Believe it or not, The Walking Dead is losing its leading man Rick Grimes sooner than you think. Sob. Andrew Lincoln confirmed his departure from the long-running zombie series at San Diego Comic Con 2018 and it’s looking likely that it’ll happen during The Walking Dead season 9, episode 5. While it’s pretty hard to imagine the show without Rick, the bigger question is how it’s going to happen? While death by Walker seems like the most traditional way out for the former Sheriff, it’s doubtful AMC will go for something so obvious and with new showrunner Angela Kang promising a bold “new show” and “new narrative” this season, we might see Rick bow out in a more surprising way. To stem the tide of grief we’re feeling over his departure - and to keep us going until the new season begins - we’ve tried to predict how Rick will leave The Walking Dead with our top five theories on his exit. Read on and decide which you think is most likely before the show returns on October 7.
It'll be Negan who eventually kills Rick
For the past two seasons of The Walking Dead, we've been experiencing the build up, and consequences, of the all out war between Negan's Saviours and Rick's various crews, from Alexandria and beyond. The entire time you're expecting someone to kill Negan, or Negan to eventually kill Rick, and if you've watched The Walking Dead season 8, you'll know that neither of those things happen - despite Rick slitting Negan's throat. Now Negan is holed up in a cell within Alexandria, with Rick hellbent on rehabilitation of some kind. It's what Carl wanted, right? Well, I bet you all these idyllic futures the show has portrayed where Negan's seen tending the garden with Judith or other such madness are just that. Madness. Everyone's of the mind that Rick has lost the plot somewhat, and I can see Negan escaping and putting himself back at the head of this new community. After all, with the show constantly questioning the morality and justification of both Negan and Rick for the past two seasons, is Negan really that much worse than Rick?
Rick isn't dying, he’s just making the jump to video games
This will probably sound like the deluded ravings of a defective Eugene high on battery fumes, but stick with me here. Overkill’s The Walking Dead game releases on November 6 this year. The Walking Dead season 9’s fifth episode, which is rumoured to be the episode where Rick says his goodbyes, airs on November 4, just three days earlier. We know that both the game and this season of the show will feature scenes set in Washington DC, and that Robert Kirkman - father of all things Walking Dead - has heavily been involved in both.
What if... what if Rick isn’t leaving The Walking Dead outright, but simply heading over to a new sphere of Kirkman’s expanding zombie-verse, as a recurring character in Overkill’s upcoming first-person shooter? Even Andrew Lincoln himself, upon announcing his exit, cryptically said that “my relationship with Mr Grimes is far from over”, suggesting a TV bow out isn’t necessarily a total retirement from the character he’s now synonymous with. More than anything, Rick’s transition to this emerging pillar of Walking Dead fiction would be a clever way of keeping Lincoln involved, without him having to spend months shooting on location in Atlanta every year, which is partly the reason he’s departing. Like I said, a crackpot theory, but one that’s not completely out of the realm of possibility…
Rick will simply walk away from the fight… but leave it open for a shock return
There’s no way AMC is going to kill off Rick. The Walking Dead can’t even bring itself to kill off its villains for crying out loud (*cough* Negan *cough*). There’s no way the show is going to do it to its hero; to the character which has led it for nearly a decade, to the face of The Walking Dead! Despite this, Andrew Lincoln is sadly leaving the show mid-way through season 9, but whatever his reasons for saying goodbye to the long-running zombie series, I’m betting AMC is hoping he’ll come back at some point. That’s why they won’t kill him off (or at least make his ‘death’ super ambiguous), so he can make a surprise comeback later down the line.
Plus, it would be way more shocking and interesting for Rick to leave the show alive - how many Walking Dead characters get to do that?! No one would see it coming! And he’s got more than enough reasons to walk away from his community and go it alone for a while. It’s been a tough few years for Rick, but he’s kept going in the hopes that he could one day build a safe and loving community for his son Carl. With that motivation gone - *sob* - what’s Rick got left to live for? Ok, he’s got Michonne and Judith, but if anything were to happen to them, say, in the first few episodes of the new season… well, I think Rick might struggle to keep it together. Maybe he’ll go down in a blaze of self-destructive glory or maybe, just maybe, he’ll pack his bags and walk away from everything that reminds him of what he’s lost and go it alone for a while, Morgan-style. Can you say road trip spin-off?
Rick's going to go out exactly the same way Lori did (but with a twist)
If we go way, way back to first three seasons of The Walking Dead - arguably when the series was at its best - Rick was still a semi-happily married man to Lori and Carl was but a whippersnapper. Unfortunately though, as is usually the case in The Walking Dead, it doesn't all quite work out as everyone hopes. It's unclear whether Rick's the real father of Lori's baby, thanks to a brief affair with Shane when she thought Rick was dead, and despite managing to get through the entire pregnancy smoothly, there are huge problems with the actual childbirth. Maggie manages to deliver Lori's baby while Carl looks on, but Lori doesn't make it. Carl, as the strong kid that he's about to become, actually chooses to deal the final blow to his poor old mum to save her from turning into a Walker. The stunned silence of everyone in Rick's group - and us lot watching - was palpable, and I reckon there might be a strange mirroring with Rick's departure.
Imagine if Judith somehow gets hold of a gun, and accidentally kills her own father. She's hardly had a starring role to date, and actually, in the comics she doesn't make it out of the prison either. During the Governor's assault on the prison, Lori is shot whilst carrying Judith. She dies, and Judith is crushed by Lori's body. If we really are deviating from the comics for season 9 of The Walking Dead TV series, then why not establish Judith as a key character going forward, even if she is only a toddler?