The Walking Dead started with Rick Grimes story, but it may not be ending there.
Andrew Lincoln, whose character plays a central role even within the show’s ensemble cast, will reportedly end his time on the AMC series during Season 9, according to Collider. It’s not clear exactly how he’ll exit the story, but this is a show about the zombie apocalypse. It probably won’t be pleasant.
If the report is accurate, Lincoln may not even last for the full season. Collider notes that he’ll only be appearing in a half-dozen episodes. His departure makes room for longtime co-star Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl Dixon, to take the lead role. Reedus is expected to do exactly that, with AMC having reportedly offered him “substantial compensation” to stick around and lead the cast. (A rep for the show declined to comment on the report to Mashable.)
Another, coincidentally timed Monday report from TV Line — which backs up an April report from Deadline (I know) — notes that Lauren Cohan, who plays Maggie on the show, will only be back for six of the first half of Season 9’s eight episodes. There’s no word on whether or not she’ll return for the back half of the season.
There had been some question about Cohan returning at all, since her contract expired after Season 8. But then Cohan herself confirmed she’d be back in late April.
Rick Grimes is a central character in The Walking Dead universe, for both the TV series and the comic books on which it is based. AMC’s version opened on Rick and his story, and continued to make him the ongoing plot’s principal focus in all the seasons that followed.
The move echoes a similar casting change in Season 8 when Chandler Riggs left the show after his character, Carl Grimes (Rick’s son), succumbed to a zombie bite. It was greeted as a surprising development among fans, many of whom come to the show from the comic.
In Robert Kirkman’s sprawling Image Comics series, Rick and Carl Grimes both are still very much alive, and still central players in the ongoing story. They’ve been through their share of hardships, but both are among the more untouchable members of the comic’s cast.
What makes Carl’s and now (if true) Rick’s exit all the more surprising is the fact that the AMC series has largely hewn closer and closer to the comic book storyline with each passing season. That may still be the case even with every member of the Grimes family out of the picture, but it’s going to mean some major changes to the show’s central relationships.
For now, all that’s left to do is wait and see what kind of horrible end the show might have in store for Rick Grime.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC for Season 9 this fall.
UPDATED May 29, 2018 5:42 p.m. ET with report on Lauren Cohan’s possible exit.