The 5 best and 5 worst things about Rick Grimes

After months of anticipation, Rick Grimes has officially made his exit from The Walking Dead, and what an exit it was. Seriously, leave it to this show to find a way to make something feel unrealistically drawn out, and at the same leave the viewer not quite wanting it to end.

In many ways, this feeling sums up the entire Rick Grimes saga. His has been a drawn-out tale that grew increasingly bipolar in the telling, leaving us constantly torn between cheering on Abraham's prediction that "The new world's gonna need Rick Grimes" and simultaneously just wanting to get off the rollercoaster once and for all. Well, now the ride is at long last complete. So with Rick's swan song on The Walking Dead come and gone, the only thing left to do is take a little stroll down memory lane in order to take a look at some of those highs and lows that collectively add up to a character fans have come to love. Here are the five best — and five worst — things about Rick Grimes.

Best: The leader within

Rick Grimes is a leader. Anyone who's watched The Walking Dead for more than a few minutes understands that the man was born to inspire people. Of course, that doesn't mean he knows that. Over the eight-plus seasons that Rick graced the show with his small-town law enforcement persona, the character has regularly played the part of the reluctant leader, repeatedly called into action over and over again to deliver "his people" from countless dangers… always against the odds, of course.

But while Rick may constantly struggle with insecurities about his calling, he's always had the grace to lead the charge better than most. Particularly in recent seasons, when we saw Rick's all-out leadership come face-to-face with the likes of Negan's domineering persona, the comparison served only to brighten the selflessness that Rick brought to the table through all of his decisions. From leading the small group of survivors out of Atlanta to setting up shop at the prison and the struggles with the Governor, all the way through to guiding Alexandria through the war with the Saviors, Rick has shown a strong and determined ability to lead those that looked to him time and time again for salvation.

Worst: Waffling

Of course, just because Rick has been a good leader over the years, that doesn't mean his leadership hasn't been plagued with a hefty dose of flaws, most notably indecision. Seriously, how many times have we been forced to watch prolonged sequences of Andrew Lincoln's face writhing in agony over a decision or a consequence thereof? Half the time he's threateningly holding a pistol, the other half he's tied up or otherwise unable to react, but whether the aggressor or the aggrieved, we always get that same, agony-ridden, tear-soaked face in inner turmoil over some critical choice or another.

Since Negan's arrival, we've seen these sequences skyrocket. From the shock and terror of that first episode of season 7 all the way to the final showdown between Negan and Rick at the end of season 8, the bat-wielding antagonist kept Rick waffling between a state of paralyzing fear and raging revenge that has been nothing if not exhausting.

You'd think after surviving the freaking end of the world you'd grow a little bit more of a backbone, but alas, steadily making bold, self-assured decisions has never been Rick's strong suit.

Best: The survivor

From clearing Alexandria after it's been overrun by a herd of zombies to toppling power-hungry warlords, there can be no doubt at this point that Rick Grimes is a survivor.

The man was literally recovering (abandoned and alone) from a gunshot wound when the zombie infestation began, let alone everything else that followed. As everyone else's plot armor has thinned to nil around him, Rick just kept on keeping on, fighting his way out of every situation no matter how ridiculously one-sided the fight. From cannibals to ruffians — who can forget that neck-biting scene? — to the Governor and finally the Saviors, Rick has shown a resilience that only a crucial central character of a story could truly possess.

Consider the "final" episode of the Rick saga, for example. Even when everything seems to be over, he literally "un-skewers" himself only to lead a dual zombie horde on a wild ride, during which he passes out numerous times, blows everything up, and then floats down a river (somehow still alive) only to end up in the perfect place to be picked up by a chopper. Is this guy indestructible or what? Even on the brink of death, he can't help but be the most kickass postapocalyptic survivor you ever did see. In the words of "dream Michonne," Rick is a fighter and he never gives up.

Worst: In cold blood

If being a fighter is one of Rick's strong points, there's a dark side to that tendency too, and it's shown itself a few times over the course of his character arc on the show. Rick will do whatever it takes to survive, and that's included some pretty cold-blooded stuff.

Consider, for example, the aftermath of Rick's neck-biting stunt. Sure, the initial move was made in desperation, bringing him to an inhumanly low point for a brief moment in order to save his (and more importantly, Carl's) life and dignity. However, Rick immediately took things further, hacking the body of his captor to pieces right in front of his son's impressionable eyes. Then there was that brutal scene when Rick and company dispatched Gareth and the cannibal crew from Terminus. Intense, gritty, and over the top violent, it showcased a side of Rick Grimes that, while not a common element in the show, has certainly come out to play more than once.

And what about the cool, calm, and collected round of "revenge" killings when Rick and Morgan systematically slaughtered a whole batch of the Saviors after one of them set them set him free? There's no doubt at this point that, for all of the bravado and leadership, caring and sharing, Rick has also got quite a dark side, and when it bubbles to the surface, somebody's usually going to get hurt.

Best: Loyalty

When it comes to caring for those he considers his own people, Rick has shown us some of the most profound inner loyalty of anyone on the show. Sure, Michonne has grown into a very caring, leadership-oriented character, but she didn't start out that way. And Daryl and Carol? They're deeply loyal, especially to the few survivors of the original group from Atlanta, but they've both had profound struggles with being there when the chips were down.

Not so for Rick. Sure, he's had his moments of selfishness, like when he tried to go all retired farmer on everyone in the beginning of season 4 or when he made it appear as if Maggie would be the future leader (even if he didn't quite come through on that one) in season 8. But for all of his resistance to lead, his loyalty to the group has never faltered. He's always been there with a pistol, axe, machete, or whatever else was available to fight off hordes of walkers, the Governor, Negan, and others, always showing his desire to keep everyone safe and together with a family-level bond of unity as one of his prime motivators.

Worst: Emotionally unstable

The plain fact of the matter is that Rick Grimes has shown some pretty major signs of mental instability. There's no doubt that he's been through a lot. Not everyone wakes up months into a zombie apocalypse only to find out that their best friend and wife had an affair (try to fathom dealing with that combo of emotions at the same time). It doesn't set him up for success.

Of course, that was just the tip of the iceberg. He also stooped to those grisly lows we talked about earlier, and has had to watch nearly everyone he loves die. Take all of it together, and it would shake even the strongest of us. And that's exactly what we've seen over and over again.

One of the best examples of this emotional instability has come in the form of Rick's power grabs. In season 2 we saw what fans lovingly refer to as the birth of the Ricktatorship (seriously, it's even got its own Urban Dictionary definition!), with Rick effectively killing the group's fragile semblance of democracy and taking the reins of power into his own hands. Then there was that little brawl with abusive husband Pete in the streets of Alexandria in season 5. Yeah, there's definitely been a bit of a pattern of behavior here.

Best: A vision for the future

Once the emotions calm down, sooner or later Rick gets back down to the business of building the future. He's not just on a mission of "live as long as possible." Even after finding out that everyone was infected, Rick still managed to muscle on, looking for hope anywhere he could find it. From those early days at the prison and on through his rise to lead Alexandria and his tussle with Negan and the Saviors, Rick's primary motive has (almost) always been to reach some state of peace that can allow everyone to pick up the shattered pieces of their humanity and start to rebuild civilization again.

Sure, he's fallen off the wagon a few times along the way, but even in season 8, when it seemed Rick's sole purpose was killing Negan, Carl's message of forgiveness and peace (reinforced by that parting message of love) helped to get his father's mind back in future focus. And now, with Rick's arc on the show officially over, we've seen that he never lost that vision of a bright future. For all the lows he's gone through, he really has remained a beacon of hope throughout most of the show's history.

Worst: Killed his best friend

Clearly, Rick Grimes has a lot of great qualities. On the other hand, he killed his best friend. Yes, Shane was going to shoot Rick first. And yes, there were a lot of emotions at play. But Rick still willingly, consciously killed his best friend. Not only that, but he kind of tricked the guy into a false sense of security before pulling a knife on him. Sure, Rick, we hear you — it was Shane, not you. But really, can just one of you take the fall entirely for this?

However you want to play the blame game, the act set off some of Rick's darkest behavior patterns. The murder came at the end of season 2, right as the Ricktatorship was about to take off, and it also was the dawning of a Rick Grimes who was willing to kill humans rather than just walkers. Call it self-defense if you want to, but it sure does come across as a pretty low point in the Rick Grimes saga.

Best: The glue that held it all together

While The Walking Dead is clearly an ensemble show, with a steady influx of new characters and an ever-shrinking pool of veterans mixing together to move the story forward, there can be little doubt that Rick Grimes was the glue that held it all together. Sure, he wasn't in every episode, and often Rick felt like a damper or even a net negative on the storyline, particularly when he was going through his emotional mood swings. But present or not, emotionally stable or collapsing in on himself like a dying star, it always felt like practically everything that moved the show forward went through Rick.

From his reluctant leadership to his loyalty to the group, his ability to survive, and his vision of the future, this character was equipped to be a catalyst for progress in a storyline that has regularly threatened to sputter out. When everything seemed darkest. Rick always seemed to hold everyone together and push forward toward something better. If the group was splintering, he would fight for loyalty and brotherhood; if the group was in danger, his survival instincts would come into play. And if the group was at peace, he would strive for a better future. The New World needs Rick Grimes. It's going to be interesting seeing how all of these elements play out without our intrepid hero at the helm.

Worst: He left

You saw this one coming, right? How much "worse" can it get than a beloved character leaving a show prematurely? We saw it with Michael Scott on The Office, and that show sputtered out just a couple of seasons later. Will The Walking Dead do the same? Or was Rick's departure from the flagship series yet another example of him muscling the show forward toward a brighter future?

It was encouraging to hear Walking Dead writer Scott Gimple reveal in the aftermath of the episode that Rick Grimes has indeed been preserved — literally via helicopter evacuation — for other harrowing adventures, currently in the form of three upcoming feature-length films focused on the continuation of the Grimes chronicles. Andrew Lincoln has also revealed that the lure of The Walking Dead has been too much to resist, even after he's severed his acting ties with the series, and he's already slated to return as a director at some point next season.

But for all that, he still left the show. Rick Grimes, the hero, the leader, the fighter, the survivor, has officially departed the series that made him. Usually it's actors that we discuss heading off to new ventures. But in this case, AMC has helped bring fans a fictional character so supercharged that we're here discussing not just Andrew Lincoln, but Rick Grimes moving onto bigger and better things. The next question is whether The Walking Dead can weather the storm of his departure.