The Detail From The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live Finale That Really Got Under My Skin, And It's Not A Complaint

 Rick with cut forehead in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale.
Rick with cut forehead in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live finale.

Major spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live’s season finale on AMC or with an AMC+ subscription.

I can only hope that most, if not all, of the Walking Dead fanbase was collectively cooing by the end of the season finale for The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live. It wrapped not with cliffhanger stress, but with the comfort of family reunions and the promise of a better future. Technically, that’s close to how Episode 4 ended, and things didn’t go well right after. But before any of those joyful feelings sprouted up, one particular scene dropped a doozy of a detail that has taken up space in my brain.

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Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live
Rick Grimes in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

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The moment in question took place during the already bothersome conversation between Terry O’Quinn’s rarely seen General Beale and Andrew Lincoln’s Rick, who was basically forced to sit and listen to the CRM boss’ measured tone as he confessed to deadly acts as atrocious as those committed by anyone else in this franchise. In a sense, Beale was guilty of dropping Negan’s bat down upon the heads of thousands and thousands of survivors,, for the sake of eliminating any communities whose size could potentially overtake the Civic Republic Military. And the fact that he shared all this information without a blinking second thought is unnerving.

However, I found myself most bothered after the fact by Beale’s blasé admission detailing how many times he’d had that exact same conversation, noted as being the Echelon Briefing, with others climbing the ladder of the CRM. Here’s how he put it:

You’ve made some extraordinary choices, Grimes. I’ve given this briefing, the Echelon Briefing, 2,533 times. Just me and the elite soldier in question. And the soldier in question has never been someone like you. Never.

Now, we all know that Rick Grimes is special and a hero and that he survived everything that happened in the finale makes him some kind of an invincible vampire. So Beale wasn’t telling stories out of school there. But the thing that bugs me isn’t tied to what Rick is, it’s about those other 2,533 people that heard the Major General’s heinous crimes and apparently didn't kick up a fuss about it.

Obviously I can understand why anyone in a position like Rick’s might not be so quick to start shit while within the inner sanctum of Beale’s office. O’Quinn can be a very intimidating presence with only a look, and that goes ten-fold when he’s set up as a military leader, and all of the weapons being in the middle of the table just makes things more challenging.

Beale at office desk in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live
Beale at office desk in The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live

But those still seem like pretty slim odds that it took 2,534 iterations of the Echelon Briefing for someone to try and take Beale down. They wouldn't need to be anything like Rick to do it. For example: a 6'5" 290-lb. military vet who joined the CRM in good faith, who had family in Omaha and more in Portland, and who isn't a megalomaniacal survivalist.

I guess Beale never specifically addressed whether or not any of the 2,533 prior inductees took issue with his one-on-one mass-murder confessions. Thorne certainly didn't, considering she was still #BealeForLife until her candle was snuffed. But I can allow for the leader to have been hiding past incidents where someone tried to fight back, only without a secret knife and hyper-accurate knife-throwing skills like Rick motherfucking Grimes.

Still, the number of retaliation attempts that he could theoretically be hiding would remain far, far too low to matter. Because that percentage of people who just accepted Beale's monstrous acts and embraced the file and rank under his thumb, that's one of the scariest details that's ever made it into a Walking Dead show. They're just a hop, a skip and a hump away from turning into the rapey antagonists in 28 Days Later, and nobody needs that.

Since the finale ended on a happy and touching note, I'll take the hopeful route here and assume that General Beale developed a "calling all assholes" beacon that drew all the bad people still left in the country to the secret city, and all the other survivors that are still out there won't pat themselves on the back for kidnapping 10% of a community's children before death-gassing the place. To the future!

While it's a bummer the finale didn't clue anyone in on Heath's situation as it was theorized due to the "PPP" on the whiteboard, I think getting an update on Judith and RJ was just a tad bit more important for the purposes of this particular tale. Still hoping to get some kind of clarification on that in an upcoming Walking Dead show, though. And if it involves a Saw-like montage of clips that show us Heath was present as a CRM soldier in the background during the events of The Ones Who Live, I'm here for it.