The final episode of The Walking Dead featured some amazing callbacks to the series’ first season. After 11 enthralling seasons, The Walking Dead finally came to a satisfying conclusion with three upcoming spinoffs in the works. During its 12-year run, the series permanently changed the zombie genre, bringing it into the mainstream. Unlike other zombie media, The Walking Dead truly explored what a post-apocalyptic world would look like, with humanity always serving as the primary antagonist instead of the undead.


Recognizing its legacy, The Walking Dead made several references to its history throughout its final season. However, it wasn’t until the series finale, “Rest In Peace,” that the references started to become more frequent and important to the underlying plot of the show. Most notably, the episode featured a heartwarming montage at the end, showing scenes throughout the seasons as past and present actors uttered the phrase, “we are the ones who live.” The finale also featured a brief cameo from Chandler Riggs, who played Carl on the show, sporting a hat and hoe. Despite this, a few references may have gone unnoticed by viewers.

Related: However It Ends, The Walking Dead Changed The Zombie Genre Forever

Searching For Missing Kids

Rosita from The Walking Dead fighting off walkers to save Coco.

During the series finale, Rosita, Eugene, and Gabriel made their way to The Walking Dead‘s Commonwealth Children’s Home to find Coco and the other babies. Rosita was relentless in her search, not letting any Walker get in the way of her saving her daughter, Coco. This was very reminiscent of Rick during the first two episodes of The Walking Dead, where his sole focus after waking from his coma into an apocalyptic world is to find his son, Carl. Rick and Rosita were reunited with their children, with familial bonds and love serving as a focal point throughout The Walking Dead.

Maggie Kills A Child Zombie

Child Walker The Walking Dead
Child Walker seen in season 1 of The Walking Dead 

In the pilot episode of The Walking Dead, viewers witnessed one of Ricks’ first encounters with a Walker, when he mistook an undead child for a living girl. As the zombified child walked towards him, Rick shot her in the head. The scene was one of the most iconic in The Walking Dead, and one of the final episodes of season 11 referenced it. During episode 21, “Outpost 22,” Maggie encountered a child Walker and killed it. Like Rick, she was emotionally affected by the moment. Zombie children rarely appeared during The Walking Dead, but when they did, they were a reminder of the innocence that still existed in their world.

Zombie Variants

season 1 variant walker shop

During the final two episodes of The Walking Dead, part of the group had to deal with the growing herd of Walkers outside the hospital. As the anticipation loomed, a Variant Walker began to smash the glass of the hospital’s doors with a rock, which let Walkers flood inside. To keep the Walkers at bay while protecting Judith, Daryl began blocking the entrances with hospital beds. This wasn’t the first time viewers saw a Walking Dead Variant Walker, with the first appearing in season 1, episode 2, “Guts,” which also used a rock to break a store window.

Glenn’s Hat Returns

Commonwealth survivor in Walking Dead finale

The series finale also featured a brief but noticeable callback to the earlier seasons of The Walking Dead. The first time viewers were introduced to one of the show’s most beloved characters, Glenn, he was sporting an iconic baseball bat. Glenn continued to wear this hat for the first few seasons and was tragically killed off in season 7. As the Walkers made their way into the hospital in the series finale, a character wearing Glenn’s famous baseball cap was devoured by the horde, serving as a tribute to the late character.

Related: It Took 6 Years, But TWD Finally Learned From Glenn & Abraham’s Deaths

Judith Wakes On A Hospital Bed

walking dead season 1 callback judith hospital

While more subtle than other callbacks in final episodes, Judith waking on a hospital bed in the series finale was no coincidence and was a brilliant Walking Dead episode 1 parallel. After Judith was shot, Daryl did everything he could to ensure that she survived, even giving her a blood transfusion. As the Walkers entered the hospital, Judith woke up on one of the hospital beds, surviving her injuries. This was a direct callback to The Walking Dead’s first episode, where Rick also woke from his coma in the hospital after being shot.

The Helicopter

A silhouetted man stands on a muddy riverbank holding his hands up while a helicopter hovers menacingly above him, a hazy city skyline in the distance

As Rick began to explore the apocalyptic world around him in The Walking Dead season 1, episode 1, “Days Gone Bye,” he stumbled upon an abandoned military helicopter. After exiting the show in season 9, Rick reappeared in the series finale by Boat 672, writing a letter to Michonne. However, Rick was interrupted by a helicopter with a Civil Republic Military pilot, who ordered him to surrender. This showed how Rick Grimes’ story in The Walking Dead had come full circle. It also illustrated how society had advanced since the apocalypse started, with the Civil Republic brandishing one of the most highly-advanced militaries in the show.

Annie’s Pregnancy Parallels Lori’s

Negan with his hand on Annie's back in a scene from The Walking Dead.

During The Walking Dead’s season 11, episode 14, “The Rotten Core,” Annie revealed to Negan that she was pregnant with his child. Negan’s budding family further prompted him to apologize to Maggie for taking hers away from her, as the Commonwealth posed a similar threat to who he loved the most. Annie’s pregnancy and the urge to protect her at all costs paralleled Lori Grimes’ pregnancy in The Walking Dead season 1. However, unlike Lori, Annie felt more secure in raising her baby in the new world the survivors had created.

Main Characters Are Back On The Road

Maggie Rhee, Rick Grimes, Negan from the Walking Dead

At the very beginning of the show, the characters had no sense of community. It seemed as though everywhere they settled down, they then had to leave again. Likewise, they also encountered a lot of horrific people, including The Walking Dead‘s Governor, and lost a lot of loved ones along the way. As the show developed, larger communities began to form and grow stronger, and in the series finale, viewers saw the world return to a relatively normal state once again. However, several main characters were back on the road again without a community.

Related: Walking Dead: Maggie’s Hershel Reference Is What Season 11 Needs More Of

In the finale, Judith revealed to Daryl that Michonne had left to look for Rick. A year later, Daryl decided to leave to see what else was out there and took off on his motorbike. This will directly tie into his spinoff series, which is set in Paris. Maggie also decided to leave at the same time as Daryl, with her story headed to New York alongside Negan. Finally, Rick and Michonne were also due to get their own spinoff, which might explain what happened after their brief scenes in The Walking Dead series finale.

More: Rick’s Walking Dead Location Teases A Dead City Spinoff Connection

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