The Walking Dead could be plotting to bring Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) to the movie side of the franchise for a reunion with the disappeared Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), long suspected dead for six years. But as seen in Sunday's 914, 'Scars,' and hinted at over the course of the season since Lincoln's exit, both Michonne and Daryl are clinging to hope Rick might be out there — somewhere.
In a flashback set almost nine months after Rick exploded a bridge to halt a horde of walkers, a pregnant Michonne is seen searching the riverbank for Rick's body. Daryl reports he followed the river to the ocean and back, but turned up nothing. Then he makes a vow: "I ain't gonna stop looking. Not ever."
Daryl admits to Carol (Melissa McBride) in 907 his endless search for Rick turned into a multi-year exile and life as a woodsman, with only Dog for companionship. "Never found a body. Ever," Daryl says. "After a while it just got easier to stay out here." It mirrors Daryl's searches for the missing Sophia (Madison Lintz) and then Beth (Emily Kinney), missions only called off when both girls were lost to tragic ends.
"He sort of exiled himself after the horrible thing happened with Rick," Reedus previously told EW. "He's been out in the woods looking for a body. He won't give up. That's just who he is. He was like that with Sophia, when she was lost. He's just the type of guy that… he needs proof. He needs some closure."
Unbeknown to Daryl and Michonne, the gravely wounded Rick was rescued by a fleeing Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) and flown away aboard a helicopter in the possession of a mysterious community with seemingly far-reaching resources. Rick will next resurface someplace far from Virginia in a trilogy of movies now being developed by Walking Dead chief content officer Scott Gimple with creator-producer Robert Kirkman.
While details remain scarce, Gimple confirmed the initial entry of the offshoot franchise will detail the "vast mythology" behind the helicopter group and bring with it answers surrounding the 'A' and 'B' classification system that ultimately resulted in Rick's abduction. Furthermore, the story could culminate with Rick making his way back to Alexandria: "We know Rick Grimes," Gimple said. "He would want to be home."
"I love this character; I love the world that we inhabit," Lincoln previously told THR when explaining the decision to keep Rick alive and instead spin him off elsewhere. "So why don't we try to potentially continue this story in a different way and maybe complete his story so the mothership can continue?"
Perhaps not so coincidentally, both Reedus and McBride in November inked three-year franchise deals containing language allowing for appearances outside the television show — a deal giving network AMC "the flexibility to either move them or use them in more than one place, depending on what seems creatively right to Scott and to his partners," according to AMC programming president David Madden.
It was learned in February Season Ten, already in the works for an October debut under showrunner Angela Kang, will be Gurira's last: the Michonne star will appear intermittently next season across just a "handful" of episodes and is suspected to make the jump to the movies, acting as further evidence of a potential reunion.
Keeping Rick from his family — Michonne, Daryl, daughter Judith (Cailey Fleming), and son RJ (Antony Azor), who Rick has yet to meet — would be a disservice to the character and, worse, to the audience. Should the third film close with Rick finding his way back to a family who believed him dead, it would bring Rick's story full circle, bringing it back to when he fought against impossible odds to reconnect with wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) in the earliest days of the apocalypse.
Though Reedus intends to stay with The Walking Dead until the end, the now top-billed star of the series is on record saying there needs to be an endgame.
"I started the show and I'd like to bookend the show. I'd like to be there when it ends. I just don't know when the endgame is," Reedus said.
"I just don't want the brand to get watered down too much. You got this goose that lays the golden egg, sooner or later you got to let the goose fly free. You don't want to kill it. I don't know if that'll happen, we've got a lot of good, creative people on the show, but if this show went on for 20 years, it would get watered down, there's no way around it."
As the budding Walking Dead Universe continues to expand and grow more and more intertwined — the flagship and spinoff Fear the Walking Dead have crossed over twice, first with Morgan (Lennie James) and then Dwight (Austin Amelio) — the current three pillars of the franchise are now intrinsically linked, all ultimately falling under Gimple's purview.0comments
It's possible, then, that Reedus and McBride's three-year contracts expire with a final season, Season Twelve, which could in theory coincide with the third Rick Grimes movie — allowing both to conclude at the same time, bridging and then ending the Rick Grimes era. AMC, already developing a third Walking Dead series, could then continue its expansive Walking Dead Universe with stories set both before and after these events with other characters, keeping the brand alive even after McBride, Gurira, Reedus and Lincoln have fully moved on.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.