Death isn't a foreign concept to The Walking Dead's character ensemble, for obvious reasons, but Season 9 will be taking away Rick Grimes, the character that's served as our introduction and baseline for the entire franchise. Rick's death may not be a certainty just yet, but emotions are still guaranteed to run high for Andrew Lincoln's final episodes. One way to ramp up the feels is to bring Rick closer than ever to his surviving loved ones, and The Walking Dead will indeed show a marked evolution in his relationship with Michonne in the wake of the time jump. Here's how Scott Gimple put it:

[Their connection] is deeper now. They went through a remarkably intense thing together. She was there for him in so many different ways, and the things she ultimately led him to do were so important. They didn't have a great deal of time in their relationship where things were not full-throttle intense. And these 18 months [from the time jump], while they haven't been a picnic, the war has been over. It's sort of remarkable to see.

Understandably, the love and attraction that Rick and Michonne have for each other advanced along with everything else in Alexandria, Hilltop and the other communities. It's presumed no other major villains will have risen up in Negan's place during during the year and a half that viewers won't get to witness, so any problems that cropped up were likely on a small scale, and didn't require the entirety of their waking lives. Therefore, the couple could devote a lot more attention to lovey-lovey time. And Judith is now old enough to walk in on them in the throes of said lovey-lovey time.

Neither Rick nor Michonne will be completely over Carl's death, but their grieving will likely be minimal, and they'll have gotten more time to raise Judith as the group regained some social stability. Sure, parenting is hard, but in most cases, it also inspires a sense of adoration and compassion that nothing else can touch, so that will also play into Rick and Michonne's tighter-knit courtship. (Plus, it's gotta help him not think about Judith being Shane and Lori's kid, right?)

Scott Gimple, who currently reigns as the Walking Dead franchise's chief content officer, also told TVLine that Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira's performances play a big part in making the characters feel so close.

Rick and Michonne just feel like a very tight couple. It's something to see. Their scenes together are very special.

Danai Gurira definitely faced some jarring days during production on Season 9 (and Season 8 and...all of them, really). And while we don't know for certain if she was talking about one of Andrew Lincoln's last scenes as Rick, the actress did recently say that her most challenging time as a Walking Dead star happened while filming an emotionally potent scene for the upcoming season. Or, more precisely, while not filming, as Gurira had to stay in a complex headspace longer than expected when nasty weather kept delaying the crew from shooting a notably difficult sequence.

But before we get to Rick being a goner, let's remember to celebrate the time he has left, not only with Michonne, but with the rest of Team Family. Even the reformed Saviors, I guess. The Walking Dead Season 9 will kick off on AMC on Sunday, October 7, at 9:00 p.m. ET. While waiting to see how things go down, keep tabs on our fall TV premiere schedule for everything else that's hitting primetime and beyond in the coming months.

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