The Walking Dead has reached the end of an era. Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes said goodbye to the AMC series in true legendary fashion, sacrificing himself to save his family from a massive herd of walkers — except the character survived the bridge explosion and was saved by Anne and her helicopter-flying buddies.
Rick may have been whisked away with plans to reappear down the road in a trio of Walking Dead movies, but our favorite zombie fighter has left the series for good and the show will never be the same. Nine seasons of an iconic character leaves behind too many memories to capture them all, but we share some of our favorites below.
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11. Killing Walker Sophia
The reveal that Carol’s missing daughter, Sophia, was one of the walkers inside of Hershel’s barn of undead will always give you goosebumps. Even with Shane and the others laying waste to the zombies, Rick is the one who stepped up and put the poor child out of her misery.
10. Killing Shane
Killing his former best friend was a lesson in what Rick was willing to sacrifice to protect the group. Shane had become a dangerous loose cannon and was set on murdering his friend, but Rick got the upper hand. Rick was able to get some peace of mind in his final episode when Jon Bernthal’s Shane returned and forgave him in a hallucination.
Even after a broken Morgan stabbed and attacked him in this pivotal episode, Rick did everything he could to save the man who first took him in after waking up alone in a hospital. The episode highlighted the powerful chemistry between Lincoln and Lennie James while exploring the aftermath of catastrophic grief.
8. “They’re fucking with the wrong people.”
If Rick’s speech at the end of the Season 4 finale doesn’t get your blood pumping, nothing will. After the group is reunited and trapped in a boxcar by the Terminus community, Rick delivers a speech promising that the Termites would learn that “they’re screwing with the wrong people.” The uncensored version was later released on the Blu-ray and DVD.
7. Lori’s Death
The death of Rick’s wife allowed Lincoln to manifest a very raw, gut-wrenching performance. Lincoln has never shied away from digging deep, and his dedication to embracing his character shines through with visceral grief.
There was nothing sweeter than witnessing Rick and Michonne finally making Richonne canon. The pair was one of the strongest teams on the show, a true King and Queen of the apocalypse. Upcoming episodes will reveal how profoundly Rick’s loss has changed the beloved katana-wielder.
5. “You’re my brother.”
The pair that will arguably be missed the most is Rick and Daryl. Their bromance started off a little rough, but they eventually became the ultimate dynamic duo. Rick saying “you’re my brother” solidified an unbreakable bond, finally giving Daryl a brother who didn’t treat him poorly and Rick a BFF who didn’t want to murder him.
4. General Rick
Rick defeating Negan and locking him up in a cell to rot and essentially lose his mind for the next year and a half was pretty satisfying. However, watching Rick reestablish himself as a leader working to unite the communities against Negan after the brutal start to Season 7 gave the story a desperately needed spark of hope and resistance.
3. Meeting Rick
Watching Rick ride into a post-apocalyptic Atlanta on his horse is an iconic image that quickly brought together the worlds of the series and the comics from which the show was inspired. The Walking Dead pilot episode effectively introduced the character that would be the face of the show for the next nine seasons, a former sheriff willing to take on the world to survive but more importantly, to find his family.
2. Rick Kills Joe
Rick tearing Joe’s throat out with his teeth in a desperate move to save his son will forever be his most savage moment in the series. Carl was on the verge of being raped by one of Joe’s men, and with Rick, Daryl, and Michonne held at gunpoint, Rick found another way to save the day. The scene, and the aftermath, enlightened Rick on balancing being good (what he learned from Hershel) and embracing brutality when necessary in order to protect his family.
Rick went through some major ups and downs in the last nine seasons, evolving in numerous ways — sometimes crossing into anti-hero territory — in response to loss, grief, desperation, survival, and rebuilding. At the end of the day, though, Rick Grimes is a hero, and he left The Walking Dead series as one.