Andrew Lincoln’s last episode of The Walking Dead featured voiceover cameos from four figures who played pivotal roles in Rick Grimes’ history: Morgan Jones (Lennie James), Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies), Beth Greene (Emily Kinney) and Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz).
The hallucinated voices came as a delirious Rick suffered blood loss brought on by his impalement on a piece of rebar in the preceding episode, with each character asking, “What’s your wound?”
As noted by Walking Dead super-fan Yvette Nicole Brown on live aftershow Talking Dead, every voice cameo had a connection to their respective fever dreams:
Morgan’s voice was heard as Rick stood in his Atlanta hospital room, overlooking his bedridden past self after he was felled by a criminal’s bullet and slipped into a coma. That scene acted as a callback to the 2010 pilot, which saw Morgan inquire about Rick’s gunshot wound in an attempt to ensure it wasn’t a walker bite.
When Rick encountered former best friend and partner Shane (Jon Bernthal) in their old squad car, Rick heard late wife Lori, whose fling with Shane birthed Judith Grimes.
During a trip back to the Greene farm, Rick’s pep talk with Hershel (Scott Wilson) was preceded by a recollection of Hershel’s daughter, Beth, and Rick heard the unmistakable voice of Abraham just before stepping through the “Don’t Open, Dead Inside” doors at the hospital, where Rick walked into an endless sea of bodies and encountered Abraham’s lover Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green).
“We were trying to tell this circular story,” executive producer and 905 co-story writer Scott Gimple said on Talking Dead of Rick’s nostalgia-driven last episode.
“In the pilot — which is one of the greatest TV episodes of all time — he was looking for his family. He’s gone through a lot of changes. And then in this episode, once again, he was still looking for his family. But he realized, by the end, that he had found them — that he had made them, his family. And we were going after something beautiful.”
Showrunner Angela Kang explained to Huffington Post Lori and late son Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) didn’t physically appear in the episode because it would have given the wounded Rick a reason to give up and die.
“We had these three particular characters [Shane, Hershel and Sasha] who are sort of filling an emotional need for him in the moment, but Rick’s entire journey is looking for his family, and I felt, creatively felt, that if he sees Lori or Carl he would feel like, ‘OK, I fulfilled my mission. I found them. I’m home. I can lay down and die now,’” she said.
“He needed to keep going for the family that is still there, and so to have that kind of restlessness of like, ‘I still haven’t found them. Where are they? Where are they?' bringing him back to realizing his family has always been there all along ― that the people he’s fighting for now are still his family ― that’s what keeps him going. So he can’t find them, otherwise it’d be too easy for him to give up.”
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.