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The Walking Dead Fans Point Out Their Favorite Callbacks In The Finale

After 11 seasons on the air, AMC's flagship series "The Walking Dead" has finally come to a close. Once one of the most popular shows on the network (per the Hollywood Reporter), the series finale came with a bit of a fizzle. Dampened by the promise of unending spin-offs and overall decaying goodwill, the episode still tried valiantly to wring what tension and pay off it could. 

To its credit, there were several easter eggs throughout the finale's runtime that skillfully paid off early series scenes, both large and small. Though much of the plot was concerned with saving Judith Grimes (Cailey Flemming), defeating Pamela (Laila Robins), and saying goodbye to several major players, it found time to pay homage to some of the series' most memorable moments.

Of course, the quickest to point out such callbacks were "The Walking Dead" subreddit members, who took to the discussion board to share what they caught. From Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) first mission to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) bloody entrance, "Rest in Peace" raids "The Walking Dead's" grave in a surprisingly effective style.

The walkers still know how to use rocks

Reddit user u/synfidie wrote, "That zombie with the rock was a callback [to] the 1st episode when they were in the store, i believe," to which u/full07britney corrected, "Episode 2!" Both Redditors are referring to Season 1, Episode 2, "Guts," which sees a newly awakened Rick Grimes uniting with Glenn (Steven Yeun), Andrea (Laurie Holden), T-Dog (IronE Singleton), and Merle (Michael Rooker) — in the "Walking Dead" universe, all but Rick have been dead for years now.

At the time, they comprised part of Rick's initial core group of friendlies, informally called "The Survivors." The group miraculously included Rick's wife Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) and their son Carl (Chandler Riggs), as well as Rick's former policing partner, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal). Throughout "Guts," Rick proves himself to be a cunning survivalist and a viable leader, paving the way for the 11 seasons of drama that followed.

Holed up inside an abandoned department store, the small group of Survivors finds themselves trusting Rick's strategy to escape a horde of walkers (leaving one of their own in the process). Just as they escape, one of the walkers smashes through the building's glass doors with a rock — showing a surprising level of competency from the mindless brain eaters. In the series finale, the hospital is breached by a walker smashing a glass door with a rock, hinting early that — even all these years later — humans are still vulnerable to the walkers' simplest tricks. In a way, it underlines the episode's central theme of fear and greed thwarting tangible progress.

Daryl unknowingly pays homage to Shane

Responding to the same comment thread, u/wazza15695 noted, "...the way Daryl caged Judith into the hospital room [is] the same way Shane did to Rick." In one of the most compelling moments from a series premiere in television history, "The Walking Dead" activates its main protagonist by having him emerge from a coma in the middle of the apocalypse (a sequence pulled straight from the original series, penned by "Invincible" writer Robert Kirkman). Through Rick, the audience got to experience the walkers' uprising uneasily and horrifically.

In Season 1, Episode 6, "TS-19," it is revealed that Shane was by Rick's side when the virus first broke out. As the hospital descends into chaos, Shane frantically tries to evacuate Rick's unconscious body — as a last resort, he shuts Rick into the room and barricades the door with a gurney. By having Daryl (Norman Reedus) perform the same act, the show uses it as a bittersweet shorthand to remind viewers just how much Judith means to Daryl — and how much her father once meant to Shane.

Gabriel atones for his sins

Even one of the episode's more missable moments offered a small resolution. After ordering the Commonwealth Army to stand down, Colonel Vickers says, "give the preist the key." "The priest," of course, is Father Gabriel Stokes, who first appeared in the Season 5 episode, "Strangers." Gabriel has remained a prominent supporting cast member ever since — despite joining the group under tense circumstances. 

Rick and his group became suspicious of Gabriel almost immediately after meeting him. Though he presented an unthreatening demeanor, there were obvious signs that the priest was concealing a dark secret. In Season 5, Episode 3 ("Four Walls and a Roof") it is revealed that Gabriel betrayed his congregation by denying them shelter in his sanctuary. Prioritizing his own safety, he merely listened to the screams of innocent men, women, and children as they tore each other to shreds outside. By allowing Gabriel to be the one to open the gates — to finally let in those in need — the series nods to Gabriel's past and perhaps even offers him the most direct bit of solace, he could ever receive. One user called the moment "amazing."

The Suvivors finally get their Sunday dinner

It's arguable that none of the series' central figures received more care and consideration throughout the final season of "The Walking Dead" than Negan. So much so that the series finale afforded the former villain its most poignant scene.

In two series-best performances from Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Lauren Cohen, Maggie sits down with Negan to admit two devastating personal revelations: 1) That Negan has proven to her that he is capable of genuine change, and 2) that she still can't forgive what he did to Glenn. In Season 7, Episode 1 ("The Day Will Come When You Won't Be"), Negan infamously and brutally beats Glenn to death with his bat, Lucille. He callously mocks, "Bet you thought you were all gonna grow old together, sittin' around the table at Sunday dinner... happily ever after."

Negan's speech — and his entire early characterization — comes from a warped, nihilistic worldview. As u/elivspookie pointed out, the series proves him wrong by having the surviving characters literally sit around the table for a warm, safe, family-style dinner. It's sadly fitting that Negan is the only one not in attendance, nodding in humble resignation to Daryl as he moves on for good.