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The Walking Dead series finale ending explained: We are the ones who live

“We are the ones who live.” It’s a poignant final phrase for a show that has captivated fans for 11 seasons, 12 years, and 177 episodes. Now, The Walking Dead has officially come to an end.

Note: The following contains heavy plot spoilers for the series finale of The Walking Dead.

The final episode begins in dramatic fashion with an anguished Daryl running through the medical center of the Commonwealth, desperate to save a dying Judith. As she fades in and out of consciousness, Judith mumbles something about how her mom is going to find her dad and they will all be together soon. Daryl is visibly confused.

Judith lying on a hospital gurney in a scene from The Walking Dead.
Jace Downs / AMC

Meanwhile, the rest of the group fights valiantly against the walkers that have infiltrated the community, resulting in the heartbreaking losses of both Luke and Jules. Thanks to Princess and Max, Mercer is freed from prison and back in uniform, ready to fight back against Pamela.

Rosita, Eugene, and Gabriel also manage to track down the kids and Rosita summons every bit of motherly strength to take down walkers surrounding their pens to grab her daughter, Coco, in a sweet embrace.

Rosita looking terrified, baby Coco strapped to her in a scene from The Walking Dead.
Jace Downs / AMC

In trying to escape a hoard of walkers surrounding their vehicle, however, Rosita falls into the middle of a group of them, only to emerge fighting them all off, baby Coco in tow. As it turns out, however, she was bitten during the fracas and is now living on borrowed time. She and Eugene share a sweet exchange when she reveals her fate to him, and he breaks down in tears. Later, as Rosita is in her final moments, she tells Eugene she’s glad he’s the one left.

Maggie reluctantly agrees to work with Negan to take down Pamela after hearing words she has wanted to hear for so long: “I’m sorry.” Negan’s emotional and heartfelt apology comes only after his wife and unborn daughters’ lives are threatened in the penultimate episode. He finally understands what Maggie went through.

But the pair, sitting at their sniper post, realize a showdown is happening. Gabriel declares he’s letting the desperate Commonwealth members standing behind the gate back into the community: he won’t make the same mistake he made with his parishioners years prior at his church. Thanks to inspiring words from Daryl that follow, Pamela’s last supporters defect and decide to follow Mercer’s commands instead. She is arrested and the group takes over.

Daryl standing, Carol in the background, in The Walking Dead.
Jace Downs / AMC

The group then hatches an elaborate plan to take out the walkers using music, speakers, and a whole lot of fuel for a literally explosive scene, all while Pamela is cooped up in jail. They top it off with a celebratory feast at her former home.

Maggie and Negan sit face-to-face in a scene from The Walking Dead.
Jace Downs / AMC

Prior to the feats, however, Maggie has a heartfelt conversation with Negan. She admits that while she does not want to hate him and believes that he has genuinely changed and is truly apologetic, she simply can’t bear looking at him without seeing the heinous things he did to Glenn. She does not want to remember Glenn that way.

She tells Negan she is willing to live with him, even if she, at times, can’t bear to look at him. He later gifts Judith the very compass he once stole from her. He pens a note telling her he hopes it will keep her safe as it had done for him when she decided to let him keep it all those years ago so he could “find his way.”

A one-year time jump follows, and Eugene and Max have their own baby (named Rosie, of course), while three communities are being run simultaneously, including Alexandria. Mercer and Ezekiel have taken over the Commonwealth as lieutenant and governor, respectively, with Carol in Lance’s old role as director of operations.

Maggie is leading Hilltop, and sends Daryl on a journey to learn more about what caused the outbreak, and potentially also why the walkers are seemingly evolving with new capabilities. Chances are, he also wants to search of his best friend, Rick, whom he now believes could be alive. Before he leaves, he and Carol share a loving exchange where, for the first time, Daryl tells Carol he loves her … in a best friend kind of way, of course.

Rick standing outside wearing a CRM jacket in The Walking Dead.
Curtis Bond Baker / AMC

The show ends with split scenes showing Michonne and Rick both penning letters to Judith about their journeys while looking back on the ones they loved, lost, and who still live. Michonne is on the hunt to find Rick, and Rick is trying to escape the clutches of the Civic Republic Military (CRM). We see why and how his backpack ended up on the boat for Michonne to find, while Michonne, outfitted in full armor, is determined to do whatever it takes to find her husband and get back to their kids.

The finale was a nicely wrapped up happy ending for most of the characters. Many stories will be continuing with the spinoffs, including Walking Dead: Dead City centering around Negan and Maggie, Daryl Dixon, and the untitled spinoff that will cover the storylines of Michonne and Rick. Let’s not forget another long-running spinoff, Fear the Walking Dead, which continues to go strong and will be back for its eighth season in 2023.

The Walking Dead might have come to an end after its many ups and downs and plenty of life lessons, but the stories are far from over. With so many major characters still alive, we might see the odd cameo or guest appearances on the spinoffs. Viewers will have to wait patiently for the new series to debut to find out. Until then, fans will continue to live on just as some of their favorite characters did.

You can stream the entire series run of The Walking Dead on AMC+.

Christine Persaud
Christine has decades of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started her career writing exclusively about…
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