Major spoilers below for The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere.
One of the core facets of The Walking Dead is that no one's safety is guaranteed in this danger-filled world, and creator Robert Kirkman has already confirmed that Rick Grimes will be killed off prior to the saga's end. The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere didn't exactly foretell Rick's death in any specific terms, but it was clear throughout "Mercy" that the TV drama is laying the groundwork for a Rick-free world. Here are the three biggest scenes and moments that hinted at the end of the Ricktatorship as we know it (which Andrew Lincoln is totally on board with).
Father Gabriel's Wise Words
Rick is a pained man in The Walking Dead's Season 8 premiere, as he takes time to mourn at Abraham and Glenn's graves while feeling the overwhelming pressure of bringing his Negan-centric revenge plan to life. Fortuitously, Father Gabriel told Rick exactly what he needed to hear in order to go forward: Even though Rick was responsible for reforming Alexandria and for bringing the three communities together against Negan, this is a burgeoning society that has been developed so that it wasn't just about Rick and his ideals. A society that could (and eventually will) continue on without him. And at different moments throughout the episode, Rick seems like he's growing more comfortable with that fact.
Rick And Maggie's Adorable Chat
So much of The Walking Dead's Season 8 marketing used footage and audio from the big All Out War pep rally speeches that Rick, Maggie and Ezekiel give the combined groups ahead of the big attack. After Maggie jokes about joining the fight while pregnant, she commits to joining the attack on the Sanctuary before returning to the Hilltop to guard those still in the safe haven. Then, she stepped aside with Rick and thanked him for showing her how to be someone worth following, and Rick responded by saying, "After this, I'm following you." He's seemingly putting it out there that he'll be taking a step back in some areas, with Maggie obviously next in line to take over leadership.
This Is Carl's Show
After Rick scared off that mysterious new character away early in the episode, Carl half-chided him for not having more hope and optimism about other people in the world, which Rick seemed to be taken aback by. Rick, who had to listen to that one Savior recalling his crying and begging while also saying Carl was going to die, knows that Carl is wise beyond his years about how the post-apocalypse works. And he knows that Carl will likely be an important person in the future, since he's "the son of Rick Grimes" and all. But he wasn't even present for the clearest moment when Carl had his future pointed out for him, which happened when Michonne very clearly told him, "This is your show." That on-the-nose moment made me rethink Rick's own claim to Carl that "This is the end of it," as far as what "it" he was referring to.
While The Walking Dead likely won't be killing Rick off anytime soon -- especially if those flash-forward moments were real -- the show at least seems to be setting the stage for a point when his death could actually occur. Tune in to see what the next phases of his plan are every Sunday night on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. There was some levity to be found in the Season 8 premiere, so be sure to take a look at our breakdown of the funniest moments of the episode. While waiting, check out our fall TV premiere guide to see everything else that's yet to debut or return to primetime.