The Walking Dead has gone through many changes in everything from cast to location to time period over the years, but no change will likely be as significant as the show moving on without Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. Lincoln confirmed his upcoming departure earlier this summer, and fans will need to spend the next couple of months pondering how it will happen. Lennie James, who plays Morgan on The Walking Dead and Fear the Walking Dead, recently weighed in on how Rick's exit will impact Morgan:
I think it will have a profound effect on Morgan. They still remain oldest friends. They are touchstones the way their stories have been told to a greater or lesser extent when their paths crossed. They do act as kind of options of which way to take, you know. Right at the beginning when Rick left to go to Atlanta and Morgan stayed, that was a fundamental choice between the two of them. And I think, as I've said before, when Morgan's lost everything, it's not by coincidence the person he went to find after that was Rick because Rick is the only other person that he knew still alive in the world. I think that connection will last for life between those two men, however long that life is.
Although Morgan hasn't been a regular on The Walking Dead from the beginning and actually went a couple of seasons without appearing, he was arguably the first major character to play a role on the show after Rick. Without Morgan, Rick would have undoubtedly died shortly after making his escape from the hospital. The two have been close allies at times while on opposite sides of the zombie apocalypse spectrum at others, and fans could choose who they wanted to root for. Would you stay behind or go on an unlikely rescue mission to Atlanta? Would you embrace pacifism or violence? Would you favor a stick or a revolver?
Fear the Walking Dead's midseason finale revealed that Morgan has his eye on returning to Alexandria; assuming he makes it, he'll find a very different settlement than the one he left behind almost two years ago, taking the time jump into account. Negan and the Saviors won't be the big threat anymore as the Whisperers enter the scene with Alpha at the head. If he does return to Alexandria, he may not make it in time to say goodbye to his first zombie apocalypse friend.
A lot likely depends on how Rick takes his leave of Alexandria. If he goes on a Morgan-esque walkabout in the zombie apocalypse, they could cross paths on the road. If Rick dies -- as we consider fairly likely in our compilation of awesome theories about his exit -- Morgan might never reunite with Rick, which will undoubtedly add an extra layer of tragedy. Personally, I would like to see how the two men interact now that Rick will truly be able to understand what Morgan went through after losing his son. Lennie James went on in his chat with Screen Rant to say this about how the absence of Rick could be especially profound for Morgan if he makes the long journey north:
Should Morgan return to Virginia or should he cross paths with the people of Alexandria, or Hilltop, or the Kingdom, or Oceanside, or the Heaps again, I think him finding out that Rick is not amongst them will be a profound discovery for Morgan - and I'm not absolutely sure the effect that might have on him and what that might push him to do or be. On a personal level, I completely understand the decision that Andy made, and I support him 100%.
From his comments, Lennie James seems to indicate that he didn't get to work with Andrew Lincoln again before Lincoln wrapped on The Walking Dead, but we don't necessarily have to give up on the possibility. It's not like James could spoil such a huge plot twist when The Walking Dead won't even premiere until October! If Lincoln sticks around until the midseason finale, we likely won't need to say goodbye to Rick until December.