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During the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, one recurrent theme left fans really confused. Why did we keep seeing an older Rick? What exactly was going on? Although we don’t have an explanation yet for exactly what was going on, fans have a lot of theories to explain what the “Old Man Rick” scenes actually meant. In those scenes, Rick was a bit older and walking with a cane. Michonne was with him, along with Judith — who appeared to have aged by a few years. They were in a safe community where things seemed to have slowed down and life was easier. Here are the top theories about just what was going on, to help you. (Warning: Spoilers for the comics below.)
Theory 1: A Big Time Jump Will Happen After the War
The most popular theory among fans is that the show is going to do a big time jump.
SPOILERS FOR THE COMICS BELOW:
This time jump might be similar to what was seen in the comics. After the “all out war” with Negan in the comics, there was a time jump covering the span of several years, where Rick woke up much older and with grey hair.
Fans say that the presence of the cane implies that it is the time jump, because it parallels an injury Rick got during the war in the storyline. But some clues that indicate this might not be the time jump is that Rick’s face appears to be missing his scars.
There’s also the possibility that this is a time jump, but not the one from the comics. It wouldn’t be the first time the show has had a similar storyline to the comics that diverged slightly.
Theory 2: Rick Is Dreaming About Everyone Having a Happy Life, Perhaps Because Something Terrible Happened
Some fans think this is just Rick dreaming about the future, imagining that everyone had a happy life after the Negan war.
Some fans might be a bit annoyed by this outcome, if it happens, because they’re really wanting the time jump theory to be true. ButThe Walking Dead has definitely done some dream sequences lately, so this wouldn’t be the first time. Remember the finale for Season 7, when a great part of the finale involved Sasha imagining talking to Abraham and imagining their last conversation as if it were happening right then? Or what about the Season 7 premiere dream sequence that involved everyone in the future, eating happily at a big table, while Glenn was alive with his child a few years down the line? Maybe this could even be a continuation of that dream sequence. (Except, from behind, Rick looks like his hair is normal-colored and not grey.)
Here is that scene from the Season 7 premiere:
I’m personally leaning toward Theory #2 being the correct answer. But I think something absolutely terrible happened to Rick’s group and now he’s trying to escape that reality with his vision of a better world. In the transition scenes, Rick’s eyes were bloodshot. That indicates something happened that we haven’t seen yet. Perhaps he was blinded in an attack, or seriously injured while someone he loves was killed. He can’t handle reality, so in the future he’s hallucinating a perfect ending and a happy world.
Rick’s Dream Is Similar to His Hospital Scene
An interesting point is that Rick’s dream is similar, in some ways, to when he woke up in the hospital. We now know that there’s no possibility Rick is dreaming the whole thing, because he’s with Michonne and Judith in these future scenes. But there are definite parallels to the hospital that can’t be ignored. Consider the flowers near his bedside as an example. There were flowers by his hospital bed when he woke up in the Season 1 premiere. Interestingly, Shane was the one who brought him the flowers. Here’s that scene:
The flowers could be a clue. In Rick’s flash forward vision, they’re alive. When he woke up in real life, they were dead:
If Rick is hallucinating a better life for himself, it’s understandable that he might take snippets of things that really happened to support that hallucination.
What do you think? Is this really the future or is Rick hallucinating? Let us know in the comments below.