The season seven premiere of “The Walking Dead” was shocking enough, most fans will agree. Some, though, might be wondering just why Rick (Andrew Lincoln) was able to escape one of the threats the episode offered up by Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), especially if those fans read the graphic novels that inspired the show.

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The threat

In the season seven premiere, not only did Negan take out two members of Rick’s group with his barbed-wire baseball bat, but he also spent a good portion of the episode psychologically torturing Rick in an effort to break the leader down. In one of their final sequences, he makes a show of being ready to remove Carl’s (Chandler Riggs) hand. Of course, making the threat even worse is that Negan wants Rick to do it, or he’ll kill everyone else.

The Walking Dead: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Rick Grimes - screenrant.com
The Walking Dead: 15 Things You Didn't Know About Rick Grimes - screenrant.com

While it does take Rick a moment to comply, and he only agrees after Carl tells him to do it, it’s all a sadistic test from Negan, who just wants to see if he’s finally broken Rick. While the sequence itself provides a great character moment for all three, it’s also a nod to the comics, in which Rick Grimes is already missing a hand by that point.

Why it was all a test

According to producer Gale Anne Hurd, who participated in several conference calls and interviews following the premiere, there was a reason Rick and Carl both still have their hands.

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She explained to Entertainment Tonight that the sequence was all about the mind game, not the missing hand, "It's much more brutal mentally for Negan to threaten Carl - to threaten Rick's son - than it was to threaten Rick himself. Rick should have manned up and said, 'OK, take it. If it's going to save someone, then take my hand.' It's much different when he's threatening his sons' hand, so that was really the decision."

Rick on the page

In the pages of the graphic novel, Rick actually lost a hand long before he and Negan began interacting.

Instead, a whole different villain took Rick’s hand from him during a confrontation. The Governor of Woodbury took Rick, Michonne, and Glenn prisoner during a six part story arc in the comics. In issue 28, to teach Rick a lesson, the Governor cut off Rick’s hand before allowing him to be treated in the infirmary.

Fans will remember the Governor from seasons three and four of the television series, and though much of his story was the same as the comics, the writers veered away from certain story points on the page to keep fans surprised.

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Will Rick ever lose his hand?

A more practical reason, other than contributing to Rick’s psychological torture, is likely the VFX involved in the process. Andrew Lincoln admitted in season four that he had campaigned with the writers and producers for his character to lose a hand, but it was deemed too expensive for the show.

As the main character in a cast of now 19, Rick Grimes gets the bulk of the screen time in the show. As much as it’s an ensemble story, the audience often sees events from Rick’s point of view first.

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To have that character missing a hand, in addition to the usual zombies, stunts, makeup, and sometimes even explosions, the show has to employ, that missing hand would probably be just enough to put the show over budget.

If Rick does eventually lose a hand on the show, it would likely be well into the events of the series as it nears its conclusion. We’ll all just have to keep checking in with “The Walking Dead” on Sundays at 9PM on AMC to find out.

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