I can’t do it anymore. For three years I’ve been waiting for this hangdog sonofabitch, the “least interesting character on television,” to kick off and give the show the fresh air it needs. Last night was gonna be the night! All I wanted was five seconds of Zombie Rick before Daryl or Michonne put him out of his misery. Dead Rick was a given; the suspense was whether they’d deliver Zombie Rick. They owed us Zombie Rick after all the nonsense we’ve suffered through. We deserved it.

In the end they couldn’t even deliver on Dead Rick. It broke me.

I want to call his miraculous helicopter rescue the biggest cop-out the show’s ever pulled, but this show pulls a lot of cop-outs. Nothing can top the time Glenn seemingly was torn apart by a zombie swarm before our eyes only to have it revealed that that was actually some rando character who was lying on top of him, obscured by careful camera work. I was even willing to tolerate the hokeyness of the cause of Rick’s apparent death, a direct rip from the end of “Jaws.” I could believe that he survived being impaled on rebar and leaked 15 quarts of blood from his gut, then possessed the strength to barely survive three or four close calls with zombies in his weakened state, and then somehow had the presence of mind to heroically martyr himself with a well-placed shot to a pile of dynamite. Rick being incinerated in a fireball would be true to the show’s childlike view of him as the supreme hero. Heroes don’t die ugly, screaming. They die quickly, and clean.

But to have him somehow survive the explosion — and then by pure chance tumble right into Anne’s line of sight with her rescue copter right there? It broke me. I’m a broken man. I made a joke in one of the other grumble threads recently about how the writers would want St. Rick to ascend bodily into the heavens, like Jesus, to assume eternal life. And that’s sort of what happened.

Didn’t Daryl and Michonne and the rest even notice the chopper? They were yards away from Rick when the bridge went boom. Suddenly he’s all alone by the side of the river and then onboard the helicopter and flying away. What the hell happened? Didn’t they see that he was alive? Did they try to rescue him before he was taken?

This is what a broken man sounds like.

If I’m being fair, it wasn’t even the final scenes that finished me off. Negan’s weepy soliloquy about his dead wife made me laugh out loud. Apparently all it took to quench Maggie’s years-long thirst for revenge was seeing with her own eyes that the sadist who bashed her husband’s head in right in front of her was a softie who was already dead inside. Then I laughed again during Rick’s encounter with ghostly Sasha, when he started literally mouthing along with her claptrap about how love endures or whatever. A better show would have had Rick die unsentimentally in the first five minutes of the episode and then followed his zombie wanderings for the hour until inevitably he encountered the Alexandrians and was liquidated. Give us a taste for once of what goes on in the mind of the newly undead, from the hero’s perspective. But that’s not the show we have.

What we have is a show that turned the ballyhooed departure of its lead character into a crummy commercial:

“Walking Dead” Chief Content Officer Scott M. Gimple appeared on “Talking Dead” Sunday night after the purported final episode for star Andrew Lincoln and announced that the story of Rick Grimes will continue, but in a series of what he called “AMC original films” rather than one of the two “Walking Dead” TV series.

“These films are going to be big evolutions of what we’ve been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features,” Gimple said in the press release that accompanied the announcement. “We’re starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of ‘The Walking Dead’ and faces from the show’s past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by ‘TWD’ veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that’s captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the ‘Dead’.”

It was a farking spin-off episode. I’m willing to be impaled on the show’s leaden writing every week and then stagger aimlessly through a dull hour a la Rick but I can’t do TV movies too. A man can only bleed so much before dying. No more grumble threads. Or at least, no more regular grumble threads. Perhaps they’ll pop up now and then without explanation, like the character of Rick himself. If AMC goes gonzo with the idea and airs, like, “A Very Rick Grimes Christmas,” I’ll write that up. But no promises. I need to put the shattered pieces of this viewing experience back together first.

The coup de grace, by the way, was little Judith Grimes’s cameo at the end, cute as a button in (step)daddy’s sheriff’s hat. Now that a “Cousin Oliver” character has been added to the show, it’s high time to take a hint and skedaddle. Although seeing Judith as a young warrior reminds me of what I said a few weeks ago about how the show is TV’s answer to the war in Afghanistan. (“The people in charge rotate in and out but it grinds on remorselessly without purpose all the same, seemingly forever, with many more bad days than good ones.”) By the time they finally wind this thing down Judith will be in her 20s, like troops who were two years old on 9/11 now getting ready for their tour in Kabul.

Exit question: Where were Lori and “Coral” in Rick’s near-death hallucinations? The producers are playing it off as though it wouldn’t have made sense to include them, since seeing them would have led Rick to embrace death or whatever, but that’s nonsense. The emotional wallop of having Sarah Wayne Callies and Chandler Riggs back for a scene would have been worth it. Is there bad blood between them and the producers?