The Walking Dead Series Finale Recap: Rest in Peace

Warning: this story contains spoilers from The Walking Dead series finale, "Rest in Peace." In The Walking Dead Season 5 episode "Them," Rick Grimes tells the survivors a story about his grandfather in World War II: "He said he was dead the minute he stepped into enemy territory. Every day he woke up and told himself, 'Rest in peace. Now get up and go to war.' And then, after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive. That's the trick of it, I think. We do what we need to do, and then we get to live. I know we'll be okay. Because this is how we survive. We tell ourselves that we are the walking dead."

"We ain't them," says Daryl. "We're not them," Rick tells Daryl. "We're not." Walking away, Daryl reminds Rick: "We ain't them." We are NOT the walking dead.

The 64-minute series finale of The Walking Dead, titled "Rest in Peace," opens with the living getting up and going to war. The once-idyllic Commonwealth is a war zone, and the gunned-down Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) will die if Daryl (Norman Reedus) doesn't get her to the city's hospital as a walker horde overruns the Commonwealth. With Daryl carrying Judith to safety, the fate of Rick and Michonne's daughter is in his hands.

Picking up where the penultimate episode left off, the survivors find themselves trapped between the living and the dead: the white-armored trooper army of Commonwealth Governor Pamela Milton (Laila Robins) and the zombie masses flooding the streets. Last episode, Milton ordered Col. Vickers (Monique Grant) and her army to divert the walker swarm to the lower wards and away from the gated Estates, leaving thousands of citizens to die. There's no way out until the group clears a path toward the hospital.

Not everyone survives the trip. Despite being covered in walker's guts, Jules (Alex Sgambati) gets pulled into the horde and devoured. Boyfriend Luke (Dan Fogler) gets bitten trying to save her, eventually bleeding out and dying at the hospital, devastating his tight-knit friend group of Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura), Magna (Nadia Hilker), and sisters Kelly (Angel Theory) and Connie (Lauren Ridloff).

Carol (Melissa McBride) tends to Daryl and Judith, who has lost a lot of blood. Governor Milton's troopers took everything, raiding the hospital's medicine, supplies, and staff. "She's holed up in her gated community, and she left the rest of the Commonwealth to fend for itself," Carol explains. "Then that's where we go," Daryl decides. 

Even if they make it through the horde, they're outmanned and outgunned by the Governor's troopers. A team is out to jailbreak coup leader General Mercer (Michael James Shaw), who was arrested and imprisoned by Governor Milton for treason, and the others are headed for the children's house to rescue the kidnapped kids. "So we just wait?" Daryl asks. "No," Carol tells him, "we're gonna take care of her and you." Watching Luke bleed out and die spurs Daryl and Carol to perform an emergency blood transfusion on Judith. Daryl's blood type is universal, which he knows because brother Merle "used to make me sell it when I was a kid for money."

After Princess (Paola Lazaro) and Max Mercer (Margot Bingham) break her brother out of jail, the red-armored General Mercer commands the group raiding the police station for weapons. Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) watches Maggie (Lauren Cohan) load a rifle. "That thing for Pamela? Offer still stands, Maggie," Negan asks, referring to his proposition they "take out the bitch" together. "I'm good," Maggie answers coldly, as Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) help load up an army truck. Just then, a guts-covered Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Lydia (Cassady McClincy) shambles out of the herd, still unable to find the missing Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari).

As that group heads to the hospital, Rosita (Christian Serratos), Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam), and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) find Rosita's daughter, Baby Coco, and Jerry and Nabila's infant daughter Mariam, in a bloody scene at the overrun children's house. In a lower ward alley behind the hospital, the trio makes a break for it but is surrounded by walkers. With Rosita right behind them, Eugene and Gabriel manage to climb up a wall pipe and into a second story window, but Rosita loses her grips and falls, disappearing into the mass of walkers below. 

Cradling Coco, Rosita emerges, fighting like hell to climb atop an overturned ambulance. Climbing variant walkers clamber up after her, forcing Rosita to jump over the mob of gnashing teeth and clawing fingers, clearing the herd and scaling the pipe to safety unscathed.

Meanwhile, Judith wakes up from her gunshot blackout, but panics in fear she's going to die. "It feels like I'm gonna die. I can't," she cries. "Mom's gonna find dad and we're gonna be together. We're all gonna be together."

Daryl's look says it all: Find dad? "She told me this thing she told dad. She said we're the ones…" before she can say anything else, Judith loses consciousness. There's no time for questions. Carol, Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Yumiko desperately try to barricade the hospital as a rock-wielding variant walker breaks the windows. The horde has breached the hospital. They're forced to fight their way out of the hospital, shooting and stabbing every walker in their way until they roll Judith's stretcher to a rendezvous point with Mercer's men.

As they load Judith into a truck to transport her to an Estates safe house for treatment, Aaron and Ezekiel hear citizens screaming for help. "We can do more," Aaron says. "Then let's do more," Ezekiel responds. "But we take care of Judith first." Mercer's inside man, Lt. Rose (Dexter Tillis), escorts the group to the safehouse inside the gated Estates, where surgeon Tomi (Ian Anthony Dale) is waiting to give Judith life-saving care. With everyone back together at the safe house, Maggie catches Negan trying to slip away with her rifle.

But this is not an act of self-preservation. This is an act of sacrifice. "I am doing this for you. You take Pammy out with this thing, hell is gonna rain down on you," Negan explains, "and you ain't gonna come back. And you have to come back. So I'm gonna do it." When he was about to watch his wife and unborn child die at Outpost 22 — where he was willing to give his life if it meant saving everyone else — Negan says, "I was about to lose everything. And I finally understood what you must have felt." Through tears, Negan finally says what Maggie thought she would never hear him say: "I know that I probably owe you more than this, but I am so sorry for what I took from you. What I took from your son." Without a word, Maggie snatches the rifle and walks away from Negan. She looks back. "You coming?"

The calm before the storm. Inside the safe house, Rosita cradles a sleeping Coco. "I just want to soak her up, you know?" Rosita tells Eugene. He asks a question he already knows the answer to. Rosita, answering without a word, reveals a bite on her left shoulder. It's only a matter of time until the fever sets in and she succumbs to the infection.
"No crying, Eugene. I don't want them to know yet. I want you to pull your shit together, okay?" she says gently, assuring Eugene he can do it. "Because I'm still right here. And you're gonna be fine." Smiling through the tears, Rosita looks down at Coco. Just soaking her up.

Finally, after a day gone "bye," Judith wakes up. "Hey, Lil Asskicker," Daryl says. "Hey, Big Asskicker," she says back. Daryl chuckles. "Damn straight." Judith confirms to Uncle Daryl and Aunt Carol that what she said about her mom and dad was true. "That's why she never came back," Judith explains of Michonne's search for Rick. "Sorry I didn't tell you before. I was scared that you would leave, too."
 Daryl assures her: "I'm right here."

Outside, troopers occupying the Estates are gunning down anyone who climbs the gates. A mob of people are locked out of the Estates, the last-standing sect of the Commonwealth. As the walker horde descends upon them, Mercer gets up to go to war. "People are dying. I can't just stand by." He tells the Alexandrians the truck has enough gas to get them home if they sneak out the back. "This isn't your fight. These aren't your people."
"Yes, they are," Ezekiel tells him. "And so are you." Ezekiel rallies the survivors. "You may not think this place is worth saving. I get that, given how they treated us. But it's worth it to me. The people are worth it. And I'm not going to allow them to fall without a fight. Not today. I'm with you. Who else?"

It's going to take all of them. All of them doing what they need to do, and then they get to live. "We can do more than just save ourselves," says Aaron. "We need to." They're with Mercer. On the streets, chaos breaks out as the Commonwealth citizens plead for mercy: "Open the gates!" From a balcony, Maggie's rifle scopes out Governor Milton and General Vickers. Negan tells her to hold as Mercer orders the troopers to lower their weapons.

In a standoff, Mercer's army stands against the Governor's. The cavalry arrives as our heroes put themselves in the line of fire. Govenor Milton orders "traitor" Mercer arrested, but the once-loyal soldier has picked his side. "No. You are, Governor. You disappeared hundreds of citizens. Led the dead to our doorstep. You shot a child. And now you've left thousands out there to die!"

The people of the Commonwealth press against the gate as the herd descends upon them. Father Gabriel — who once let his congregation perish by locking them out of his church at the onset of the apocalypse — steps forward to unlock the gate. Even if he has to kill or be killed doing it. He does not heed warnings to stop or be shot. "We'll fire back," says Carol, finger on the trigger, both sides ready to fire.

Another voice yells out: "Stop!" It's Daryl, talking down Pamela. "We all deserve better than this. You built this place to be like the old world. That was the f—ing problem."
"If I open the gates," Governor Milton explains, "the dead will get in. Not just the living."
"If you don't, you're gonna lose everything anyway. You got one enemy," Daryl says. "We ain't the walking dead." 

Vickers orders both armies to lower their weapons and returns command to General Mercer. The gates are opened. Mercer has the honors: "Pamela Milton, you're under arrest for high crimes against the people of this Commonwealth." Watching from afar, Negan says Pamela's fate is "worse than death."

With the Commonwealth's citizens safely behind the Estate gates, Governor Milton attempts suicide-by-walker when she sees a zombified Lance Hornsby (Josh Hamilton) clawing at the gates. "We have to help them, Governor! All the people that are still out there," Judith pleads. "It's not too late! It's never too late!" Before Pamela can inch her neck any closer to walker Hornsby, Maggie fires a bullet into his head. "Now we take this place back."

Because the variants are too dangerous to lead away, Mercer plans to lure the walker horde into the Estates, the citizens banding together to hold the line and clear a path to the town square. Dumping barrels of fuel into the private sewers beneath the upscale area, they rig fuses to blow once heavy rock music has drawn all the walkers to the Estates. Once the living have escaped to the rendezvous, the group opens the gates, unleashing the horde on the evacuated Estates. Using a vinyl record player inside the Governor's mansion, our heroes trigger an explosion that blows the Estates to hell and incinerates the walker herd. The Estates are left smoldering in ashes. The lower ward of the Commonwealth stands untouched.

Pamela is put in her place: behind bars. The ex-governor reasons she had to make "ugly decisions" having had so many lives in her hands. "How do you pick who does the jobs no one wants? Who gets the nicer house?" Says Carol, "We've already had to make an ugly decision. Kept you alive after everything you've done, 'cause we've all done things. We'll figure it out. We'll make sure of it. And at least we don't have to worry about who gets your house."

When the day dawns, Negan looks down at his Whisperer mask and throws it away. Maggie thanks him for what he did, telling Negan, "I can stop wondering if you'll ever say those words. And if I can ever forgive you. 'Cause I know now... I can't." Maggie explains that when she looks at Negan, "All I see is that bat coming down on his head." She can't forgive Negan, but she can't hate him anymore, either. If Negan and Annie (Medina Senghore) want to stay at the Commonwealth, they've earned their place. But if she can't look at him some days, if she can't work with him, if she can't move on — her undying love for Glenn is why. "Because all I have are my memories. And I don't want to remember Glenn like that." Filled with regret and remorse, a teary Negan accepts her judgment without another word.

The survivors celebrate their victory. Fleetwood Mac's "Landslide" plays as the survivors gather for a family dinner. Judith. Carol. Maggie. Aaron. Lydia. Elijah. Connie. Kelly. Magna. Yumiko. Tomi. Mercer. Princess. Gabriel. Eugene. Dog. Rosita soaks it all in. Everyone is laughing, smiling, enjoying. Living. The table toasts to Luke. Daryl looks out the window on a lone Negan. Daryl nods. It's as good a goodbye as he's going to get. Negan smiles and walks off alone. 

Oh, mirror in the sky
What is love?
Can the child within my heart rise above?
Can I sail through the changin' ocean tides?
Can I handle the seasons of my life?

"Everything's perfect," Rosita tells Gabriel. "I just want to remember this moment." She leans into him and whispers. Rosita smiles, tears streaming down her face. 

Well, I've been afraid of changin'
'Cause I've built my life around you
But time makes you bolder
Even children get older
And I'm getting older too

Carol and Maggie help a weakened Rosita to bed in a room bathed in warm white light. Coco is there waiting for her. It's almost Heaven. Hugs and kisses, a silent goodbye. At the doorway, Daryl watches as Father Gabriel prays for Rosita. "Receive her into your arms of mercy, into the blessed rest of everlasting peace. And into the glorious company of the saints and light." He cries. "May her soul, and the soul of all those departed, in the mercy of God rest in peace. Amen." Rosita strokes her daughter's cheek. She soaks up Coco one more time. One last look. It's time for Gabriel to take the baby girl away. "We'll see you again someday," Gabriel tells Rosita. 

Finally, Eugene sits beside Rosita's deathbed. She smiles. He pulls his shit together for her. His best friend. Being brave, Eugene tells Rosita, "I wouldn't be the man I am today if I hadn't met you." She's slipping away. Rosita takes Eugene's hand. "I'm glad it was you in the end," she tells him. Rosita closes her eyes. She's gone.


Eugene rests flowers at a grave marker for Rosita on a wall honoring the lives lost at the Commonwealth. The time jump reveals Eugene and Max have their own progeny now: Rosie. Ezekiel is now Governor Ezekiel Sutton, with General Mercer serving as Lieutenant Governor. Ezekiel tells the crowd of citizens, "On this day, we honor those who have sacrificed for us. That we may pursue a more perfect union. And though we are not bonded by blood, we are family." And yet he smiles.

Connie, Kelly, Magna, and Yumiko toast. Connie reunites with Daryl, signing to him: "What's up cowboy? How's the frontier?" "Quiet," Daryl signs back. "For now." She's still working as a journalist and "keeping the new administration honest." Daryl signs to her, "Has to be you. You seem happy." Connie smiles. "I am." Daryl smiles and laughs.

Lydia and Elijah, now working as messengers, deliver a parcel addressed to "Judith Grimes. Commonwealth." Inside the box is the "JG" compass Negan took from her back in Season 9 and a note, reading: "Judith, this has always helped me find my way. I'm returning it to you now in the hope that it can guide you to your dreams. Thank you for letting me use it. Negan."

The Alexandria Safe-Zone has been rebuilt, again promising mercy for the lost. Its inhabitants include Aaron, his daughter Gracie (Anabelle Holloway), Father Gabriel, and his daughter, Coco. "I never thought we'd get back to any of this," Aaron admits. "I had hope, but we're all very lucky." Says Gabriel, "It's not luck. It's effort. We have a lot to be proud of, my friends. Our family, our community, our future."

At Alexandria's wall of the lost, Daryl reunites with Carol. Her hair is cut short. They travel together to the Hilltop colony, where Maggie and her son, Hershel Rhee (Kien Michael Spiller), sit over Glenn's grave. Daryl and Judith visit with Carol. "I want to talk about the future," Maggie tells her old friends. "There's a lot out there to find out about, and I think it's time we did."

Later, Daryl and Carol sit lakeside on a sunny day. Carol notes it's a beautiful day to head out. "I wish you were coming with me," Daryl tells her. She knows. But this will be good, for both of them. Carol took Hornsby's job and made it her own, making the Commonwealth better for her and the kids. "And you'll keep making it better," Daryl says. Carol begins to cry. "It's not like we're never gonna see each other again," he tells her. "I'm allowed to be a little sad," Carol smiles. "You're my best friend." He pulls her in for a hug and holds her close.

At the Commonwealth, Judith and RJ (Antony Azor) run into Daryl's arms. He tells the Grimes children to be good and keep an eye on Dog. Daryl asks something of Judith: "Keep an eye on Carol, too, will you?" This isn't goodbye. Their family will be together again. "When I'm out there, if I hear anything, see anything, I'll find them both and I'll bring them home," Daryl promises of Rick and Michonne. Before Daryl can leave, Judith stops him. "Uncle Daryl? You deserve a happy ending, too." Daryl nods. "I'll be back." Judith knows he will. Daryl and Carol share a hug and "I love yous." It's goodbye, but only for now.

The lone wolf rides off on his motorcycle, solo but not alone. Daryl leaves the Commonwealth behind, journeying past its green grass and purple flowers, racing into the final frontier of the unknown. For the first time in a long time, the world outside feels more alive than dead. Not an ending. A new beginning.

To quote the final issue of The Walking Dead comic book: "This is not a scary story. This is a story about hope ... Rick Grimes had an idea. He knew that if we stayed together and made friends instead of enemies, we could do anything. Even remake the world." 

Fade to black. But not yet the end.

A match ignites, cutting through the pitch-black darkness. It's Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln). Somewhere else is Michonne (Danai Gurira). Rick writes a note. Michonne writes in a journal. 

Rick: "I think of the dead all the time. And the living who I lost." 

Memories flicker in Rick's mind like the fire illuminating Michonne in the darkness somewhere else. Carl. Lori. Shane. Daryl. Dale. Glenn. T-Dog. Michonne's memories run through her mind. Judith and RJ. Abraham. Andrea. Bob. Siddiq. Jesus. 

Michonne tried to get home to her kids "again and again," she writes. "But I still got you, and you got me. We're connected. We're still connected." 

Their letters and narration intertwine. 

Rick: "I think about them all every day."
Michonne: "To everybody we ever loved."

Hershel. Beth. Tyreese. Carol. 

"Their faces. What I learned from them," Rick writes. "How they made me who I am. So much more than all this made me who I am."
"We'll always be together, even when we're apart. We, together, are the strongest thing," 
Michonne's letter reads. "We're love, and love is endless."

Maggie. Sasha. Tara. Enid. Alden. Deanna. Rosita. 

"So we, those gone—"
"All of our lives —"

"Those away
"Become one life."
"We are endless."

"We're together. Pieces of a whole that just keep going for what we gave each other. One unstoppable life. You showed me that. You gave me that."

But Rick and Michonne are not together. They are in some other place, some other time. Rick is grimy, covered in mud and muck. Michonne wears a warrior's outfit, a leather harness and a tabard, her old studded belt, and Rick's ring on a necklace around her neck. Michonne has a cell phone with a lowercase "rick" etched onto it, alongside a drawing of Judith and Michonne. In her possession are Rick's possessions: his boots and a bag. 

"I know you're back there. I know your brother is back there. Just as sure as I know he's out there. Somewhere. Not just as a part of us. He's alive out there."

In another time, Rick has that same cell phone, that same bag. Among his scant possessions is a kill stick (as seen on The Walking Dead: World Beyond). Rick sits on a riverbank, barefoot, in jeans, wearing a brown jacket with the three-circle symbol of the Civic Republic Military stitched into it. 

"I will find him. Because I know he's trying to find us." Michonne, now on horseback, wears a soft armor helmet. On the riverbank, Rick rolls up his note, sticks it into a glass bottle, and throws it into the water. The whirring blades of an approaching helicopter. "No. No!" Rick heaves his bag onto a boat just off shore and runs. Rick looks to the sky as a black CRM helicopter descends. 

"Consignee Grimes. You have been located and are instructed to surrender," the pilot says. "Remain in place with your hands up." There is fury, and heartbreak, and determination in Rick's eyes. This is not the first time. "Come on, Rick," the unseen pilot tells him. "It's like she told you: there's no escape for the living." 

"Remember what I said. It's what he said. Hold it to your heart. It's true. Forever." A symphony of voices come together as one, revealing the secret saying that Judith shared with her mom and dad. 

Maggie. Gabriel. Aaron. Morgan Jones. Eugene. Ezekiel. Negan. Carol. Daryl. Flashes of lives lived and episodes past. The voices blend into one, finally saying Rick and Michonne's mantra: "WE'RE THE ONES WHO LIVE."

"We're the ones who live," says Michonne as the katana-wielding warrior rides toward a canyon filled with a swarming mass of the dead. At the riverbank, the CRM helicopter descends in front of the skyline of a post-apocalyptic Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: home of the Civic Republic. Rick raises his hands. Not to surrender, but to live to fight another day. Rick smiles defiantly, because he knows: "We're the ones who live." On Rick's face, we fade to white. 

We end on the Commonwealth. We end on the living. We end on RJ and Judith Grimes looking out to the future. "We get to start over," Judith tells her brother. "We're the ones who live."

The end. The beginning.

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