The best episodes of The Walking Dead are the ones where they lean into being more of an indie film laden with symbolism than a zombie show, and the AMC series‘ 100th outing provided. It also introduced a weird mystery for fans to uncover. These “Old Man Rick” Walking Dead theories range from logical to conspiratorial and will have you questioning literally everything.
The Season 8 premiere included a whole sequence of scenes with Rick Grimes sporting a grey beard and living in peace while Weird Al's comedy polka parody of "Another One Bites The Dust" played in the background. Not only was Rick's appearance a look, but it raised a bunch of questions. Is it real? How old is Judith? How old is Old Man Rick, even? Why are the people in the town building a giant owl?
Hopefully this bizarre future, or dream, or whatever it is will return again in Season 8. It's not even the only bizarre thing that happened to the former sheriff in the episode. There's also the (presumably) flash forward to him crying by a stained glass window, and the fact that he snapped a Polaroid at the latest Savior showdown. What the heck was that about?
At least this Old Man Rick stuff is stacked with plenty of weird clues and symbols for fans to pick through. Here are some of the theories about what it all means.
It's A Jacob's Ladder Scenario
The knee-jerk response to something this mysterious is for fans to say that it was all a dream. Does "Old Man Rick" indicate that Rick never woke up from his coma, and the entire show has been fake? Thankfully, this theory has been debunked by the show's creators in an Entertainment Weekly interview. The fact that Rick woke up in Alexandria with Michonne, Carl, and Judith helps prove the theory wrong as well.
Rick Is Hallucinating In A Moment Of Grief Or Hope
Maggie asked in the premiere if Rick is looking towards the future. Maybe that's really all this is.
Rick Was In Another Coma
That's an interesting theory — though you'd think Michonne, Carl, and Judith would be more excited to see him up and walking around. The episode made it seem like this was just another day in the life of Old Man Rick.
Rick Is Going To Die
Could the sequence be foreshadowing Rick's death? Sure, nobody is safe on The Walking Dead, but that seems insane. If anyone is going to survive, it has to be Rick Grimes. Right?
It's Old Man Carl
Yes, this is an actual theory. What if Carl grows up to have a son that looks just like him, a daughter that looks just like Judith, and a wife that looks just like Michonne? It's plausible, even as Rick is not Judith's father, but still seems like a bit of a stretch.
The Little Girl Is Gracie, Not Judith
Say what?! This compelling theory includes some crucial rabbit evidence and posits that the little girl is not grown-up Judith, but the baby that Rick encountered in the second episode of the season before getting caught by Morales. That would set this flash forward considerably further ahead in time, but it makes a lot of sense.
Rick Is Immortal
First of all, one would hope that an immortal being would settle on a better hairstyle. Old Man Rick's beard is OK, but the rest is a hot mess. This has been a popular Walking Dead fan theory for a while, and Old Man Rick just adds fuel to that fire.
The Whisperers Are Coming
There's one big clue in the Old Man Rick scenes that you may have missed, especially if you aren't a fan of the Walking Dead comics. Michonne and Judith talk about the upcoming festival. In the comics, the villainous faction called The Whisperers attack a festival and take out a large number of survivors. Maybe this really is the future after a bit of a time jump, but it's just not quite as calm and idyllic as it seems.
Whatever this scene really means — and it seems like it might not be the last of its kind — Season 8 is already off to an exciting and intriguing start. The new clues about Old Man Rick that will (hopefully) be revealed in future episodes should keep those theory engines churning.