There are growing suspicions and hopes the long-range radio project undertaken by Eugene (Josh McDermitt) over the course of the season will make contact with Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) in the closing moments of The Walking Dead Season Nine finale.
Theories were sparked in part as response to showrunner Angela Kang's tease the looming season closer will end with a significant game-changer that promises to propel the story forward into Season Ten. "I wanted to push that past the limits of what we've done on the show before, so in the finale: winter is coming," Kang told Deadline of the winter-set finale pitting the survivors against a ferocious blizzard.
"And then in Season 10, the conflict with the Whisperers will amp up in terrifying and hopefully surprising ways, and we'll also discover something related to the last scene of this season, which I won't spoil, that will once again change everything for our heroes!"
Eugene can again be seen fiddling with the radio in photos released ahead of the season finale, "The Storm," which finds Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Siddiq (Avi Nash), and others holed up in a cabin with a cuffed Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
Eugene was last seen tinkering with his project in the penultimate episode of the season when he traded for ham radio parts he'll utilize in the hopes of creating a far-reaching communication system that would allow the spread out communities to keep in touch.
It's a plot borrowed from creator Robert Kirkman's comic books, where Eugene makes repeat attempts to reach anyone who might be listening. In The Walking Dead #151, Eugene is surprised when a voice comes over the radio: "Read you loud and clear, Eugene Porter. Come in. Do you read us? Over." Though initially hesitant to reveal details surrounding their location or the size of their group, Eugene's contact is eventually revealed to be Stephanie, a radio operator who becomes a sort of penpal for the big-brained inventor.
Later, it's revealed Stephanie belongs to the Commonwealth, an Ohio-based network of 50,000-something survivors linked across different settlements. The community operates on a class system and is such a self-efficient society it features such amenities as a sports-slash-entertainment stadium, bakeries, and cafes.
Kang previously confirmed groundwork was being laid for the introduction of the Commonwealth after an Easter egg hinting at the community was spotted in the Season Nine trailer. "Obviously the Commonwealth does mean things to people; we're starting to seed in some future stories," Kang told IGN in October. "The timing of those stories may not be in the immediate future, but there will be things this season that are groundwork being laid for finding out more about the world."
But as the show continues to stray further away from the comics, could Rick's voice come over the radio?
After Lincoln made his mid-season exit in November, executive producer and chief content officer Scott Gimple said Rick was off The Walking Dead for good, explaining Rick's story will instead continue in the trilogy of movies soon to reach AMC.
But The Walking Dead will next have to write out Michonne (Danai Gurira) — the Black Panther and Avengers star will reportedly appear in just a "handful" of episodes interspersed throughout Season Ten — and it's believed Gurira will similarly transition to the movie side of the franchise.
It's possible, then, that the long-range radio could make contact with Rick, who is presumed dead after disappearing six years earlier in a bridge explosion. But Rick was secretly rescued by Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh), who then vanished with Rick aboard a helicopter flown to parts unknown.
The group behind the helicopter has yet to be revealed, but Gimple earlier teased they carry a "vast mythology" that will be uncovered in the movies.
The Walking Dead premieres its Season Nine finale, "The Storm," Sunday at 9/8c on AMC. The first Rick Grimes movie is expected to arrive in 2020.
My Rick in finale prediction ......Eugene is Gona show Michonne/Daryl that he got the radio working.....Gona fiddle with the knobs...will hear a scratchy voice “Anyone...I’m Rick Grimes n I’m looking for my family..” Michonne looks up teary eyed shocked..boom! Cuts to black....— ~LenDiesel~ (@LenDiesel21) March 25, 2019
It better be that radio Eugene has somehow getting in touch with Rick.— ????????♀️?? (@dwriterlife) March 25, 2019
WHAT IF WE HEAR RICK GRIMES ON EUGENE'S RADIO AND THAT'S WHY MICHONNE LEAVES NEXT SEASON. MY LUNGS. #TheWalkingDead— ✧ Ani ✧ (@95anichan) March 25, 2019
Let’s just hope Rick gets ahold of Eugene on the radio as the episode ends? pic.twitter.com/jRCEWL552d— Cole English (@ColeEnglish9) March 25, 2019
rick is gonna talk to Eugene on the radio !!!!— Justin Dudek (@Xdizzle87) March 25, 2019
better be rick’s voice on the radio or im fist fighting https://t.co/vHMrBbSMHU— shay loves henry (@okoyegrimes) March 25, 2019
Riiiiicccccccccckk! I hope so...??? pic.twitter.com/m9b5xEirye— NiqueC (@YLKATDelta) March 25, 2019
Rick’s voice on a radio maybe?— Stark Warrior (@RichonnesSon) March 25, 2019
9x16 ending will be them hearing Rick or something about Rick over the radio. I’m calling that shit rn.— Richonne_TWD (@LincolnxGurira) March 25, 2019
I’m not ready though, fuck cliffhangers.
rick on the radio rick on the radio rick on the radio rick on the radio rick on the radio rick on the radio https://t.co/ALHXmAKY2i— kristen ? ❝i’ll hold your katana, darling❞ (@swaying_daisies) March 25, 2019
FYI, Rick’s voice over the radio theory would be absolutely amazing. I really hope they go down that route. #TWD— oDrogon (@xRyan93) March 25, 2019
I'm not asking for a whole meal all I'm asking for is some crumbs. So just give me Rick voice over the radio and I'll be happy? please?— Marie (@Marie02434580) March 25, 2019
If i hear Rick on the radio in the finale I’m gonna cry for 6 months straight.— sugar aka your favorite crackhead| Fan Account ? (@teamrichonne) March 25, 2019
rick i’m waiting for ur radio message pls say hi on a radio— jules (@twdblurryyy) March 25, 2019