With AMC's The Walking Dead heading toward season 9, creator Robert Kirman teases that (for now, Baby) Judith could take over when Rick Grimes eventually departs as leader of the TV show.
In recent months, The Walking Dead has been dogged by falling ratings and a change of power at the top, but it hasn't stopped the network putting its full might behind the series as it moves into another new chapter. When season 8 comes to a close, it will also wrap the 'All Out War' saga of the comics and head into unknown territory. With rumors that we could miss the Whisperers as the next big bad, no one knows where new showrunner Angela Kang will take the story. However, as certain as the dead will keep on crawling toward our cast of survivors, Rick Grimes isn't going to live forever and his time will eventually draw to a close.
Like Jack from Lost or Michael from Prison Break, everyone needs a leader, but Kirkman is remaining tight-lipped on who will take over from Rick. Speaking at 2018's Walker Stalker Cruise (via NME), Kirman was asked who is next in line to be The Walking Dead's main character:
“Well, that’s a question, right? Who knows? Maybe it’s a character that hasn’t been introduced yet. Maybe it’ll be Judith, who knows.”
Although the character of Judith has been around since season 3's 'Killer Within', she is only technically one year old and the various changing baby actors mean that we have barely got to know Lil' Asskicker apart from the odd sound of crying or montage cutaway. That being said, the idea of Rick's last-remaining child taking over his legacy is an interesting one indeed.
The midseason finale of season 8 saw the shock twist that Rick's son Carl had received a deadly walker bite some time in the first run of episodes. While Kirman himself has joked that Carl could pull through, fans are ready to wave goodbye to Chandler Riggs' character when the show returns. With the Old Man Carl theory, many had pinned their hopes on Carl being the next "Rick" after his father meets his maker. However, Scott Gimple's divisive decision to ax Carl has put a stop to those plans. Ironically, others had tipped that Judith wouldn't be making it out of season 8 alive, so there could be some justice in her picking up where Carl left off.
Of course, with Judith still resembling a baby in season 8, Walking Dead would need to pull a Fear The Walking Dead and include a major time jump to see her lead the group. Who knows though, a leap to an even more dystopian future somewhere down the line could be the perfect way to reinvigorate ratings. However, in the immediate aftermath of Rick's death, there are any number of characters who could fill his role. Fan-favorites like Daryl, Maggie, or Carol have all shown they have what it takes to tackle the apocalypse, or like Kirman says, could it be someone new?
The most recent issues of Kirman's comics of the same name has introduced some 50,000 new faces at the Commonwealth, so it isn't like there is a shortage of bodies out there in the end of the world to lead the Safe Zone survivors. Also, if Jeffrey Dean Morgan is sticking around in the live-action adaptation as Negan, he would also be a prime candidate to replace Rick. Sure, we have seen Negan's brutal methods of leadership, but it is well documented that Negan and Rick are two incredibly similar men who just took different paths. For the time being though, it looks like Lincoln is safe with his comfy new season 9 deal, and we don't see Rick going anywhere any time soon. When he does leave though, expect Judith to swap that rattle for a rifle and see where we go from there.
The Walking Dead returns Sunday, February 25 on AMC.