While many fans of The Walking Dead were already prepared to say goodbye to Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes in Season 9, this week of San Diego Comic-Con made it feel all the more tangible, with the cast and crew going full-public on the character's impeding exit. During the show's press conference, Lincoln was asked if there was a way for Rick to leave The Walking Dead without actually dying. And here's how Lincoln responded:
Hey, Lennie James is a perfect example of leaving without dying and doing rather well on it. I just talked to him about five minutes ago and he looks incredibly healthy; he looks terrific. So yes, there is that way. And there is obviously the other way, which we've done quite a lot. And obviously, I'm not going to tell you which way. I mean, I'd prefer the Lennie James of it all. But I think what we have in store this season is truly remarkable, and I'm very, very proud of the work we've done.
Now, let's give Andrew Lincoln the credit that is due to him. Lennie James' Morgan definitely survived his entire stint on The Walking Dead proper, which started off in the pilot, just as Lincoln's did. However, Morgan was used to bridge together the franchise's two live-action series, so his survival was kind of key there. Lincoln's situation is entirely different, since he's leaving The Walking Dead altogether, so that kind of end game requires a more concrete resolution for the devout viewers. Such as, say, a big ol' death.
It's not a surprise that Andrew Lincoln would prefer to see The Walking Dead conclude Rick's story in a way that doesn't have him joining the choir invisible. His own preferred way for Rick and The Walking Dead to wrap up ended with a walker-bitten Rick believing himself to be the cure for the outbreak. Of course, it also involved a bunch of zombies coming at him as he tries to meet back up with Carl, with the final shot being them separated by walkers. That particular scenario clearly isn't going to happen in Season 9, which is going into mad development on Alexandria's rebuilding and the expansions of other communities. (Even Toledo?) Which unfortunately speaks to the assumed inevitability that Rick's totally gonna die. I mean, it was pretty obvious, but still emotionally messy.
Not long after Lincoln gave that answer, someone asked if his confirmed exit meant that Rick might finally be losing a hand in Season 9, to at long last match up with his comic counterpart. Former showrunner and current TV overseer Scott Gimple first passed the buck to new showrunner Angela Kang, and then took things in a silly direction.
Angela Kang: Is he finally going to lose a hand? Uh, you'll have to watch and find out. [laughs]
Scott Gimple: It might not be his hand. He may lose a hand. Uh, someone's hand. Like Merle's hand, say.
Neither one of those answers came close to being a hearty agreement, but for what it's worth, Scott Gimple & Co. have in the past shifted away from Rick's limb loss due to the budget concerns that come with needing to have a lead character's hand removed anytime the end of that oft-used arm would be shown. Angela Kang hasn't yet developed her own tongue-in-cheek reputation for dodging questions, so it was hard to read her tone specifically.
Plus, does anyone ever know how on-the-level Gimple's answers are in cases like this? The Merle's hand bit was clearly a joke, but it would be pretty amazing for comic fans to finally get to see one-handed Rick for at least a single episode of the live-action series. Though more would definitely suffice, considering how long ago he lost it on the page.