The Walking Dead: The Most Nostalgic Callbacks To The Earlier Seasons In The Finale

The Walking Dead finale recently aired, bringing an end to this epic series. This last episode not only concluded this show but related back to the earlier seasons, bringing the plot full circle.

A lot has changed over the course of this long-running series, including characters, conflicts, villains, and even the location. However, the earlier seasons still have an influence on the storyline and how fans view the current show. There are callbacks throughout this final episode that directly link the current events to previous ones within the earlier seasons.


Daryl’s Terrible Childhood

Daryl holding his crossbow in season one alongside him with his crossbow on his back in later seasons of The Walking Dead. 

Throughout the earlier seasons, when the characters were still being developed, Daryl often spoke about the difficult childhood he had growing up with an absent, abusive father and a controlling brother. Merle is one of his greatest enemies, though he still cared for his brother because of how he treated Daryl when they were young.

Though this was an important aspect of understanding Daryl, his past hasn’t been mentioned in a while. However, in this finale, he tells Carol that Merle used to have him sell his blood because he’s a universal donor. This callback to Daryl’s younger years was reminiscent of the struggles he had earlier when he couldn’t decide if his loyalties lie with Merle or the other survivors.

Daryl Gives Blood

Shane wiping Rick's face with a rag while he's crying and covered in blood in season 2 of The Walking Dead. 

In the second season, Carl was shot, and Rick had to repeatedly give blood to his son while he was going through surgery on Hershel’s farm. This was one of the most suspenseful moments and an event that changed Rick’s character. However, it was also a powerful father/son milestone in the series.

In the finale, Daryl also doesn’t hesitate to give Judith blood when she needs it after also being shot. This was not only reminiscent of this earlier season but highlighted how Daryl has become like a father to Judith and acts just as quickly when she’s in danger as Rick did with his children before.

Uses A Gurney To Block Hospital Door

Rick laying in a hospital bed alongside Judith sitting in a hospital bed with a bloody cloth on her chest in The Walking Dead. 

One of the most obvious callbacks to the beginning of the show was when Daryl had to help the others defend the hospital when the walkers were about to get inside. To protect Judith, he couldn’t move her, so instead, he rolled a gurney in front of the door to block the entrance.

This was very similar to the flashback of the hospital when Rick was still unconscious during the beginning of the apocalypse. Shane couldn’t safely get Rick out of the hospital with all the violence and danger, so he blocked the door with a gurney. This aspect of the finale really solidified that the show’s storyline had come full circle, even after so many years.

Walkers Smashing Rocks Against Glass

Walkers smashing rocks into a glass door in The Walking Dead. 

One unrecognizable thing in The Walking Dead’s earlier seasons in later ones was the intelligence that walkers displayed when the apocalypse first began. However, in this final season, the walkers began to evolve, and some of them became smarter than others, able to scale buildings and use objects.

When the walkers began smashing the glass doors at the hospital with rocks, it was quite similar to the store scene in the city in season 1 when the walkers did the same thing. This moment worked to reestablish the previous portrayal of more intelligent undead and could likely be carried on in the upcoming spinoffs.

People Without Survival Skills

Amy and Andrea laughing together in season 1 alongside an image of Pamela holding up lottery tickets in the Commonwealth in season 11 of The Walking Dead. 

At the beginning of the apocalypse, people were largely unable to defend themselves against the undead. They had to work to develop their survival skills throughout the years, and many of them lost their lives during this struggle to learn to fight against the dead.

In this finale, the audience saw what the Commonwealth was doing to its citizens by not teaching them to protect themselves throughout the apocalypse. Without being exposed to the world or even being taught how to fight, the citizens were completely defenseless when Pamela abandoned them to protect the wealthier class.

Judith Wakes To Her “Parents”

Judith Grimes crouching with blood on her mouth in The Walking Dead. 

After Carl was shot in season 2, he woke up to both of his parents sitting by his side. This was an endearing moment for the family and showed the audience that though there was a lot of devastation, the survivors were still able to maintain their wholesome relationships.

The scene in which Judith wakes up to Carol and Daryl is reminiscent of the comfort Carl had waking up to his parents. Judith was raised mainly raised by the group after Michonne left, leaving Daryl to care for her. These two people are older influences in her life and are just as important to her as her actual parents.

Negan Fears For His Wife And Child

Annie smiling down at Negan alongside an image of Rick embracing Lori and Carl in The Walking Dead. 

In the finale, Negan expressed his concern for Annie and his unborn child. He is no longer concerned with himself or his well-being but with taking care of his new family. This was a big shift from the previous Negan, who only had eyes for power and control.

This situation is similar to Rick’s concern for his family at the beginning of the series. Rick didn’t think about himself, but his main goal was to find his wife and son, so he could make sure they were safe. This change of priorities coming from Negan is reminiscent of Rick’s character and foreshadows his character in the upcoming spinoff.

Rosita Sacrifices For Her Child

Sarah Wayne Callies as Lori Grimes on The Walking Dead (2010-2022)

During the fight for survival in the Commonwealth, Rosita was bitten on the shoulder while she was trying to protect her daughter Coco. This was the most devastating death in the finale, but heartwarming because she was content knowing she did what she had to do to protect her child.

This is a recall of the death of Lori Grimes, who was ready and willing to sacrifice herself for her unborn child. Though Lori’s death was in childbirth, both of these mothers were willing to give up their lives for the chance for their child to make it in their difficult world.

Judith Says It Isn’t Too Late

Carl and Judith both wearing Rick's sheriff hat in The Walking Dead. 

When Pamela is ready to give up on all of her people and change things, Judith tells the older woman it’s never too late to change. Though Judith had no reason to take pity on this woman, she wanted her to see that the world is still worth saving, along with every person.

Judith represented her older brother’s opinions at this moment. Before his death, he was desperate to stop the fighting and believed that all people were important and worth saving. This was an important callback in the final episode because it demonstrated that Judith was the representation of the beloved character of her brother.

Maggie Recalls Glenn’s Death

Negan brandishing his bat at Glenn in The Walking Dead

In the final episode, Maggie also admitted to Negan that she’ll never be able to forgive him for Glenn’s brutal death. This event in Maggie’s life changed her character, and she made it clear she couldn’t look at his killer without recalling her husband.

This was an emotional scene and also reminded fans of the brutal death of Glenn. Though Negan has become a character fans can root for, it’s also important to remember his past and how it influences the people around him. This is an important callback to establish the relationship between Negan and Glenn going into their spinoff together.

Fun Family Dinner

Rick, Lori, and Dale drinking wine in the CDC in season 1 and Rosita and Gabriel sitting at the dinner table in season 11 of The Walking Dead. 

Toward the end of the first season, the survivors celebrated getting to the CDC after going through so much hardship. However, this was a bittersweet scene because they also learned later on that no one had any idea how to stop the virus that was causing the dead to revive.

The dinner after they defeated the dead in the Commonwealth was reminiscent of this first family dinner. While everyone was happy to be alive, they had also lost loved ones, and Rosita knew she would die soon due to her bite. This final dinner encompassed the bittersweet themes throughout the series, with thankfulness for what they have but with underlining grief and suspense.

Next: 10 Most Important Events In The Walking Dead Leading To The Spinoffs

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