Rick Grimes' final episode on The Walking Dead featured many parallels to the character's introduction in the first season of the AMC series. Andrew Lincoln served as the post-apocalyptic drama's central character up until season 9, appearing in a total of 103 episodes. The series, which has been renewed for an eleventh season, is based on the popular comic books by Robert Kirkman. Even though Lincoln exited the TV show, Rick still has a future in the franchise with the development of Walking Dead sequel movies. Rick played such an important role on the series so it was only fitting that he got a symbolic sendoff.
Rick's last episode came in The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5, "What Comes After." Dealing with a severe injury sustained in the prior episode, Rick was tasked with diverting a walker herd as he went in and out of consciousness. During his lucid state, he had visions and hallucinations that featured elements of his past. Though he wanted to get back to his family, Rick was determined to destroy the herd. In a final act of heroism, Rick left the walkers to the newly constructed bridge before firing his gun on a pile of unused dynamite. The herd along of walkerss blow up while Rick's family and friends believed he was also killed. In reality, he fell into the river and made it to the banks before a mysterious helicopter transported Rick to an unknown location.
It was no surprise that Lincoln's final episode went out with a bang. Seeing as he was the face of the franchise for so long, there had to be callbacks to his evolution as the lead character. It turned out that many sequences from "What Comes After" mirrored events from "Days Gone By," the show's pilot. One of the most prominent similarities (pointed out via Reddit) was Rick's injury. In the very first episode, Rick suffered a gunshot wound in his left abdomen, which left him in a coma, and in his final appearance, the character was dealing with an injury after being impaled by rebar in the same spot. This gave more meaning to the return of Morgan's line, "what's your wound," a piece of pilot dialogued replayed in "What Comes After." Rick's injury was just one aspect that paralleled the beginning of his journey.
The season 9 episode was chock-full of nods to Rick's experience in The Walking Dead pilot. "What Comes After" made it a point to feature multiple helicopter scenes, and interestingly enough, a helicopter was shown outside of the hospital in the very first episode. Of course, after Rick woke up from a coma, the infamous "Don't Open Dead Inside" door was shown, and it fittingly reappeared in one of the character's visions. The series also made it a point to have Rick ride a horse while leading away the horde of zombies as a way to reminisce about how he used a horse to travel back to Atlanta in search of his family.
Speaking of family, "Days Gone By" featured a slew of character cameos. As Rick went in and out of consciousness, he had a handful of visions that focused on deceased figures that meant a lot to him in life. There was a guest appearance by Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) prior to the events that launched the series as well as cameos by Sasha and Hershel, who of course shared more words of wisdom. Rick might be alive and well in The Walking Dead universe, but the mothership series isn't the same without him.