The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang compares Andrew Lincoln's upcoming exit as Rick Grimes to a major death from the comics. It's sometimes easy to forget for general audiences that the acclaimed zombie show is based on a comic book series of the same name created by Robert Kirkman - and it's still going on. While the TV show tends to follow the general path of the comics, it also tends to make drastic deviations in the story, sometimes even with major characters.
Several seasons ago, one of the characters that had been killed off, who was still going strong in the comics, was Andrea, played by Laurie Holden. It was a shocking moment at the time, since it proved that the TV show didn't have to stringently follow every move the comics made. It also proved the fact that anyone can die, something that was made abundantly clear once again when Chandler Riggs' Carl Grimes was bitten last season. And now with Carl gone, Rick Grimes' story is starting to come to an end. But writing him off won't be easy, so the producers are looking to the comics for inspiration on how to tackle the challenge.
In a roundtable interview with Screen Rant and a handful of other outlets ahead of The Walking Dead season 9 premiere, executive producer (and new showrunner) Angela Kang explains how the writers approached Andrew Lincoln's upcoming exit and even compared the story arc's overarching impact to Andrea's death from the comic book series:
"I think in some ways I just had to think of - okay, if I had to write the series finale for this character or, you know, just like a finale for this character, because in the comic books there are also some major exits. So kind of the closest analog we can think of, in terms of impact, of the characters that left in the comic, was when Andrea died in the comic. That was sort of this huge momentous death of a very, very long-running character arc. And so, we were just looking for inspiration in that. Like, how do you create a story that feels like it has its own arc while also at the same time creating the seeds for the episodes that follow, since, obviously, it's not the end of the series - and there's so much more story to tell."
Comparing Lincoln's exit - which will see arguably the biggest character on television, at least on cable television, leave the show - to one of the biggest deaths from the comics isn't too surprising. However, that shouldn't mean the writers and producers are planning to kill off Rick Grimes. Considering how far the franchise has come over the years, with even its companion series, Fear the Walking Dead, going strong, there are plenty of ways Rick can be written off without having to be turned into a walker.
Of course, exactly when Lincoln (and Rick, for that matter) exits the show remains to be seen. But when he does, it won't be the end of his Walking Dead career; Lincoln is hoping to direct an episode in season 10 and will be returning to the series' set in Georgia later this year to shadow one of the other directors. Hopefully, his character arc is written in such a way that it will be cathartic for all fans so that the series may move on without being burdened by Rick Grimes' absence.
The Walking Dead season 9 premieres on October 7 on AMC.