You may have heard yesterday that Andrew Lincoln would be calling season nine of The Walking Dead his last. That’s right Geeklings, Rick Grimes himself will be bidding the world of The Walking Dead adieu, and it has the fan base in a bit of an uproar. What is this show without its main character? A new showrunner and the departure of the show’s biggest star? Will they kill him off or leave the door open for his return? These are all questions that have been floating around social media since the news broke yesterday, and while we have very limited information as to the why, it matters little now that it’s a matter of when. Lincoln will only be in six episodes next season, that sounds like first half of the season only, before the show phases him out. That’s not a lot in the grand scheme of things. The first half of the season is usually eight episodes which means we could have two episodes of this Rick-less world before the show goes on winter break. Man, that’s some real make or break television.
The major story here though is, can The Walking Dead survive without Rick Grimes. I have the answer for you, and it may be a little surprising but if you’ve been paying attention to the show over the last few seasons you should be expecting it.
The answer is no. No it can not.
I’m sorry to be a downer, but I just don’t see how The Walking Dead can handle a loss of such grand magnitude. Since the very start, this show has been Rick Grime’s story. Main character isn’t the only job he holds. In fact, I would argue that there’s no other character fleshed out as well as Rick Grimes. There are layers and some degree of depth to others, but all of them feel like side characters. Characters that exist on the spoke of the world Rick Grimes provides. As much as you may love Carol, and be honest with yourself here, could you see her being the main character of this series? No, it lacks the depth needed to make the show captivating. Carol’s stories are interesting and raise excellent moral questions but there’s not enough substance there to carry a show. You put Carol in the spotlight and suddenly she becomes much less interesting.
I don’t want to say that the other characters on the show are one dimensional because that’s not fair. Not all of them are, but the majority of them have been handled so poorly over the last couple of seasons that putting them to the forefront of the show just seems like a recipe for disaster. Just look at Daryl, the rumored upcoming focal point of the series. Listen, when the show started I was a part of the “Daryl Dies We Riot” club. I was a part of the “Bring Daryl to the Comics” club. Now? Now I just want him to take a shower and move his god damn hair out of his face. Here is a character that barely says seven words an episode and you want him to carry your series? I get it, Norman Reedus is a cool dude and brings in viewership but is that enough to make him the star of your show? I think Daryl has worked so well in the past is because he’s not Rick. He’s your classic number two keeping things in balance, shooting things with a crossbow, and occasionally bringing an emotional element or two. You risk losing that charm making him the star. People will start to realize that maybe there hasn’t been that much there all along. That’s when they turn.
Where else could you go though now that Rick is leaving? Maggie? Nope. Buried within the news of Andrew Lincoln’s departure was that Lauren Cohan would only be in half of season nine which means she’s probably leaving as well. She does have a new series that just got picked up. How about Negan? That could have worked if the show strayed from the comics and had Negan win the war. You could have introduced a new regime and a new way of life under Lucille and almost started the show over while you phase out Rick. It might even have worked too, but it’s all for not. Rick won which leads to the same old same old.
Robert Kirkman has said for awhile now that in the comics Rick Grimes is going to die, and I’ve had zero problems with that. There have been large chunks of that series where I didn’t like Rick. Like, at all. His death would be tragic and momentous but the storylines that could spiral out of that could be even better. That’s because the story of The Walking Dead is supposed to transition to Carl Grimes in the comic. We lose the father and now we have a son who has to take everything his father has taught him, good or bad, and build this new world. That’s a tremendous story angel… that can’t happen in the show because in an attempt to get ratings the show killed off Carl. With Rick leaving that death makes even less sense now and puts the show in a serious hole.
Listen folks, as frustrated as I’ve been with The Walking Dead I understand it’s importance. I’m still a fan. I watch on Sunday just like you, even though season nine was going to be my make or break season. New showrunner and all I was willing to give the series one more shot to wow me, but now I kind of want season nine to be it. What is The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes? How could it possibly exist? This in no way means Rick is the best character on the show, but it does mean he’s the most important. While AMC may see The Walking Dead as the massive cash cow that it’s been they can’t deny that viewership is down, critical acclaim is down, and the show now faces a real problem. Why push it further and comprise the product when you can take season nine and bid the world farewell. Don’t overstay your welcome. Nine seasons of television is something that rarely happens anymore, and while the comics provide endless source material, it doesn’t mean you have to tell all those stories. Give this show a memorable ending before it phases itself out.