What Andrew Lincoln’s ‘Walking Dead’ Exit Could Mean for Rick Grimes

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Gene Page/AMC
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Gene Page/AMC

His episodes could be limited to the first half of the season

Filming photos have shown Lincoln on set for the first episode, which supports rumors of a lengthy time jump. It could make storytelling pretty clunky if the writers attempt to write around Lincoln’s absence for 10 out of the season’s 16 episodes.

It seems more likely that Lincoln will be heavily featured in the first half of the season, appearing in six consecutive or nearly consecutive episodes, and will then be given a tearjerker of a farewell in the midseason finale. Or…

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Gene Page/AMC

Rick’s last episodes could be mixed in throughout the season

If AMC wants to give the impression that Rick’s around for all of Season 9, it’s possible they’d insert his episodes at different points in order to “stretch out” his presence on the show. While this wouldn’t be ideal — it would mean other episodes would be mysteriously devoid of him, or would only feature only a handful of characters — it could make for an emotional sendoff in the season finale or the episodes preceding it. Which begs the question…

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Gene Page/AMC

Will Rick die?

It’s difficult to say whether or not Rick will depart the world of the living — or the living dead — in the midseason or season finale. Killing him, perhaps as a casualty in the upcoming battle with the Whisperers, would give some closure to his story.

Rick could die tragically at the hands of Alpha or one of her followers, reminiscent of Ezekiel’s death in the comics (though this would be graphic for a major character whose story is still unfolding in the source material).

He could also be given an entirely new death, much like with Carl’s bite in Season 8. Either way, this scenario could end with a moving scene of Rick reuniting with Carl, Lori, and any number of friends he’s lost over the past eight seasons.

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Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Is there a way Rick could survive?

One alternative is that Rick could wander off into the sunset, so to speak. Perhaps he has formally “passed the torch” to Daryl, said his goodbyes to his friends, made his peace with Maggie, and leaves Alexandria to find peace in the ruins of the wasted world. Sad, bittersweet, inconclusive, but a better end than a gory, comics-inspired death.

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Gene Page/AMC

Where does this leave Judith?

With Michonne or Daryl, most likely. Both have been shown to be capable of, and interested in, taking care of her. Though it does seem out of character for Rick to leave his only (living) child and the woman he loves behind — unless he’s killed.

There has been speculation that Danai Gurira is not long for The Walking Dead, either, given her major role in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as Okoye. All of this could culminate in a pretty stunning (or heartbreaking) end for the Grimes family.

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Gene Page/AMC

Whoa. If Danai Gurira leaves, too… what does that mean?

If Gurira was also revealed to be leaving the show next season, they might all go together: Rick, Michonne, and Judith. Depending on the number of episodes Gurira is contracted for, it becomes more likely that AMC and the writers will stretch out Rick’s remaining episodes for the whole season if the intent is to have the Grimes group leave together.

Whether they drive into the sunset, paddle away on a boat, or step on that mysterious helicopter, it almost seems fitting that they do so hand-in-hand, as one cohesive family unit. Michonne and Rick’s stories are intricately intertwined, and it would make sense for them to depart as they live: together.

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Gene Page/AMC

I’m already sad, and this is potentially a year away?

If you’re in need of a laugh, check out Andrew Lincoln’s prediction from last year of how Rick Grimes’ story could end.

All things considered, I’m right there with you. No matter how Rick leaves the show, I have faith it’ll be painful. But I hope Rick and his family’s story concludes with a happy ending, instead of death; after all he’s been through, he definitely deserves it.

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Last week, it was announced that Andrew Lincoln will be leaving The Walking Dead after appearing in six episodes in Season 9. But what does his departure signify for Alexandria’s fearless leader?

There seem to be two options for Rick Grimes: he lives, or he dies. In the end, those are the only possibilities — barring him reanimating as a walker — but there’s a little more nuance to it than that.

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Plus, what this could mean for her future with the AMC hit.

Click through the gallery above for a few ways Rick might leave the show.