Fans were suitably shocked when it was reported a couple of months ago that Andrew Lincoln was set to leave The Walking Dead next season. The trouble was, though, that the surprising news had leaked out a whole five months before season 9 was even set to begin. Many of the show’s most important exits had been kept a secret, but this one – perhaps the biggest ever – was clearly too critical to contain.
To Lincoln, this is a shame, as he wishes that the whole thing had been kept under wraps until his final episode aired. At this weekend’s San Diego Comic-Con, the actor himself made the official announcement that he was vacating the series soon but, as he later explained to EW, if it were up to him he wouldn’t have told anyone.
“There is a certain sense of relief this morning. But I still regret that the story broke, because I believe in story and I think it would have been… it’s gonna be a great season but it would have been greater if it was not spoiled to a degree.”
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You can see what Lincoln means. More than most shows, The Walking Dead has thrived on creating “water cooler” moments, those surprises that fans didn’t see coming that leave viewers with their jaws on the ground. Hopefully TWD will still be able to do this when Rick finally leaves the series later this year, but arguably the impact of his exit has now been lessened.
That said, we don’t yet know how he’ll be written out, so the actual specifics of his departure will be a surprise. Sure, it’s probably most likely that he’ll take the traditional TWD route of being killed off in some gruesome, emotionally-devastating fashion. But maybe, just maybe, he’ll survive and simply move on to pastures new. You might think the second option unlikely, but Lincoln reminded us at SDCC that Morgan Jones recently did something similar at the end of season 8.
We’ll find out when The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 7th. Let’s just all pretend to be shocked when Rick goes, for Andrew Lincoln’s sake.