The Walking Dead will go through what will undoubtedly be one of its biggest changes in the years that it's been on the air in Season 9 thanks to the departure of leading man Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. Rick has been the center of the series from the first moment he woke up in a coma in the series premiere, and even the comics can't give any clues on how the zombie apocalypse drama could continue without him. New showrunner Angela Kang has weighed in on how The Walking Dead will handle the loss of such a huge character and such a pivotal actor, saying this:
Rick Grimes has been somebody that people have loved watching, just loved this character's journey. He is this man who was looking for his family, and found them, and lost many of them, but has fought on and on. And I think that's meant a lot to people. And we just really wanted to be respectful of that character and send him off in a great way. So that was the charge for us this season.
Rick has certainly been on a wild ride throughout the first eight years of the series, and the trailer indicates that his final episodes in Season 9 won't be easy on him. Angela Kang's comments to EW seem to point toward the show honoring what Andrew Lincoln did with Rick by giving him a respectful sendoff. Her comments may also rule out the possibility of viewers suddenly discovering that Rick is dead when his decapitated head is found on a stake by his friends courtesy of the Whisperers. However Rick bows out of the series, we can evidently expect to see Andrew Lincoln's contributions respected and honored. Will Rick be a saint? Almost certainly not. But he presumably won't be abruptly killed off a la Beth.
We do already know that Rick probably won't meet Alpha, so if he is killed by the Whisperers, it probably won't be in a confrontation between Rick and Alpha. As much fun as it would be to see Andrew Lincoln facing off against Samantha Morton at the end of his long run as Rick, we can likely rule it out. We may have a while to wait before we get any details about how Rick will bow out of the series. We can bet that The Walking Dead will try to keep as tight a lid as possible on what happens in his final scene. Hopefully Andrew Lincoln won't have to do what Chandler Riggs did to keep his end a secret!
Until we see what happens, we can just dread/enjoy the heartbreaking tributes that are released and thank our lucky stars that Norman Reedus broke his pact with Andrew Lincoln. Can you imagine losing both Rick and Daryl in one fell swoop? Fortunately, Norman Reedus isn't likely to leave any time in the near future.
We'll discover what Angela Kang has in store for Andrew Lincoln's final Walking Dead arc when the ninth season premieres on Sunday, October 7 at 9 p.m. ET, with a new episode of Talking Dead to follow with original host Chris Hardwick back despite the abuse allegations. If you need some viewing options during the wait, swing by our fall TV guide.