Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "A New Deal" episode of The Walking Dead. Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is a gunslinger without a gun. After firing it a final time to save his family and friends from a walker horde in Season 9, Rick's Colt Python .357 Magnum revolver was left behind when he was shuttled away aboard a CRM helicopter. Six years after Rick vanished, his partner Michonne (Danai Gurira) handed the weapon down to their daughter, Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming). But like the peace-seeking cowboys in westerns of old, the 11-year-old gunfighter has holstered her father's gun upon settling back into civilization: the Commonwealth of Ohio.
"I don't want it," Judith tells her guardian Daryl (Norman Reedus) in "A New Deal," handing over the gun she hasn't fired since taking a shot at the Whisperer Beta (Ryan Hurst) in the Season 10 episode "Stalker."
"My mom talked about the day she'd hang up her sword for good. Not that we'd be completely safe, but enough to feel like she didn't need it anymore," Judith explains. If she keeps Rick's gun, "Things go back to how they were. But they should be better."
After being hunted by Deputy Governor Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) under the Commonwealth flag, Daryl wants to leave the Ohio community and return Judith and little brother RJ (Antony Azor) home to Alexandria. But Judith wants to stay and help the disenfranchised citizens of the Commonwealth, just like what Daryl "and mom and dad did at Alexandria and Hilltop."
"That was different," her uncle Daryl says. She shoots back, "It wasn't. The only difference now is that you'd rather run away than stay and fight."
Later, Daryl tells Judith: "I wish things were like how you want them to be. That's the way they should be. But they aren't." With Rick gone and Michonne off searching for him, Daryl says, "I have to keep you safe."
Daryl agrees to hold onto Rick's gun "for a while," he tells Judith, "until you want it." That moment comes sooner than expected: when walkers get inside the walls during the Commonwealth Founders Day celebration, Judith tells him to give her the weapon. "They need our help."
Judith uses Rick's revolver to fire on the walkers attacking a crowd of Commonwealth citizens. The episode ends with Judith firing a bullet that kills the walker eating Sebastian Milton (Teo Rapp-Olsson), whose death threatens their future at the Commonwealth.
"The story that we wanted to play of Judith and hanging up the gun has these origins in a Western," showrunner Angela Kang explained on AMC+'s The Walking Dead: Episode Insider. "When she refused it at first, it's because that's how she would prefer to live her life. Like, she would like it if all of them were able to hang up their weapons for good."
Kang added: "I think that Judith, in her kind of youthful idealism, really feels like, 'Why would you leave this and not try to stay and fix it?' There is some truth to what she's saying. And I think that that does give Daryl something to think about. There's this really nice exchange between the parent figure and the child, where they're both kind of learning from each other in the moment."
Rick and Michonne return in the Walking Dead spinoff series reuniting Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira, slated to premiere in 2023 on AMC and AMC+.
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