Whilst the recent return of The Walking Dead seems to have injected a breath of fresh air into the show, fans have been left stunned with the announcement that Andrew Lincoln will leave the show later this season.
Lincoln, who plays the show’s lead protagonist and fan favourite Rick Grimes, has been a regular since the first episode aired in 2010. The British actor is reportedly leaving to spend more time with his family in the UK. Rumours began to spread prior to the premier of season nine, yet in a bizarre move AMC have not only acknowledged and affirmed these rumours, but even used the news as a central point in advertisements for the new season.
Worse still, it seems that AMC may have revealed exactly when Lincoln’s departure will take place. Details have already been released online about the episodes in the first half half of season nine before the mid-season hiatus. Names and synopsis are available for all except episode six, which remains mysteriously untitled. The Walking Dead is known for killing off major characters, but never has a death of this scale been announced beforehand. It certainly feels about time for the demise of another major character to bring some sense of threat back into the show, but if Rick Grimes is set to die in episode six then there will be no sense of surprise or tension in the slightest.
Yet this all seems a bit suspicious, as the makers of The Walking Dead have often teased fans in the past. Whilst new showrunner, Angela Kang, seems set on taking the season in a new direction, she certainly shares this trait with her predecessors. “This is a show with dead in the title. There are going to be losses,” she said, when asked to comment on Lincoln’s departure. Yet Kang also cryptically added that “Not all of them are deaths, sometimes there are departures of different kinds.” Perhaps Lincoln may leave The Walking Dead in spectacular fashion, only to find a new home on Fear the Walking Dead, the spin-off we recently saw Morgan cross over into from the main show.
As if it wasn’t enough for one integral character to leave this season, Lauren Cohan, who has played Maggie Greene since the second season, is also set to leave to pursue other engagements. However, unlike Lincoln, it seems that she may be returning for future episodes, but Maggie’s fate currently seems uncertain.
Whichever way these events turn out, at least The Walking Dead finally seems to be picking up some momentum after several repetitive seasons drawing out the ‘All Out War’ storyline against Negan. Admittedly, viewing figures have drastically dropped over the last few years and the first episode was the lowest rated for any premiere, but the ninth season currently has a 98% fresh score on Rotten Tomatoes – the highest of any to date. With the upcoming introduction of The Whisperers as the show’s next antagonists and these fundamental changes to the cast, fans are surely in for a season to remember.