A prominent director on The Walking Dead took to social media to address reports of Andrew Lincoln's impending exit and attempted to calm fears that the show couldn't go on without its current star. The Walking Dead's most recent season suffered some of the lowest viewing figures in the series' history and reports soon began to emerge suggesting that actress Lauren Cohan was looking to move on. It then transpired that the actress would indeed be returning in season 9 but last week, seemingly out of nowhere, it was heavily reported that leading star Andrew Lincoln was set to quit the show.
Although neither AMC nor Lincoln himself have officially confirmed the news, the exit appears to be a done deal, with co-star Norman Reedus posting an ominous-looking tribute on his social media recently. The current narrative is that Lincoln will be gone before the season nine finale and Reedus himself, who portrays the popular Daryl Dixon, will become The Walking Dead's new star, earning a significant pay rise in the process. Understandably, not all fans are convinced that the show can continue without its leading figure, with Rick Grimes still very much the primary focus of the comic books.
Michael Satrazemis, like Andrew Lincoln, has been working on The Walking Dead since season one and most recently directed the episode "Still Gotta Mean Something." The director has responded to the reports of Andrew Lincoln's exit with a heartfelt post on his Instagram page (via Reddit), featuring a photo of himself with the actor alongside an emotional message.
Firstly, Satrazemis' post seems to add further confirmation to the reports of Lincoln leaving the show and also suggests that the plan is indeed to continue The Walking Dead beyond season nine with a new lead. Secondly, and perhaps contrary to the feelings of many who were disappointed by season 8, it appears that the creative team behind The Walking Dead are still extremely passionate about the show and genuinely believe it can survive losing Andrew Lincoln. Interestingly, Satrazemis has now deleted the post, which seems to indicate that AMC is reluctant to confirm the news. This could mean that either the network are planning to offer Andrew Lincoln a bumper pay-rise to stay or they want Rick Grimes' season nine death to be a surprise - although that ship may well have sailed by this point.
If The Walking Dead does indeed continue without Lincoln, it certainly has the potential to be as "great" as Satrazemis suggests. However, history would suggest that television shows are more likely to struggle after the exit of a lead actor than thrive and The Walking Dead will absolutely have the odds stacked against it should it choose to soldier on. With reports that Lauren Cohan will also be leaving in season nine still abound, no Carl to shift the focus onto and Daryl a natural introvert, there's a serious lack of protagonist leaders without Rick on the show. Maybe season ten could see Negan take center stage.
The Walking Dead season 9 is expected to premiere in October 2018.