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What’s the Deal with Rick’s Hand on The Walking Dead?

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Nobody can stop talking about “Thank You,” episode 603 of The Walking Dead. I have heard discussions at the supermarket and my vet’s office. Most of these conversations center around whether or not Glenn is dead. But another potentially huge issue came up in the episode: what about Rick’s left hand?

Fans of the comic know that in issue 28, when Rick first encounters the Governor, the Governor cuts off his right hand. On the show, fans have been waiting and wondering if something similar will happen in Rick’s story line. Of course, the Governor has come and gone, and Rick still has all of his digits. But, in “Thank You,” Rick, while trying to distract a massive zombie horde away from Alexandria, encounters a few stragglers on the road and begins to take them down with his knife. One of the walkers has been impaled by a machete, and Rick slices open his hand on the blade.

Will Rick lose his hand? Worse yet…is he in danger of turning?

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Issues 122-128 of the comic lay out an interesting war strategy, in which Negan instructs the Saviors to cover their weapons with walker guts so that even enemies who were not mortally wounded would become infected and die, only to reanimate…becoming a threat to their own. Negan’s plan became more than just a theory when the guts on the weapons directly caused Nicholas’ death. Both Fear the Walking Dead and The Talking Dead, however, have clearly said that people cannot die in the show universe by having walker blood and guts enter an open wound. On The Talking Dead, Chris Hardwick references the topic as it was covered in Fear the Walking Dead by saying, “Rick cut himself. I know that some people get hung up on that, but the thing that you have to remember is that everyone has the thing. Whatever this virusy thing is…and they sort of address this in Fear the Walking Dead, which says, well…it is a two-step process….bite induces death and then everyone comes back.”

The show does not always align completely with the comic, but this would be a significant departure from a fundamental premise The Walking Dead world is built upon. If the comic rule reigns, Rick is in some serious trouble, and the hand is a goner in order to save his life. In that case, all of the time that subsequently passes as he is fighting off wolves and waiting in an RV are precious, and his opportunity to survive the fever that is about to set in is wasting away. Like Hershel, he will have to chop the infected part off. If the supposed concept of the show prevails, it may be nothing more than a cut.

I say supposed concept of the show, because frankly, nobody knows the show’s reality in this regard. Dr. Bethany Exner, who espouses the theory that only a bite will cause the fever in Fear the Walking Dead, doesn’t ever explain any further where she got that information or if it is merely a theory. It is interesting to consider what will happen in this situation because, to the best of my recollection, nobody on either show has had walker blood enter an open wound by any means except a bite. The closest thing I can ever remember happening is when Rick and Glenn cover themselves in walker guts to escape a horde in downtown Atlanta in Season 1. There are certainly not any open sores or cuts on them that we know of.

So, will Rick turn into a walker or cut off his own hand to prevent that outcome as he would in the comic world? Or is he in absolutely no danger at all?

Showrunner Scott Gimple told TVLine this week, regarding the possibility that walker blood entering an open wound could have fatal consequences, “It’s entirely possible, but we haven’t really gotten into it on the show.”

Squishy answer, Mr. Gimple.

I note that the answer specifically states that in the show universe, it is entirely possible that getting walker guts in your cut is fatal! It would be absurd to try to wiggle out of the fact that Rick certainly has walker remnants in that wound. So, if it is entirely possible, it is entirely possible right now. Certainly the show would not ignore the possibility in this circumstance, and then move on to explore the concept later…allowing another individual to die from such an infection. That tells me that Rick may be losing his hand. Furthermore, while Gimple says they have not gotten into it on the show, he does not acknowledge in any way that Fear the Walking Dead has addressed the issue. While the shows are separated by distance, the concepts of the outbreak are universal between them. If it is true in LA, it is true in rural Georgia. He specifically ignores that although The Walking Dead has not addressed it, the show’s universe has.

Of course, in traditional fashion, Gimple follows up his statement by saying, “I’m going to go out on a limb here and say something definitive: Rick is ok regarding the cut. His hand will survive. There will be a bandage. There will be some ointment involved. But he’s going to walk away from it.”

I just don’t trust that. Why would the showrunner spoil such an important point either way? While being ambiguous and telling viewers they will have to wait and see what happens with Glenn’s story line, he is willing to tell fans exactly what could happen with part of the story that has made us wonder if it will align with a huge part of the comic world? I suspect his comments are only intended to cause misdirection.

Some people will point to past statements made by series creator Robert Kirkman about how complicated and expensive it would be to film scenes involving Rick if the show’s main character and one of its most hardcore warriors lost his hand. I would argue that this show makes plenty of money to cover the costs and to overcome the complications. I would also say that the rules all seem to be out the window now. Nothing it out of the question this season.

I think Rick is in serious trouble. And I will just say, I am glad he appears to shoot righty.

Brandy Elliott

Brandy Elliott

Brandy is a southern girl who loves the beach and Florida State Seminole football almost as much as she loves all things The Walking Dead. In her spare time, she enjoys visiting TWD filming sites, baking, geocaching, playing golf and disc golf, and trying anything new.
Brandy Elliott
  • Taylor Bistarkey

    Abraham gets a cut on his arm from a knife Sasha is using to kill walkers while they’re on the road after terminus and he’s completely fine. So unless the cut becomes infected and they have to amputate the hand for medical reasons I don’t believe the fact that it has walker blood on it is important whatsoever.

    • shawnsdada

      I was about to bring this up. They’ve already shown that walker blood getting into cuts does nothing at all. Watch the episode and they made it a point to focus on the fact she went straight from walker to Abraham’s arm in one single cut. There was definite transfer of fluids there. Abraham even looks at her more like he’s thinking “oh damn I got their blood in me” and not “damn girl watch it”. They think through a lot of details like this that don’t become apparent until much later on in the show.

  • Robin

    They’ve already said Rick won’t lose his hand; it’s too hard/expensive to digitally remove and replace a limb on a character who appears in so many scenes.

    • shawnsdada

      Kirkman has said before that taking Ricks hand in the comic was one of, if not the biggest mistake he made in the comics along with Carol committing suicide. He has said multiple times that he wouldn’t repeat those two things in the TV show.

  • Redbirds4evr

    So they have us wondering about Glenn and Rick. Who next? I believe they will create many questions regarding the main characters before choosing which one goes.

    • shawnsdada

      That’s what I was thinking also. Each main character will come face to face with death and one of them will die in the season finale. Rumor is that Negan may be introduced in the season finale. In the comics, everyone knows Negan kills Glenn with his famed baseball bat. My guess is that Glenn gets out of the situation he was last seen in and they get the viewers hopes up that if Glenn can get out of that, he’s safe from anything. Right at the end of the season finale, Glenn gets knocked in the head from behind by a bat with large nails through the end of it. Say hello to Negan. End scene lol