There are few shows on TV quite as popular as The Walking Dead. The apocalyptic drama just wrapped up its whopping eighth season on the network, and is still finding a way to keep its fandom invested in every death and walker. The cast has seen plenty of characters come and go throughout the years, but the show is going to go through some major changes with its upcoming ninth season. Lauren Cohan is going to be taking a smaller role to facilitate her new show Whisky Cavalier, and news recently broke that Andrew Lincoln is going to depart the series during Season 9. This is an announcement that has shaken the fandom, with news following that Norman Reedus' Daryl Dixon would be taking over as the series protagonist. Reedus has just addressed this upcoming departure for the first time on Instagram, saying:
I'm not crying, you're crying. Void of a caption, Norman Reedus simply posted a photo of he and his co-star Andrew Lincoln embracing, accompanied by a heart. That's enough to break ours.
Norman Reedus' Instagram post really does hammer in the inevitable truth of the situation: Rick Grimes is leaving The Walking Dead. While the supporting characters are beloved, the apocalyptic drama is largely focused on Rick's journey through the end of the world. Plenty of actors have decided to move on from the series during its long tenure, but its impossible to imagine the show without Andrew Lincoln's signature character.
With a new showrunner and less availability to Rick and Maggie, The Walking Dead has some very big changes to make in the show's upcoming ninth season. Logically writing Rick out of the show is going to be difficult, and smart money says that he ends up meeting his maker in an epic way. Rick has risked his life time and time again, and an epic sacrifice seems like a fitting way for him to go out. We should probably also expect an increased presence for Daryl, if we're going to follow his leadership post-Rick.
Shifting the focus over to Daryl will hopefully include a more detailed look into the fan favorite's psyche. Daryl is a man of little words, so it's not always easy to surmise what's going on in his head. Perhaps he'll (finally) get a love interest, now that it seems Carol is officially in the friend zone. After Andrew Lincoln leaves the show, Carol and Daryl will be the only two original characters from the Atlanta group. Carl and Glenn died in quick succession, so it's down to just a handful of OG characters.