Andrew Lincoln's imminent departure from The Walking Dead just got more real. While fans know it is coming, there is nothing like seeing photographic proof from the set to make that all the more real. The actor is set to exit during Season 9, taking Rick Grimes with him. A new photo posted on The Walking Dead's official Instagram account is insured to make you teary, just thinking about it. See it for yourself below:

Family forever ?? (posted by Seth Gilliam) #thewalkingdead #twd #season9 #twdfamily

A post shared by The Walking Dead (@thewalkingdead) on

While fan speculation is running rampant regarding how Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes will exit the series, this on-set photo just made the reality of Lincoln's departure all the more vivid. Given the somber sense in the photo, the cast is feeling it too. The series' original lead, Lincoln's Rick has been at the forefront of the hit series for its nine-season run. Fans are now facing a series without Rick and how that will go down has a foreboding edge to it.

In what has turned out to be Rick's penultimate season on the series, Rick's son Carl was killed off the show. Given the series' no-holds-barred approach to death, it stands to reason that many fans believe Rick's exit will be lethal in nature. During The Walking Dead's press conference at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, Andrew Lincoln responded to the potential of Rick leaving the show without doing so in the grip of the grim reaper.

Andrew Lincoln understandably maneuvered away from a full denial, while pointing out that Lennie James' Morgan left the show without dying. Whether Rick Grimes can make it out of The Walking Dead alive is a question that will be answered in due time. For now, all that's left to do is savor what will likely be Rick's last season on the series, presuming he dies and cannot return for a future installment.

Thankfully for fans of Norman Reedus' Daryl, a pact Reedus and Andrew Lincoln made agreeing they would exit the series together has been broken. Meaning Daryl is not going anywhere. With lots of changes on the horizon, fans will have to stay tuned to find out where Andrew Lincoln ends up next.

As the lead actor of one of television's most popular shows, he should not have any trouble finding work. Being on a show that lasts as long as The Walking Dead has and sticking around for nine seasons of it is no small career accomplishment. Wherever he ends up, fans are likely to follow.

Season 9 of The Walking Dead also known as Andrew Lincoln and Rick Grimes' last season will premiere Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET on AMC. And you can tune into Talking Dead to sort through your feelings as the season progresses. For new television shows coming soon, check out CinemaBlend's guide to TV's summer premieres. For more on The Walking Dead, check out the show's official site.

Watch: The Walking Dead Season 9 Trailer

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