The Walking Dead finale ending explained

Cameron Frew
Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead finale

The Walking Dead has finally ended after 11 seasons; however, while the show may be over, the franchise’s future has been set up, so let’s break down the ending.

The Walking Dead first premiered on AMC in 2010, introducing the world to Rick Grimes in the immediate fallout of a devastating zombie apocalypse; cities turned into no man’s land, prisons transformed into sanctuaries, and cannibalism festering among the desperate.

The journey to the finishing line has been long, bumpy, and brutal, from Hershel’s death at the hands of The Governor to Negan’s skull-busting debut in Season 7.

Last night, Season 11 brought the mainline show to a close – but there’s plenty more to come, so let’s dig into what happened in The Walking Dead finale and what the ending means going forward.

The Walking Dead finale ending: What happened to Negan and Maggie?

Season 11 Episode 24 focused on the survivors as they made their last stand against the Commonwealth, while Daryl and Carol helped to save Judith’s life after being caught in a crossfire.

Negan and Maggie share two major emotional scenes. Firstly, he offers to kill Governor Milton to protect Maggie from the consequences of such a death. “Hell is gonna rain down on you, and you ain’t gonna come back, and you have to come back… so I’m gonna do it,” he tells her.

Negan speaks about how he finally understood how Maggie must have felt when he murdered Glenn right in front of her when he was nearly executed alongside his wife Annie. “I know I probably owe you more than this, but I’m so sorry for what I took from you and what I took from your son,” he says.

Maggie doesn’t let him go alone, but she doesn’t kill Milton. Instead, she’s arrested by General Mercer for high crimes against the people of the Commonwealth.

Afterwards, Maggie tells Negan she can’t forgive him – but she’s trying.

She says: “Glenn was beautiful. I’ll never love anyone like that again. I remember his smile. His goodness. The way he made me feel. But when I look at you… all I see is that bat coming down on his head. Blood running down his face. I hear him, I hear him calling for me. And I hear you mocking him while he’s dying.

“So I can’t forgive you. Even though I’m so grateful that you saved my son. Even though I know that you’re trying. I’m trying, too. ‘Cause I don’t want to hate you anymore. I don’t want to hurt like that. And I don’t want my son to see that anybody has that kind of hold over me.

“If you and Annie want to stay, you have earned your place. If I can’t look at you some days, if I can’t work with you, and if I can’t move on – that’s why. Because all I have are my memories. And I don’t want to remember Glenn like that.”

Negan’s immediate fate is unclear. One would assume he leaves to reunite with his wife in Alexandria, but he’ll also team up with Maggie again in The Walking Dead: Dead City, one of several spinoffs still to come.

The Walking Dead finale ending: What happened to Daryl?

Firstly, Daryl used his blood to save Judith’s life, as he’s a universal donor. Secondly, he helped to take down Governor Milton, borrowing Rick’s famous line and telling her: “We ain’t the walking dead.”

Following Milton’s arrest, Maggie returns to Hilltop with her son, where she tells Daryl and Carol: “I want to talk about the future. There’s a lot out there to find out about, and I think it’s time we did.”

After a one-year time jump, we get one last conversation between Daryl and Connie – if you were hoping for anything romantic, prepare to be disappointed. “How’s the frontier?” she asks him, implying he’s been away on a personal mission.

He then bid farewell to Carol. “It’s not like we’re never gonna see each other again… you’re my best friend,” he told her, and Judith assuring she’ll look after Dog for him while he’s gone. He also promises to keep an eye out for Rick and Michonne and bring them home if he finds them.

So, Daryl survives and rides off into the unknown… except his future isn’t that uncertain, since we know he’ll be coming back for The Walking Dead: Daryl Dixon, another spinoff presumed to follow the hero as he travels to France to learn more about the virus.

The Walking Dead finale ending: What happened to Rick and Michonne?

As Daryl rides off into the distance, that could have been the moment the show ended – but from a struck match, two characters return: Rick and Michonne. They’re not together, instead writing letters to Judith from different locations (and times, presumably).

Both characters recite their letters, with Rick saying: “I think of the dead all the time… And about the living. Who I lost. I think about them all every day. Their faces. What I learned from them. How they made me who I am. So much more than all of this made me who I am.”–UFTpQp_Xg

We see Rick put his shoes, journal, and phone in a bag and throw it in a bag as a Civic Republic Military helicopter approaches, and Michonne holding that same bag in another scene. As she rides her horse towards an enormous herd of walkers, she says from her letter to Judith: “Remember what I said. It’s what he said. Hold it to your heart. It’s true. Forever,” before numerous Walking Dead characters from across the series repeat: “We’re the ones who live.”

The show ends with Rick standing in front of the helicopter, facing an unknown skyline, forced to surrender. “Consignee Grimes, you’ve been located and are instructed to surrender. Remain in place with your hands up… c’mon Rick. It’s like she told you. There’s no escape for the living.” Yet, has he looks up, he smiles.

The scene briefly cuts back to Judith at the Hilltop, who tells RJ: “We get to start over. We’re the ones who live.”

Once again, this isn’t really the end: Rick and Michonne are returning for their own spinoff in 2023.

The official description, as per IGN, reads: “This series presents an epic love story of two characters changed by a changed world. Kept apart by distance. By an unstoppable power. By the ghosts of who they were.

“Rick and Michonne are thrown into another world, built on a war against the dead… And ultimately, a war against the living. Can they find each other and who they were in a place and situation unlike any they’ve ever known before? Are they enemies? Lovers? Victims? Victors? Without each other, are they even alive – or will they find that they, too, are the Walking Dead?”

The Walking Dead spinoffs are all due for release in 2023, alongside the eighth season of Fear the Walking Dead.

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