The series finale of The Walking Dead originally ended how the show started: with Rick Grimes riding into post-apocalyptic Atlanta. Titled "Rest in Peace," the series finale jumped one year into the future before a coda scene revealed the returns of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Michonne (Danai Gurira). The final shot of The Walking Dead was of Rick and Michonne's children, Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) and younger brother Rick "RJ" Grimes Jr. (Antony Azor), looking to the future. But the episode reportedly ended much differently, with a lengthier flash forward in a final sequence that was filmed but deleted.
According to Insider, the original ending of The Walking Dead jumped more than a decade into the future to reveal the children of Rick, Michonne, Aaron (Ross Marquand), and Rosita (Christian Serratos) — a grown-up Judith, Rick Jr., Gracie, and Coco — out searching for survivors like their parents before them. In a callback to the show's 2010 "Days Gone Bye" pilot episode, the last lines of the series would have been an adult RJ reaching out over a C.B. radio, asking if anyone could hear his voice. Insider described the sequence:
After Daryl rode off, we cut forward to the Freedom Parkway, outside Atlanta — where the iconic shot of Rick rode down from the pilot. 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. 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?"
One person with knowledge of the deleted ending told Insider that this full-circle conclusion was "fitting emotionally," but was at odds with the "world-building" of AMC's Walking Dead Universe expanding with three new spin-off shows in 2023, including the Rick & Michonne series. According to another insider, the original ending may have been "canned" because it didn't make sense to "end the show on 'new versions' of characters we don't really know."
In a separate interview with Decider, showrunner Angela Kang confirmed that she wrote a "completely different final scene" cut from the episode. Though Kang declined to reveal the alternate ending, she said the last shot of young Judith and RJ overlooking the new Commonwealth was not "originally the final moment of the show."
"It was something that worked well in pitch and that everybody liked, but it was one of those things when we finally saw it all put together we were like, 'this doesn't quite work,' and AMC was like, 'maybe you just cut this sequence,' and I was like, 'I completely understand that,'" Kang explained. "So then we were kind of like, 'So do we end with Rick/Michonne? Do we end on Daryl riding off? Do we end on the kids?' But the intention was always that this is about... Our generation has done all this stuff, and then here's who's going to carry on the legacy."