It's now been one year since Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) exited The Walking Dead. After serving as the protagonist of the AMC series since 2010, Rick left The Walking Dead early in season 9, thus allowing for the series to continue down a new path. It was said at the time that Lincoln would never return to the show, and so far that's a promise that's been kept. Rick's story is expected to be concluded in three The Walking Dead movies, however.
In The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5, "What Comes After", Rick stood alone as he tried to stop a horde of zombies from descending on the communities. As circumstances were dire, Rick accepted that death was imminent, but he expressed a willingness to give up his life if it meant saving everyone else. In the end, Rick blew up the bridge he worked so hard to build. Everyone present watched in horror as their leader was seemingly killed in the explosion. Just when it seemed that AMC had killed off the show's main character, a twist involving Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) and the mysterious CRM helicopter explained Rick's departure. Anne found a badly injured Rick and had him sent away in the helicopter, unbeknownst to the rest of the characters, who still believe that their former leader is dead.
"What Comes After" aired on November 4, 2018, which means that it's been an entire year since Rick's final episode. The Walking Dead movies were officially announced on the day of his exit, and still there hasn't been any major developments on the next step in his journey. It's surprising that so much time has passed without AMC making any significant announcements about what comes next. It's still unclear what the time frame is for The Walking Dead movies or when they should be expected to be released. But what's interesting is that The Walking Dead, without Rick Grimes, has changed so much in the span of one season - thanks to multiple time jumps, new characters being introduced, and a new villain at the helm.
The anniversary of Rick's exit also means that the series has now gone an entire year without its protagonist. Where The Walking Dead would go without Rick was a key talking point at the time of his departure, since there were so many questions about how the show would move on without him. There were questions about who would replace him (if anyone), what direction the show would take without its hero, and how The Walking Dead would adapt stories from the comics that originally included Rick in an important role.
Now that so much time has gone by, the answers to these questions are a bit more clear. The closest thing The Walking Dead has come to a replacement is Daryl (Norman Reedus), who has stepped up to the plate in Rick's absence, but for the most part, The Walking Dead doesn't have any one protagonist; it's taken more of an ensemble approach to the format of the show. At times - especially when Michonne (Danai Gurira) is on-screen - it seems that the show doesn't want to let go of Rick Grimes just yet, but in recent episodes, especially ones that don't lean too much on Rick's legacy and influence, it's become increasingly apparent that The Walking Dead is moving on; it's just taking some time to do so.