The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Opens With A Brutal Nod To The Comics

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Written By Sedoso Feb

This post contains spoilers for the premiere of “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.”

They finally did it. Just moments into the premiere episode of the new series “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live,” right after audiences catch a glimpse of hero Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) for the first time in over five years, the poor man finally loses a hand.

It’s a twist that’s been a long time coming for fans of Robert Kirkman, Tony Moore, and Charlie Adlard’s “Walking Dead” comic books, yet this new spinoff series manages to make it feel utterly shocking nonetheless. In the original comics, cop-turned-world-weary apocalypse survivor Rick gets a surprise amputation courtesy of The Governor as early as issue 28. In the AMC “Walking Dead” universe, however, The Governor came and went an entire decade ago, with David Morrisey in the role of the eye-patch-wearing villain.

In the years since Morrisey’s departure, the TV adaptation of “The Walking Dead” has toyed with the idea of yeeting one of Rick’s limbs more than once, including in a disturbing season 7 sequence in which Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) pushes him to think about chopping off his own son’s arm. Lincoln has even admitted to outright asking for some version of the bloody scene to be incorporated into the series, at one point stating at New York Comic Con (via Business Insider), “That is the one thing that I have been campaigning for for a long time, for them to chop my arm off.”

Andrew Lincoln finally got his wish

Lincoln doesn’t just star in “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live,” but also serves as an executive producer and is credited (along with Scott Gimple and Danai Gurira) as co-author of the premiere episode’s story. It seems that this promotion meant Lincoln could finally get his wish; Rick not only loses a hand in the opening sequence of the premiere, but he actually cuts it off himself. After embarking on a coordinated mission that involved killing zombies (which seemed to be smoldering from a nearby wildfire), Rick worked up the nerve to chop off his left hand near the wrist, mumbling, “This is how” all the time.

The context surrounding the amputation is complicated and plays out via an impressively cinematic premiere episode that has better pacing and more creative energy than most of the latter seasons of “The Walking Dead” combined. In short, though, the choice serves the promised story of Rick and Michonne’s (Gurira) reunion, as anti-authoritarian Rick feels trapped by the system of a city and military whose leader quite literally puts him on a leash to keep him from bolting. Removing the hand that ties him to the apparent utopia keeping him from Michonne and his kids is a last-ditch effort – and it’s one that turns out to be depressingly unsuccessful.

We’ve got to hand it to The Walking Dead

Still, the amputation scene works on several levels. In terms of episode hooks, it’s one of the best the “Walking Dead” has ever pulled off. The flagship series once brought in massive viewership numbers, and though they dwindled badly, it seems likely that Rick Grimes fans of years past will tune into this new show, at least for a moment, to ask, “What are they putting this poor guy through now?” The show’s answer is swift and jarring and makes it all but impossible to stop watching after the first few minutes.

Plus, the brutal sequence is a sign that this new series will keep the spirit of the comics alive, even as it strays from them. After Rick’s amputation, he ends up going undercover in an offshoot of the Civic Republic Military, and in the process, he gets decked out with a custom-made prosthetic complete with a hidden blade. Though comic book Rick doesn’t have the same experience, Kirkman once revealed that he’d considered arming Rick with a prosthetic weapon. “I was totally going to put a knife on his arm — at least temporarily from time to time,” he wrote in “The Walking Dead Deluxe #45.”

14 years after the original series premiere, “The Walking Dead” jokes write themselves. The franchise ambles on indefinitely, neither dead nor particularly alive. Yet “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live” has already served as a compelling jolt to the system by not just making good on a long-anticipated plot point, but by following it up with an especially interesting and epic episode. Rick may have finally lost a hand, but this week, I’m guessing he gained some viewers.

New episodes of “The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live” premiere Sundays on AMC and AMC+.

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