The Walking Dead’s main narrative started out with the character of Rick Grimes in the driver’s seat, helping the audience understand the world he and his fellow survivors were living in. Actor Andrew Lincoln departed the show in season 9, but his presence lived on, thanks largely to a series of long-lasting quotes.
Many of these quotes sent shivers down the spines of longtime fans, as each one would become more profound over time. Rick’s character went through many twists and turns, from light to darkness, and back again, and his evolution was driven largely by trauma, chaos, and bloodshed. Still, his resolve allowed him to pull through until the very end.
Updated on November 21st, 2022 by Jordan Iacobucci:
At long last, The Walking Dead has come to an end after eleven seasons and over a decade on the air. And, in a stunning turn of events, the show’s closing sequence saw the return of Andrew Lincoln’s Rick Grimes in a thrilling set-up to the highly anticipated spinoff series starring himself and Danai Gurira’s Michonne. As anticipation turns toward the many spinoffs in The Walking Dead Universe, fans can also reminisce on some of the most bone-chilling quotes from the legendary Rick Grimes.
“How You Live, How You Die… It Isn’t Up To Me…”
3×15: “This Sorrowful Life”
“How you live, how you die… it isn’t up to me. I’m not your Governor.”
In the early seasons of The Walking Dead, character development was essential when it came to establishing the paths taken in future episodes. After Hershel’s farm burned down, Rick made it clear that the other survivors had to maintain a “ride or die” attitude if they wanted to remain a part of his group.
Season 3 saw the rise of the Governor, a character tied with Negan for the ultimate Walking Dead villain. Rick made a profound statement when he essentially backed off of his previously tyrannical attitude, muttering this powerful quote that referenced the Governor directly. It was a signal that Rick was starting to embrace new ways of doing things.
“I’m Not The Good Guy Anymore.”
2×10: “18 Miles Away”
In season 2, Shane degraded Rick for trying to survive while simultaneously being the “good guy,” something he believed to be impossible. Rick corrected his ex-best friend by dropping this quote to show that he was starting to change, and not in a good way.
Fans saw what Shane was becoming, but Rick was already heading down a similar path. By the time Shane was killed and the survivors had scattered, Rick was fed up, frustrated, and paranoid. He was starting to slip from hero to villain, with all the psychological trappings that come with such a shift.
“I Try Not To Mix It Up With The Almighty Anymore.”
2×04: “Cherokee Rose”
“Last time I asked God for a favor and stopped to admire a view, my son got shot. I try not to mix it up with the almighty anymore.”
Season 2 saw new challenges, threats, and heartbreaking Walking Dead events, not the least of which was Rick’s young son Carl getting shot by accident whilst in the woods. For a while, Carl’s life teetered on the edge of a knife, but he finally managed to pull through and recover.
Rick was left devastated by the ordeal, and it changed his way of looking at the concept of religious belief. He was used to praying for good things to happen, only for terrible events to unfold at almost precisely the same time, as evidenced by this quote.
“Rest In Peace. Now, Get Up, And Go To War.”
During a heavy storm in season 5, Rick and the group took shelter in a barn where he spoke about his grandfather, who had fought in WWII. The anecdote was designed to show the survivors that fear of dying would end up becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.
He shared his grandfather’s wisdom on the subject, which was summed up in this quote. In Rick’s own words, “And then after a few years of pretending he was dead, he made it out alive.” Ironically, this sentiment would be mirrored in future seasons featuring the Whisperers, who shared the same view but with a much different outlook.
“That’s What I’m Gonna’ Use To Kill You.”
5×01: “No Sanctuary”
“There’s a compound bow and a machete with a red handle. That’s what I’m gonna use to kill you.”
When Rick and the group made it to the town of Terminus, they didn’t expect the kind of reception they got. Terminus was a community that just so happened to cannibalize other humans for food, and they became eerily comfortable with the entire process.
Their leader Gareth was eager to get his hands on a bag of guns belonging to Rick’s group, to which Rick offered to take him out into the forest and show him where they were. He then added this quote at the end with a sense of complete relaxation and confidence, which was spine-tingling to watch.
“I’m Sorry This Happened To You.”
1×01: “Days Gone Bye”
Before walkers became commonplace in The Walking Dead, the show used them to tell stories about what may have happened to these former humans. One of the first walkers ever to appear on the show was a woman severed at the waist that Rick came across in the series premiere.
He would revisit the undead zombie later in the episode, uttering this quote to her in an attempt to show sympathy, making him one of the best Walking Dead characters in the franchise. That sentiment would fade quickly, with Rick growing to loathe the undead for all the misery and bloodshed they caused. He quickly viewed them as destructive vermin; a plague upon the world that needed to be vanquished.
“You Don’t Know What It’s Like Out There.”
“You don’t know what its like out there. You may think you do, but you don’t.”
When Rick and the survivors made it to Alexandria, it was practically a slice of heaven. The community was self-sustaining, civil, and seemed to be run by good people. It had all the comforts of the pre-apocalypse world, not the least of which was a sense of safety and community.
However, the group quickly realized that Alexandria’s residents were soft, and had never known much in the way of adversity. By contrast, Rick and his group had gone through the meat grinder several times, and the horrors would stay with them for years. They knew what the world outside Alexandria’s walls was really like.
“We Don’t Kill The Living.”
Rick Grimes’ evolution was certainly the one that The Walking Dead focused on the most. A significant aspect of this was the fact that Rick went from a by-the-book sheriff’s deputy to an unpredictable killing machine in just a few seasons.
Having gone on several murderous rampages, while making many questionable decisions, viewers were sometimes reminded of his previous sentiment, which bears out in this quote. Killing the living was regrettable, but necessary at times. For Rick, it just became easier and easier as time went by.
“I Don’t Take Chances Anymore.”
When Rick first stumbled his way out of the hospital and into a zombie-infested world, he tried to keep as much of his civility and compassion as possible. He believed it was necessary in a world gone mad, but his softness had left his group vulnerable on more than one occasion.
After getting burned multiple times and losing people he cared about, Rick began to change his stance. He was far less forgiving of others, particularly those outside his group. Anyone who crossed him would undoubtedly be killed, and Rick viewed it as necessary to maintain guard at all times.
“Starting Right Now, We Have To Live In The Real World!”
Season 5 featured one of Rick’s most notable emotional meltdowns shortly after he and his group made it to Alexandria. At the time, he was beating an abusive man who tormented his wife and kids. After Rick reached his breaking point and initiated the brawl with Pete on the streets of Alexandria, he soured his reputation with the entire community.
It took the intervention of Michonne to put a stop to his behavior before he went too far. Rick was spiraling down a chasm of his own making, and without the leverage to reel him back to reality, he would surely have turned into a Negan-type character in relatively short order.
“No More Kid Stuff.”
2×12: “Better Angels”
For Carl Grimes, the apocalypse was a huge adjustment. It wasn’t long before this harsh new world forced him to grow up long before he had any reason to. In season 2, Rick took Carl aside for a talk, a moment which would echo in his mind months later when he was faced with the decision to put his own mother down.
Rick’s cold dose of reality was bitter but necessary. “No more kid stuff. I wish you could have the childhood I had, but that’s not gonna happen. People are gonna die. I’m gonna die. Mom. There’s no way you can ever be ready for it. I try to be, but I can’t.”
“I’m Doing Stuff, Lori… Things. Isn’t That Enough?”
After an offscreen winter insinuating the group’s struggle to survive in the wilderness following the fall of the farm, it was revealed that Lori and Rick’s marriage was essentially on the brink of collapse. In the midst of the stresses involving the need to survive on a day-to-day basis, Rick snapped at Lori with this quote.
It came hot on the heels of a realization that Lori had become intimate with the late Shane, whom Rick was forced to face down in season 2. His death split the two apart, and it didn’t help that Rick had taken on a more dictatorial attitude toward the group. Isolated and withdrawn from the others, Rick sabotaged his own relationship.
“I’m Gonna Kill You…”
7×01: “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”
“I’m gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow. But I’m gonna kill you.”
After encountering Negan and watching in horror as he beat two of his friends to death before his very eyes, Rick was left traumatized. The villain had proven his point, and he spent a great deal of time driving that point home in the most brutal and grotesque manner possible.
Despite all that, Rick muttered this quote to Negan, face-to-face in hushed tones as a warning of what was to come. Negan tried to intimidate that attitude out of him, but it only steeled his resolve. Ironically, when faced with the opportunity to kill Negan and claim vengeance, he spared his life and chose not to become the very person he hated.
“This Isn’t A Democracy Anymore!”
Some individuals become tyrants and dictators because they believe they know what’s best for those under their care. Power corrupts quickly, and with relative ease, and a man like Rick was no exception. After the tragic events of season 2, Rick’s personality had shifted into much darker territory.
He dropped this quote at the end of the season in order to dictate how things were going to be from that moment on. Anyone who wanted out was free to go, but for those who stayed, they’d have to abide by Rick’s rules. This attitude ended up alienating a large portion of the group and did Rick no favors.
“I Got A Call.”
Still reeling from Lori’s tragic death, Rick – in mid-breakdown – began hearing the sound of a phone ringing at regular intervals. While the audience suspected that Rick might have started to lose his grip on reality, he was still holding onto hope that someone would be on the other end.
Rick spoke to several phantom callers including Amy, Jacqui, Jim, and his dead wife Lori. In the midst of this, Hershel found Rick waiting by the phone, mumbling this unsettling quote. It was one of many reasons why Rick Grimes would never survive a real-life zombie apocalypse.
“My Mercy Prevails Over My Wrath.”
The eighth season of The Walking Dead followed the war between the Saviors and the other communities that had once been under their rule. In the final battle, Rick shockingly decides to spare Negan’s life, later commenting in wonder that he let his mercy prevail over his wrath.
If there was any character in the series that deserved to die, it was Negan–and Rick had every reason to kill him. However, in sparing his enemy’s life, Rick proved both to his people and to himself that there was a better way of doing things, taking the first step in building a new and better world for his children to grow up in.
“I Want To Show You The New World, Carl.”
6×09: “No Way Out”
After Carl loses his eye during the “No Way Out” arc of season 6, Rick finds himself at his son’s bedside, pleading with him to finally wake up. Rick gives a passionate speech about his realization that he wanted to help Alexandria build a new world and vows to show Carl if he ever wakes up.
Rick has given many speeches during his time on The Walking Dead, but this is by far the most emotional. It also proves to be the most tragic, as Rick would not be able to fulfill this dream, with Carl dying only a few months thereafter.
“I Found Them.”
9×05: “What Comes After”
Rick’s final episode as a series regular comes early in season 9, following the wounded survivor as he attempts to return to his family. However, a herd of walkers threatens to follow him over a bridge to the other communities. In an act of heroic sacrifice, Rick blows up the bridge with himself on it as his friends and family watch, with his final words in the episode ringing of hope.
While Rick thankfully survived this encounter, his final line is absolutely bone-chilling, hearkening back to his initial mission to find his wife and child in the series pilot. Ultimately, Rick only ever fought to protect his family, even if it meant possibly ending his own life to do it.
“How Many Of You Do I Have To Kill To Save Your Lives?”
“You know, I was thinking, how many of you do I have to kill to save your lives? But I’m not going to do that, you’re going to change.”
Rick’s method of survival didn’t particularly go over well when he and his friends first arrived in Alexandria. The two groups butted heads frequently, leading Rick to remark that he had once considered how many Alexandrians he would have to kill in order to make them understand how to survive.
Season 5 was a dark time for Rick and his companions, wherein they were willing to do terrible things in order to preserve their own lives. This line rings true of this theme, as Rick recognizes the darkness of his own thoughts and chooses yet again to find a better way.
“We’re The Ones Who Live.”
5×15: “Try;” 11×25: “Rest In Peace”
Rick has on several occasions throughout the series remarked that he and his closest family are “the ones who live.” This line came back in a major way during the series finale, wherein Rick writes a letter to his loved ones reminding them of this phrase.
Not only does this line signify Rick’s continued survival after so long away from his loved ones, but it also takes an emotional turn as the episode shows a montage of the characters fortunate enough to survive the events of the past eleven seasons. As sendoffs go, this was a perfect way to end the long-running series.
NEXT: The 10 Most Important Characters On The Walking Dead To Die From A Walker Bite