Lincoln has been the cornerstone of The Walking Dead since the series premiered in 2010, and just as the comics continue to rely on Rick as the lead of the story, the TV adaptation has always had the character as its focus.
For those who are outraged or devastated by Rick's impending swansong, a Change.org petition has so attracted 2,500 supporters who are lobbying for Lincoln to remain. The petition praises Lincoln's eight-year run on the show, and attribute his departure to recent turmoil, including the loss of Chandler Riggs, who played Carl Grimes, and the impending exit of Lauren Cohan, who stars as Maggie. But, as the petition's author states, "The large majority feel the character is what makes The Walking Dead what it is."
Many were left reeling over reports that Lincoln will only appear in a handful of episodes in the upcoming ninth season and that new showrunner Angela Kang will slowly phase him out. Norman Reedus has reportedly been offered $20 million to step up in his part as Daryl Dixon and become the show's new lead.
The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman and former showrunner Scott Gimple had warned there would eventually come a day when the series has to move past Rick Grimes. However, no one expected that day to arrive quite so soon. The long-running apocalyptic drama is already being touted as a "new show" in Season 9, while a Rick-free future is certainly one way to live up to that promise. How AMC and fans handle Rick's departure remains to be seen, but The Walking Dead just found another way to ensure everyone tunes in again later this year.
A premiere date for the ninth season is expected to be announced next month at Comic-Con International in San Diego.
The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa, and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.