The Walking Dead pulled a cheap trick when it decided not to kill off Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), but that fake-out has given the AMC series a brand new lease of life. Season 9 was already showing signs of improvement before Rick's departure, but since then things have gotten even better.
There was a huge question mark over how The Walking Dead could continue without its main protagonist, but the loss of Rick has served to push other characters and storylines to the forefront. What's more, the way they've done this means it's as a consequence not just of Rick's exit, but more specifically the way it happened.
Had Rick genuinely died, or even left in a more honest way, then things wouldn't have been able to play out as they have. It doesn't make the handling of the affair better, but The Walking Dead is looking strong again as a result.
- This Page: Rick's "Death" Is Meaningless
- Page 2: Rick's Exit Finally Allows The Walking Dead To Move Forward
Rick's Departure From The Walking Dead Was Exhausting
Andrew Lincoln's departure from The Walking Dead was first reported back in May, meaning there were almost five months of build-up to 'Rick's last season'. Once it started airing, that then became 'Rick's final episodes', with a huge push for the final two in particular.
It's easy to see why AMC chose to do this. There was no sense in trying to hide things because everyone already knew Lincoln was going. This massive push was a great way to bring back some lapsed viewers, who'd want to bid farewell to the character they followed for so many years. But it also meant that Rick's exit was a long, drawn-out process, and quite an exhausting one at that.
After all the marketing hype, there was the first suggestion of how Rick might die in episode 4, 'The Obliged'. The end left Rick wounded and surrounded by walkers, with no real means of escape. The next episode was then almost entirely given over to his bid not for survival, but simply to get back to his family. There were dream sequences, visions, guest stars, and fake-outs. A lot of this generated the required emotional response, but then after his sacrifice, just when both he and viewers had accepted his fate, he's saved by Anne. Then after that - as in, immediately after the episode - a new movie trilogy following what happens next was announced. It should've been a poignant goodbye - and almost was - but in the end it was a tiring, irritating, eye-rolling farewell.
Rick's "Death" Is Likely To Be Meaningless
Adding insult to injury is that the whole build-up to Rick's exit, not to mention the departure itself, is going to be meaningless. The movie trilogy, which will star Lincoln and is being written by former showrunner Scott Gimple, guarantees that on its own. It means Rick still has to stick around the world of The Walking Dead, but without being in the part of it where his character fits and has actual relationships fans care about.
Even worse, though, is the likelihood that Lincoln will eventually return to The Walking Dead. The actor may be ruling it out for now, but the way it ends means there has to be a crossover of some sort. There is zero chance Rick Grimes would stop trying to get back to his family, and his arc cannot have closure without seeing them one last time.
It'd be more likely a guest appearance than a return to the lead role, but it'd be more surprising if we didn't see Rick having another last episode than him doing so, and that renders the whole thing moot.