Only one episode is left before Rick Grimes leaves the zombie apocalypse behind due to Andrew Lincoln's decision to depart The Walking Dead. He actually stuck around longer than he originally intended, and his big exit is bound to be a game-changer for the series. A letter from Andrew Lincoln bade the show a farewell, and his words may break your heart at least a little bit. Take a look at some of what he had to say:
It's been the most exciting, challenging and satisfying role of my career -- and for the best part of a decade, the greatest adventure of my professional life. This season feels like the show I fell in love with all those years ago, and the world we were also heading toward when we wrapped the pilot episode.
Based on the contents of his letter, Andrew Lincoln doesn't regret sticking around longer than his original intention, and he certainly doesn't seem bitter that Norman Reedus didn't stick with their earlier pact that they would leave the show together someday. It's not all that surprising that playing Rick goes down as the most exciting and challenging role of his career. Prior to landing The Walking Dead, he'd mostly worked on British projects that didn't run for all that long and lacked zombies.
Fans may be happy to learn that the ninth season feels like the show that he invested in back when the series kicked off. Andrew Lincoln didn't have any criticisms of the show or AMC in his farewell letter, but it stands to reason that some seasons were less fun than others. Season 8 took an emotional toll thanks to the death of Carl, although Chandler Riggs' departure did inspire Lincoln to write (and perform) a silly song, so at least one positive came out of Carl's death!
Interestingly, it's possible that Andrew Lincoln's final day in front of the camera on The Walking Dead could feature some callbacks to the show around the time when the pilot episode was shot. The trailer hinted at some flashbacks to Rick's pre-zombie apocalypse time in the hospital and is likely how The Walking Dead will incorporate Jon Bernthal into Season 9 despite his character's death. The Walking Dead may take its leading man full circle before the credits roll on his final episode.
Perhaps the change in showrunner is what the series needed to feel like it was returning to the early days. Whatever the reason, we can be glad that Andrew Lincoln enjoyed his last run of episodes as Rick Grimes. He went on in his farewell letter to press (via Twitter) to break down all the zombie apocalypse action he's gotten into over the nine seasons so far:
By my own rough count, I've killed over 400 zombies during the apocalypse. Lost a horse, found a horse. Lost a girl... that didn't go well. Ate a dog once. Wore a meat poncho twice. Escaped from a bunch of hipster cannibals. Not to mention I've been shot twice, baseball batted, stabbed three times, bit a man's throat out (I'm sorry -- that was weird -- and tasted like chicken), and had my cowboy boots resoled... 12 times.
Honestly, I'm a little surprised he only puts his zombie kill count at 400. I would have guessed more, but he's the one who did the killing! His mention of the horse he lost is a blast from the past for fans. One of the iconic shots of The Walking Dead is Rick riding his horse down the abandoned highway toward Atlanta, and who can forget the fate that befell the poor horse once Rick realized what it really means to live in a world full of the undead?
Well, it's possible that he'll finally face karmic justice for getting that horse killed way back in the beginning. Spoilers ahead for the October 28 episode of The Walking Dead. When Rick was trying to save the bridge between settlements from being toppled by a pair of converging zombie herds on horseback, his horse panicked and reared back, toppling Rick backwards onto a concrete slab and impaling him with a rebar.
This injury could be the final blow that does Rick in. He has survived all kinds of craziness in the past -- as Andrew Lincoln broke down in his letter -- but the injury and herds combined with Lincoln's departure give the impression that this was Rick's last stand. Death by horse! End spoilers. We'll have to wait and see the circumstances of Rick's death, assuming he does bite the dust.
In Andrew Lincoln's letter, he went on to reflect on how far the show has come over the years:
We began as an indie movie, and years later became a three-letter acronym (wtf?). And along the way, we've had the unique pleasure of meeting zombie enthusiasts all over our beautiful blue planet. From Tokyo to Trinidad, people have been united by their love of this story of survival... and Norman Reedus' extraordinarily luscious hair.
What would a farewell to The Walking Dead from Andrew Lincoln be without a shoutout to Norman Reedus? Despite a series of pranks -- including one that took place in way too much heat -- the two zombie apocalypse warriors became great friends behind the scenes, with Reedus even attempting to talk Lincoln out of leaving. He also knew about Lincoln's decision ahead of many others.
Only time will tell if Rick and Daryl get any more scenes together before the end. Norman Reedus was once afraid that Daryl would kill Rick, and the two characters have been on opposite sides of some arguments in Season 9, but they got a couple of solid scenes together before parting ways. I wouldn't be shocked if those scenes prove to be their big goodbye, even if they didn't know it at the time.
Tune in to AMC on Sunday, October 4 at 9 p.m. ET to catch Andrew Lincoln's final turn as Rick Grimes. It should be interesting to see the ratings for Lincoln's last episode as well as in the episodes to follow. Season 9 has not been delivering anywhere near the numbers The Walking Dead once won. Solid ratings or not, The Walking Dead likely isn't going anywhere any time soon.