Warning: Spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead Episode 4, "Service"
After years of theorizing, this week's screening of #TheWalkingDead dropped an absolute bombshell at the very end of the episode when it confirmed once and for all that Rick's daughter, Judith was actually Shane's biological daughter.
Rick revealed that he was well aware of Judith's true parentage when he explained to Michonne why he was so sure the group had to submit to Negan, telling her:
"I had a friend, I don't talk about him, he was my partner. He got Lori and Carl to safety right after it all started - I couldn't, I was in the hospital, I didn't know what was happening. My friend — his name was Shane — him and Lori they were together, they thought I was dead. I know Judith isn't mine. I know it. I love her, she's my daughter, but she isn't mine. I had to accept that. I did. So I could keep her alive. I'll die before she does and I hope thats a long time from now so I can raise her and protect her and teach her how to survive. This is how we live now. I had to accept that too so I could keep everyone else alive."
Wow, Rick Grimes for 'Post-Apocalypse Man of the Year,' am I right?!
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Judith's parentage was often questioned by fans during Season 2 and 3 when Lori was pregnant. However, after both Shane and Lori died it became almost a non-issue as baby Judith (or Lil Ass Kicker if you prefer) became another much-loved member of the core group, and also a symbol of hope for the future of the post-apocalyptic world.
Judith, along with Carl, clearly became the main driving force for Rick to survive no matter what. Her wellbeing always came first, and even when the group were on the brink of starvation Rick did what he could to ensure she was fed, such as attempting to crush up acorns so she had some sort of sustenance. Then, when the group were led to Alexandria, it was only when Rick heard the noise of kids playing that he realized the community was the right place for him to let his two children live.
The reveal of Judith's biological father was a departure from the comic series, where it was never confirmed that Judith was Shane's child, though it was heavily implied. However, considering Judith's comic book counterpart actually died in Issue 48 during the Governor's attack on the prison, it shouldn't come as a huge surprise that the TV series has chosen to expand on Judith's story as she grows.
Given how long it took for Rick to admit the truth to Michonne, it seems unlikely he'll ever mention the story to anyone else, or even Judith herself. But if one thing's for sure, us fans will never forget that Rick Grimes just revealed himself as not only the most honorable man of the apocalypse, but also the best possible father for both Judith and Carl.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with Episode 5, "Go Getters" on November 20 at 9pm ET.