The Walking Dead: World Beyond Answers Why Rick Grimes Hasn’t Returned Home

The series premiere of The Walking Dead: World Beyond brings answers about the years-long disappearance of Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), who went missing from The Walking Dead aboard a helicopter piloted by the Civic Republic Military. This black-clad military force under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Kublek (Julia Ormond) is part of the Three Ring Network, an alliance between three major post-apocalypse civilizations, including the Omaha Campus Colony revealed in World Beyond. Continuing a plot thread seen on spinoff Fear the Walking Dead, the CRM is purportedly developing a cure to the zombie plague with biochemist and geneticist Dr. Leo Bennett (Joe Holt).

In the series premiere of World Beyond, "Brave," Bennett's daughters, Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour), are among the 9,671 survivors living inside the walls of the Campus Colony in Omaha, Nebraska.

Iris is hopeful for the future, knowing their father is away with the Civic Republic "sharing his knowledge so that there is another place working towards some sort of cure." The rebellious Hope is suspicious towards the "secret non-public Civic Republic," telling Iris, "We don't know where they are or what they do."

Kublek, who arrives by helicopter as the sole representative of the Civic Republic, won't disclose their location. That's need-to-know classified information, and even Felix (Nico Tortorella), the Campus Colony's Senior Security Force Officer and a close friend of Bennett's, doesn't need to know.

Felix is aware Bennett sends the girls secret communications, something he says violates "four provisions of the four-corner agreement." In one message, Bennett says he's taking a "risk," and in another, "Things are going well. We are making progress."

When the girls receive a distressing message from dad — "MY SAFETY NOT ASSURED" — Iris confronts Kublek. "You don't let anyone in or out. You won't let people communicate with your people or vice versa," she says. "You don't tell anyone where you are, and you have our dad."

At the risk of being jailed, or worse, Kublek passes the girls a coded map pointing them in the direction of their father's location. According to Kublek, Bennett is teaching in a Civic Republic research facility somewhere in New York state.

Later, the girls receive another concerning communication from dad: "IT’S GONE BAD. KEEPING MY HEAD DOWN, I'LL FIND HELP DON'T TELL THE COUNCIL, DON'T TELL FELIX. I LOVE YOU GIRLS."

Iris and Hope, along with classmates Elton (Nicolas Cantu) and Silas (Hal Cumpston), agree to make the 1,100-mile journey to New York to rescue the girls' father. The decision is a timely one: after they've set off on their quest, the Civic Republic Military liquidates the Campus Colony — leaving no apparent survivors.

Some seven years before present-day Walking Dead, taking place a decade post-outbreak, Rick vanished and was presumed to be killed in a bridge explosion. It was Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) who rescued Rick by shuttling him to safety aboard a CRM helicopter, which flew both survivors to a different corner of the zombie apocalypse.

Rick's partner, Michonne (Danai Gurira), only recently learned Rick survived when she discovered his belongings inside a boat washed ashore on Bloodsworth Island, Maryland.

Accompanying Rick's items — his boots and a cell phone etched with an image of Michonne and daughter Judith (Cailey Fleming) — was a logbook documenting visits to multiple locations, including Tampa Bay, Florida; Hopewell, Virginia; and Bridgers Shipyard in New Jersey.

We last saw Michonne moving north in search of Rick, now knowing he's alive — and being held somewhere against his will. It's now clear that the only thing preventing Rick's return home is the Civic Republic.

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"There's no way the Rick she knows and loves would stay away this long without it being against his will, in her mind," Gurira said in a March interview following her departure from The Walking Dead.

More about the Civic Republic Military will come to light in future episodes of World Beyond airing Sundays on AMC. Rick returns in the untitled Walking Dead feature film, planned as the start of multiple theatrical releases. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.