What’s the strangest thing you’ve ever done for your favorite show? My family’s (super weird) Sunday night tradition started in 2011 when we discovered the first season of The Walking Dead. The episodes were re-running in preparation for Season 2, and we binged them all while eating pizza.
Now, eating pizza and watching a zombie show doesn’t sound weird, but The Walking Dead was some gory groundbreaking stuff for its time. Not many series included graphic scenes of eating people, smearing guts on your face to walk through a herd of corpses, and shamelessly killing off children. Watch all that while having red pizza sauce and you’ve got yourself a really gross tradition.
A lot has changed since 2011. My sister and I have headed off to college, and our younger brother has started high school. Obviously, we don’t come home once a week to eat pizza, but all of us individually still watch The Walking Dead. The show has had its ups and downs, but one thing has remained the same: this is Rick Grimes’ story, and AMC wrote him off.
This article isn’t about the controversy of actor Andrew Lincoln leaving the show, but for eight years Rick has been an integral part of millions of fans’ Sunday nights. Some of us feel cheapened that AMC is continuing his story outside of the television series. Others think The Walking Dead will be just fine without its main character.
Now that this week will be the first without the Grimes patriarch (or any Grimes #tbh since Judith is definitely Shane’s daughter), we should all reflect on just why Rick’s departure is so monumental.
1. He’s been with us for eight years
When The Walking Dead premiered in 2010 I was fourteen years old. It was my first year of high school. I had embarrassing emo bangs. I ran an angsty Tumblr. My favorite band was Vampire Weekend.
The point is that I’ve grown a lot since 2010—just like you. Through all the bad haircuts and identity changes, Rick has been a steadfast part of zombie culture. We’ve seen him grow from a clean-shaven sheriff looking for his family to an unapologetic zombie-slayer.
Whenever I see a picture of “Officer Friendly Rick,” I’m reminded of who I was around that time. It’s like watching a nostalgic movie from your childhood or visiting your town after a semester at school. You might complain about its flaws, but being reunited feels like home.
2. As an unlikely feminist icon, he’s #supportiveAF of the women in his life
The Walking Dead is no stranger to sexism. Merle Dixon had made several slut-shaming comments around Andrea and Lori having their own consensual relationships. The Governor threatened to sexually assault Maggie. Even The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman has been ridiculed for writing women as weaker based on “science.”
But you know who hasn’t been a sexist jerk? Rick “Practically Beyoncé” Grimes. While the portrayal of female characters is getting better since the show’s beginnings, Rick has been supportive since the first episode. There isn’t a single scene where Rick doubts a woman’s abilities based on her gender. He always believed in Carol, even when she was in a physically abusive relationship and didn’t believe in herself. He respects Maggie’s authority in Hilltop. And Michonne has an equal say in their relationship.
3. He's the best zombie dad in the whole wide apocalypse
I’m sure Rick has a shelf full of No. 1 Zombie Dad trophies somewhere in Alexandria. Not only did he manage to find Lori and Carl within a few days of waking up from his coma, but he took on Judith is his surrogate daughter after Shane tried to kill him.
Has your dad ever bitten a biker’s throat open on a deserted highway? Or imprisoned a dictator in his basement after years of war to honor your dying wishes? Probably not. But Rick has!
Even in his final moments, Rick was searching for his family (again).
4. He always has words of wisdom
Rick’s quotes have been some of the strongest in the series (except for zombie grandpa Hershel, of course). Rick was the first to say the show’s title. He’s given speeches after incredible hardship and can talk down any character.
He also gives the best head tilt when he’s angry, which says enough on its own.
Even if you don’t like the show, you must admit the memes are amazing. Lincoln’s southern accent isn’t the best, so whether he’s mispronouncing “Carl” or “things,” it’s left a legacy of terribly designed 2010 meme templates.
6. We’re just going to miss him
The Walking Dead has been an integral part of my life. I can look back on each season and remember how no matter what was going on it gave me a reason to look forward to Sunday nights.
Though it seems that the show will continue without its main character, we still can follow Rick’s story in the comics. No matter your views on Lincoln leaving, you must admit Rick left us a lot of “stuff and thangs” to be grateful for. And being grateful for what you have—even memories—has always been the point of Rick’s story.
All images from Giphy.