell and slams him against the wall as he begs for death. Maggie yells at Negan, angrily asking him why she should kill him. He sobs and admits he wants to be reunited with his wife, Lucille. She tells him to get back to his cell because he's already worse than dead. Maggie walks outside and Michonne seems pleased she didn't kill Negan. Suddenly, Dianne comes running and tells them about the shootout at the camp.
On the road, Rick clings to life as the herd continue to follow him. He hallucinates again and this time he's back at the farm. Hershel smiles and greets him. Rick embraces him and apologizes for what happened to him and his family, but Hershel reminds him that Maggie is strong. Rick tells him he has to find his family but Hershel tells him he doesn't and just has to wake up.
Rick wakes up before hallucinating again. He's back in the hospital and sees a similar door, this time reading, "
Don't Open, Dead Outside". He walks through it and finds a pile of dead bodies of all his friends, dead and alive. Rick walks among them until he sees Sasha. She tells him none of this is real and it's time for him to wake up. "When you put all of us together, your family, you're not going to find them because they're not lost. And you're not lost," she tells him. Rick wakes up again and is thrown off the horse at the work camp, which has been abandoned as bodies litter the campsite.
Rick uses his gun to shoot the reanimated Norris, Kathy, and another Kingdommer. The noise attracts the herd as it tears through the camp, so he summons the strength to limp away before collapsing near the bridge. Suddenly, Daryl, Maggie, Carol, Ezekiel, and the others rush past him to kill the walkers. Michonne stops and sees Rick's wound. She reminds him she fell in love with him because he's a fighter. After killing the walkers, everyone stops to watch them. Michonne tells Rick how much she loves him and he tells her, "This isn't real." Michonne tells him it is real and kisses him before telling him to wake up and he does, now alone in front of the bridge.
The walkers approach as Rick hobbles away. He makes it across the bridge and turns around hoping to see the walkers fall through, to no avail. A walker makes its way inches away from Rick before getting shot in the head by a crossbow bolt. Rick watches as Daryl, Michonne, Maggie, and the rest arrive nearby.
Maggie and Michonne hatch a plan to divert the walkers but Rick won't allow it. He notices the dynamite on the bridge, takes aim, and says to himself "I found them", before shooting and igniting the dynamite. The bridge ignites and explodes as Michonne and the rest can only watch in horror. Assuming Rick is dead, Michonne screams out, trying to get to him while Maggie and Carol hold her back and comfort her. Daryl weeps and then walks away.
Nearby, the helicopter arrives to pick up Anne and her supposed "A". She pulls out her gun but suddenly spots a wounded Rick on the riverbank, still alive. She quickly radios that she has a "B" but he's strong and needs help immediately. She promises it's not a trick and explains she's just trying to save a friend who once saved her. They agree to her deal and lower the helicopter. Inside, Rick wakes up hooked up to medical equipment and Anne assures him he'll be fine and that "they" will save him. The helicopter flies away into the unknown as the area below time lapses into decrepitude.
Six years later, Magna takes out two walkers before telling her group, who are fighting a herd, to run. Luke stabs a walker as Connie is bashing a walker's head in with a rock. Kelly beats and kills a walker using a thick branch. As Connie gets up, another walker approaches her from behind, she doesn't hear it coming, due to her deafness and Yumiko tackles and kills it. She turns and kills another, which falls onto her, causing her to hit her head on a rock that's laying on the ground. Magna comes running as her and the others help Yumiko up, getting ready to take on the herd. They quickly get overwhelmed but are saved when the walkers around them get shot. Magna and her group escape into the woods to find a young girl who asks for their names. They introduce themselves and ask what her name is. The girl picks up her hat and introduces herself as Judith Grimes.
Special Guest Stars
- Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh (Dream)
- Sonequa Martin-Green as Sasha Williams (Dream)
- Scott Wilson as Hershel Greene (Dream)
- Angel Theory as Kelly
- Briana Venskus as Beatrice
- Aaron Farb as Norris
- Chloe Garcia-Frizzi as Judith Grimes
- Norris (Zombified)
- Kathy (Zombified)
- 1 unnamed Kingdom resident (Zombified)
- At least 7 unnamed Saviors (Confirmed Fate)
- First appearance of Magna.
- First appearance of Yumiko.
- First appearance of Connie.
- First appearance of Kelly.
- First appearance of Luke.
- Last appearance of the Civic Republic Military.
- Last appearance of the Militia.
- Last appearance of Rick Grimes. (Unknown)
- Last appearance of Anne. (Unknown)
- Last appearance of Norris. (Zombified)
- Last appearance of Kathy. (Zombified)
- Last appearance of Morgan Jones. (Voice Only)
- Last appearance of Lori Grimes. (Voice Only)
- Last appearance of Shane Walsh. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Hershel Greene. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Beth Greene. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Dale Horvath. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Tyreese Williams. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Theodore Douglas. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Noah. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Amy. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Jimmy. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Oscar. (Dream)
- Last appearance of Tobin. (Dream)
- Last appearance of the Greene Family Farm. (Dream)
- Judith's saving Magna's group from the walkers is a slight nod to the events of "Made to Suffer", when her brother Carl saved Tyreese's group from the walkers after hearing Donna's screams.
- Approximately 100 extras and cast members were brought in for the massive corpse pile scene when Rick hallucinates everyone dead. However, production used CGI to manipulate the scene to depict hundreds of bodies. Additionally, body doubles were used to portray characters of past seasons including T-Dog, Beth Greene, and Tobin, among others.
- The director of the episode, Greg Nicotero, is one of the extras.
- This episode marks Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Jason Douglas' 25th appearance on the TV Series.
- This episode marks the departure of the most main characters (Rick, Maggie and Anne).
- With Andrew Lincoln's departure, there are no series regular actor from Season 1 left on the show.
- This is the seventh episode to share the same title of a Comic Series volume, after "Days Gone Bye", "Made to Suffer", "This Sorrowful Life", "Too Far Gone", "No Way Out" and "A New Beginning".
- This is the second episode of the TV Series to feature non-canon deaths, the first being "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be".
- In the Comic Series, Issue 75 is the only issue that features non-canon deaths.
- The title of the episode, "What Comes After", comes from the phrase Michonne tells Maggie in regards to the consequences of her killing Negan.
- It also refers to the 6 years that follow after Rick's presumed death to the communities.
- The song playing as Rick leaves on the helicopter is "Space Junk" by Wang Chung.
- This is the same song that plays at the end of "Days Gone Bye" when Rick is trapped in the tank.
- This episode marks the following first times for Judith:
- On Talking Dead, it was confirmed that the RV Anne was driving at the beginning was the same RV driven by Heath in his last appearance.
- According to Andrew Lincoln, Rick seeing the hallucinations of Shane, Hershel, and Sasha, as well as Michonne, and receiving advice from each of them is a reference to The Wizard of Oz. Shane gives him courage, Hershel gives him heart, Sasha gives him wisdom and Michonne is home.
- At the end of the episode, there is a time jump of 6 years.
- This marks the biggest time jump in the TV Series so far.
- After the time jump, Judith has Carl's old hat, that he gave to her before he died, a small version of Michonne's katana, and Rick's Colt Python.
- One of the shots of the walker herd walking towards the bridge was also used for the giant herd in the episode "First Time Again".
- This episode marks the final acting role of Scott Wilson, due to his death on October 6, 2018.
- As of this episode, no character introduced in the series premiere has an "alive" status.
- Rick walking through a field of corpses of his friends and family is a homage to an alternative cover of Issue 100.
- Eugene and Rosita's corpses holding hands during Rick's hallucination is a slight nod to them starting a relationship in Issue 127.
- Michonne telling Rick "We don't die" is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 113, where Andrea says this instead.
- Maggie's attempt to murder Negan for revenge is adapted from Issue 174.
- Negan begging Maggie to kill him but she chosing to spare him so he can suffer is adapted from Issue 174.
- Magna and her group being surrounded by a herd on the woods is adapted from Issue 127.
- Magna and her group being rescued by Judith is adapted from a similar scene in Issue 127, where they are rescued by Alexandria's herd patrol instead.