While Fear the Walking Dead Season 4 is dishing out its own brand of shocks and surprises, the flagship series got a whopper when it was revealed star Andrew Lincoln is leaving The Walking Dead in Season 9. To be expected, the fan outcry has been loud and widespread, and has even resulted in the creation of a petition meant to convince all parties involved to keep Lincoln and Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead for years to come. But like many pop culture-driven petitions embraced by outspoken fanbases, I've a feeling this one will come up short.
Andrew Lincoln's impending Walking Dead exit was revealed in the final days of May, and it didn't take long at all for "John Smith" to start up a Change.org petition calling for Rick's departure to be reconsidered. The post -- which has more than a couple of typos and also emphatically repeats the line "Will Judith even remember her father?" -- is basically a plea for Lincoln/Rick to remain a major force within The Walking Dead throughout the entirety of Season 9 and beyond, but since it still hasn't been made fully clear why the actor is leaving, there isn't much solid ground to plant the petition's stake in.
Andrew Lincoln, who will presumably wrap up Rick's story arc with his final six-episode deal, has spoken in the past about being comfortable with leaving The Walking Dead at some point and finding new roles to sink into. Those convictions seemingly only got clearer after Chandler Riggs' Carl was killed off, as well as after Lauren Cohan's contract negotiation issues got so complicated. So one can generally assume that the actor himself got the ball rolling to take Rick out of the running, and that the show's producers probably tried to persuade him to choose a different outcome.
The petition seems to recognize that factor as well, but apparently isn't willing to let Andrew Lincoln's wishes and desires mess things up for the show's arcs and characters, since Rick's death (or however he goes out) will change a lot of things for everyone else. It's a strange sentiment, no?
At the time of this writing, the petition is just over halfway to its central goal of reaching 5,000 signers. On the one hand, it's always impressive to see 2,550 people agreeing about anything online. But on the other hand, that's such a small number compared to the many millions of people who tune into the show each week. Even with the viewership and ratings being down from past years, The Walking Dead is still a TV juggernaut right now, and this petition would probably need a lot more support to hit AMC's radar.
We do know that Rick's absence throughout the bulk of Season 9 will mean big things for others. Norman Reedus got a hefty pay bump to keep Daryl Dixon at the top of the show's food chain, and we know that Katelyn Nacon's Enid will have more to do after the big time jump. Not to mention boosted roles for Avi Nash's Siddiq and Callan McAuliffe Alden. Clearly no other single or paired-up characters can properly replace an iconic lead role like Rick Grimes, but since it isn't likely that any petitions will successfully sway Andrew Lincoln to stick around, we'll start working on appreciating all these minor characters more. (While also privately contemplating Rick potentially heading down to Texas to find Morgan.)
The Walking Dead is currently in hiatus mode, with Season 9 already in production. It'll pop back up on AMC again this fall, but in the meantime, our summer premiere schedule should keep your primetime schedule filled to the brim with great shows.