"The Walking Dead's" Season Seven premiere may have gut-wrenching to watch, but fans hope it will pay off for star Andrew Lincoln come awards season.
A seven-month-old petition on Change.org calling for the actor's performance as Rick Grimes to be recognized with an Emmy Award has surged in support since Sunday's episode. Launched in March, had reached 8,000 supporters as of Wednesday, but by this morning that number had jumped to more than 18,400.
"I believe Andrew Lincoln deserves an Emmy for his role as Rick Grimes," writes the petition's author, Martin C.. "The man is an amazing actor and the emotion he shows when playing the character is just brilliant. I think it's a damn shame he's never been recognized. Let's show him and the rest of the cast how much we love the show, by doing something positive in the fan base."
Lincoln has long had to visit dark places as the hit drama's "hero," grappling with existential crises, hallucinations and a complete change in his leadership philosophy. However, the sudden spike in support for the petition can easily be attributed to Sunday's especially harrowing episode, in which -- SPOILERS! -- Rick Grimes soent the hour dealing with the death of not only the poetic Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) but also fan favorite Glenn (Steven Yeun). The episode largely hinged upon Lincoln's performance as he dealt with the nearly unrelenting terror of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). It was a difficult episode to watch, made better -- or maybe worse, depending on how you look at it -- by Lincoln's gutting performance.
Despite being one of the highest-rated programs on television, "The Walking Dead" has long been overlooked in the major awards categories. Although the drama has consistently been nominated for makeup, special effects and stunt work, it's earned nothing from the Television Academy for acting, directing or writing. Because Emmy nominations are decided by members of the Academy, a collection of fan signatures may hold little sway come award season. But the petition will, at the very least, serve as another vote of confidence for the show, whose fanbase has always been particularly passionate.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, "The Walking Dead" also stars Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Melissa McBride as Carol Peleteir, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Green and Danai Gurira as Michonne.