The Walking Dead wrapped up its 11-season run on Sunday night, but it nearly ended in a very different way. Sources close to the production described the original ending to reporters from Insider - and why it was changed at the last minute. Fair warning: there are spoilers for The Walking Dead series finale ahead!
The Walking Dead pulled out all the stops for its big finish on Sunday night, including the return of two characters – Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). However, the writers and producers had originally planned an ending without this cameo as Lincoln and Gurira did not come in until the last minute. When they added the duo in, they scrapped a coda from the finale that may have changed some fans' opinion of the episode. Executive producer Greg Nicotero, who directed the finale, was the first to publicly confirm that this cut scene existed.
"There was a scene that we had shot, but when it was decided to put the coda in we felt like it would conflict with the Rick and Michonne bit. So we took it out," he explained. Later, an anonymous source close to the production actually described the content of the scene for those interested.
"After Daryl rode off, we cut forward to the Freedom Parkway, outside Atlanta – where the iconic shot of Rick rode down from the pilot," they said. "See an ethanol-modified van, with a young woman and man in the front seats (in their twenties). And through the scene, we come to realize it's adult RJ and Judith. Other adult versions of the kids are in the back – Coco, Gracie, etc. They're out there, looking to escort any survivors back to their communities. Continuing the legacy of their parents."
They went on: "As RJ speaks over the radio, he finishes with: 'If you can hear me, answer back. This is Rick Grimes.' (Which, of course, is his name – and the line Rick said in the pilot.) Then we end with the voice of a survivor answering back: '...Hello?'"
The source said that they personally felt like this ending was emotionally fitting, though it didn't answer concrete questions about this fictional world in the same way. On the other hand, another insider said that the ending was dropped because it wouldn't have made as much sense to end this show on a scene with "characters we don't really know." This scene was reportedly filmed in August but ultimately dropped when Lincoln and Gurira came back for their appearance.
Lincoln and Gurira's appearance was also a more profitable choice for AMC. The duo will be returning for a spin-off series soon, and the finale now acts as a kind of backdoor pilot for that show. With more stories to come in "the TWD universe," a coda set in the future with Judith and Rick Jr. could only have limited story potential for the spinoff shows anyway.
The Walking Dead is streaming now on AMC+. The untitled Rick and Michonne spinoff miniseries is slated to premiere sometime in 2023. There are already three other narrative series in the franchise as well as two more in development, with The Walking Dead: Dead City premiering in April of 2023.