Update: I was wrong, but it would have been an amazing turn in the story.
On the season 6 finale of the Walking Dead there is definitive evidence that Rick is killed.
Let’s narrow it down first. We know for sure that a character is killed. Executive producers Robert Kirkman and Scott Gimple confirm this, but who is it?
It's A Major Character
We know it’s a major character. The producers talk about this specifically and also use phrases like “extremely sad”, “extremely distressing”, “the world changes for everyone”, “it’s the start of a new story”, “we have to do an episode that justifies it to you.”
And not only is it a major character it has to be one that you would be totally stressing out about. In opinion that rules out Eugene, Abraham, Sasha, Rosita, and Aaron.
Rick, Daryl, Glenn, Maggie, Michonne, and Carl are left. Let’s take them from least likely to most likely.
I almost didn't include Michonne in this group because even though she is a major character and people would stress out about her being gone, it just doesn't quite fit the game changing language the producers and actors are using about the scene. However, with her recent relationship with Rick I included her though I think she is the least likely to be killed.
It most likely isn’t Glenn because his death has already been teased this season. It would seem to be lazy writing to do the same again. Also, Glenn is the one Negan kills in the comics in front of Rick and Maggie. I do not believe they would copy such a pivotal moment. That would be too obvious.
Daryl is an option. The show’s first shot is from his perspective being held captive and keeps returning to that perspective. But I believe that actually shows hope in his getting out of captivity. At the very beginning when the group encounters the Savior’s first roadblock the Savior spokesman says that they would make an example out of the one who “fired the first shot.” That would seem to be Daryl in the rocket launcher scene. But as we’ll see below, this could be figurative as it could be seen as self-defense and Rick led the first offensive to fire “the first shot.” Daryl’s death was also teased both in the middle of this episode and as a cliffhanger in the last episode. Again it would seem a bit lazy to do this multiple times. While Daryl’s death would be a shock I don’t think it would, in the executive producer’s words, change the world for everyone.”
Carl is more likely. At the beginning of the episode he tells Enid that if he doesn’t return she’ll just have to survive. He is on a quest for revenge which normally doesn’t end well. What better way than to teach Rick a lesson by killing his kid. Near the end, Negan tells his group “if anyone moves, cut out his [Carl’s] other eye and feed it to his father, then we’ll begin.” However, much like Daryl I don’t think Carl’s death would impact the group as much as a the producers are saying.
So that leaves us with Maggie and Rick.
Now Maggie is not an original character like the others in this list (save Michonne) but she has been there since early season 2 and has become a big part of the story, especially with the ties to Glenn.
Her death would certainly be a shock and a sadistic twist on what happens in the comics, not to mention she's pregnant which amps up the horror.
Some have said that the audio at the end of the episode is Glenn saying Maggie's name.
This would also lead to a change in the group if Glenn blames Rick which could be what the producers are referring to when they say that everything changes.
So, while I'll say it very well could be Maggie I think there is even more evidence for Rick being on the receiving end of Lucille.
So what is the evidence for Rick?
The Episode is Based on Rick
The entire episode revolves around Rick, and the de-evolution of his confidence. Almost every key scene involves Rick.
The Opening Suggests a New Leader
Morgan is set up to be the new leader of the group. The show opens with Morgan (a central and charismatic character) finding a horse and mirrors the pilot episode with Rick on a horse. Rick originally sent Carol out but Morgan will be the one who brings her back. Morgan is the only one who stood up to attacking the Saviors. Morgan’s journey through the episode has him realize in order to effectively protect the people he loves, he will have to kill. When Morgan kills the Savior to save Carol he assumes this new identity. He also is the one who appears to have made an alliance with a new group that will help in the future.
Any smart villain knows you have to kill the leader of the other group to effectively shut it down. Throughout history if you want to subjugate people, the leader is killed as an example, and the rest of the sheep fall into line. Negan’s ultimate goal is survival and wants Rick’s group to work for him. What better way to demoralize the group and put down thoughts of rebellion by killing its leader?
The De-Evolution of Rick
At the beginning of the episode Rick is as confident and cocky as ever. Statements like, “tell them to wait for me, I’ve a deal for them.” In his first conversation with Maggie in the RV he tells her: “Things have always worked out because it’s always been all of us.” “As long as it’s all of us we can do anything.” Rick retorts and taunts the first roadblock group. “I don’t have to kill anymore of you!” He tells Carl that we are going to “play it our way, how we want it.” Rick defies Abraham and several telling glances that they are heading towards trouble.
Rick’s second conversation with Maggie is not so confident and shows signs of cracking. Almost like he’s trying to convince himself he tells her “this isn’t it...there is going to be more.” Maggie then responds weakly: “I believe in you Rick.”
When they are finally captured Rick looks absolutely terrified and is the most distressed of anyone in the group. He knows it is the end and can hardly look Negan in the eye. His de-evolution of safety and confidence would be completed by his own death.
The Savior’s Taunts
When the group encounters the first roadblock the lead guy asks Rick specifically to think about that this might be his “last day on earth.” This is also the title of the episode. That is not an accident. This phrase is repeated at another roadblock again directed at Rick. These are glaring hints that this is Rick’s last day on earth.
Other Interesting Things
Why tell us that Judith will be safe and cared for? Why the focus on Morgan? Why does nearly every character have an interaction with Rick and basically says things will be okay? If you were going to replace the main character wouldn’t you add in an incredibly charismatic character that can hold the show like Negan? The line about cutting out Carl’s other eye still works because Negan uses the qualifier “then, we’ll start.”
The Last Scene
Negan specifically asks who the leader is and then figures out that Carl and Rick are related. Why the focus here if it doesn’t matter? Negan blames Rick for the death of his people. He tells Rick “you are so going to regret crossing me.”
The camera angles are very interesting in that the shot always comes back to focus on Rick. There are quick cuts to each of the other characters but it always comes back to Rick. The angle used to frame Rick and Negan is unique to every other character. The shot is below Rick looking up at his conqueror. Its also very similar to the angle used when the character is killed. The last character focus before the swinging of the bat is on Rick.
The Producers Hints
I believe the producers told us everything on Talking Dead.
First Robert Kirkman said that there are hints in the episode that tell you who was killed. I believe we have dissected those. Kirkman also said that they want to shake things up have an event that will skyrocket things for many seasons to come. What better way to do this than to kill Rick? Kirkman says Rick is not a good dude and then immediately after says “Negan is killing someone so beloved.” Kirkman also says that the cliffhanger is not the story, it’s what comes next.” He then immediately begins to talk about Rick and his de-evolution through the story. Kirkman says this episode is about “tearing Rick Grimes down and that is the conclusion of this story.” How do you not read into that?
Next Scott Gimple says “the end of [this episode] the story is the start of a new story.” He also says that the “world changes for everyone.” Lastly he ends by explaining the death in these terms: “we have to do an episode [looking to season 7] that justifies it to you. We have to do something so great, so intense…” I do not believe any character but Rick is worthy of this language.
On a show that has consistently taught us that no character is safe, what better way is there to live up to that billing, shake up the story, and start a new chapter then by killing off the lead?
R.I.P. Rick Grimes.