Could ‘The Walking Dead’ Ever Work Without Andrew Lincoln?

The Walking Dead has put its fans through the ringer over the past eight seasons. And it seems to be primed to drop the biggest bomb yet. Numerous outlets have reported that star Andrew Lincoln will be leaving TWD in Season 9. That means that the series would be without its main protagonist, Rick Grimes.

It seems almost impossible to imagine The Walking Dead without Lincoln. And though we’ve said that about many of the other players that have come and gone, this time it really feels like The Walking Dead may be reaching the point of no return. Here are all the reasons why The Walking Dead just can’t survive without Rick Grimes — and one reason that it can (page 6).

1. For better or worse, Rick is at the center of The Walking Dead

Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes points a gun in AMC's The Walking Dead

Rick Grimes has always been the focal point of The Walking Dead. | AMC

  • It’s Rick Grimes’ world, and we’re all just living in it.

From the very first scene in Season 1 to the very last episode of Season 8, Rick Grimes has been the focal point of The Walking Dead. While other characters have arguably become more popular with fans, it’s still indisputably his story.

That hasn’t always been a good thing. Rick’s questionable leadership skills and penchant for going off the deep end have sometimes made TWD hard to watch. But they’ve also allowed for an important redemptive arc that seems to be driving the series forward.

Next: After Season 8, Rick is more important than ever.

2. Season 9 set up huge new conflicts for Rick

Rick and Negan on The Walking Dead

It seems like Season 9 will bring some massive events for Rick. | AMC

  • No one likes an unfinished storyline.

Few would argue that the prolonged war between Rick’s crew and the Saviors was a good thing for The Walking Dead. But now that the two groups have joined forces, the series seems like it could be moving into a new era. Season 8 didn’t just put the All Out War to bed, though.

It also introduced two potentially significant storylines that would both feature Rick.  The first is Maggie’s plot to avenge Glenn’s death by bringing Rick down. The second was the hint that a new and even more insidious villain could be on the horizon.

The only way they could switch gears would be to try to shock fans with his death. But there’s a big problem with that.

Next: The series has suffered from too many shocking deaths.

3. The Walking Dead has played the shock value card to death

Carl on The Walking Dead

Fans are sick of the random deaths, like Carl’s. | AMC

  • This would be one ‘shocking’ death too many.

In a lot of ways, killing characters off has been The Walking Dead’s modus operandi for a while now. And for a while, it worked pretty well. Fans were shocked when characters like Shane, Lori and Andrea met premature ends. But now, years later, we know that our favorite (or least favorite) characters could go at any time. In fact, we expect it.

Having Rick just pick up shop and leave would be nonsensical. But killing Rick off wouldn’t be a surprise. And even if it was, fans have grown weary of the bleakness of losing characters we’ve become invested in. Especially since we just lost Carl, Morgan jumped shipped, and yet another character will likely play a smaller role in Season 9.

Next: Can fans really stomach The Walking Dead with so few core characters left?

4. Season 9 promises more Maggie — but not much more

Maggie on The Walking Dead

Maggie will have a limited role in Season 9. | AMC

  • There really aren’t many core characters left at this point.

For several weeks, fans were left wondering if The Walking Dead’s ninth season would include a longtime favorite character. Lauren Cohan’s contract negotiations left her role in the series hanging in the balance — which meant Maggie’s fate on the series also had a big question mark looming overhead.

Cohan was eventually able to work out a deal to remain on the series. But she’s reportedly going to have a much smaller role in Season 9. That means fans are facing the reality of a new Walking Dead era with very few core characters left. And removing Rick from the equation midway through the season will only make that reality even harder for many fans to reconcile.

Next: Fans have weighed in on a Walking Dead without Lincoln.  

5. Most fans seem to want Lincoln to stick around

Actor Andrew Lincoln, who stars as Rick Grimes in 'The Walking Dead', participates in the "Behind the Scenes of The Walking Dead, Smithsonian Associates" panel discussion at the George Washington University, Lisner Auditorium on February 5, 2016 in Washington, DC.

Viewers want Andrew Lincoln to stick around. | Paul Morigi/Getty Images for AMC

  • The fandom response to news about Lincoln’s departure was passionate, to say the least.

The Walking Dead fandom is huge, passionate, and deeply devoted to the series. And they have a unique relationship with the cast, which means that when a character dies, they feel it acutely. Now, they have to grapple with the idea of losing the series’ central star. And they’re not taking it all that well. Fans aired their grievances (and expressed their grief) as soon as the news hit.

The general consensus seems to be that, at the bare minimum, The Walking Dead won’t be the same without Lincoln (and Rick) front and center. And it begs the question whether fans will be willing to stick around if he goes.

Next: Will fans be willing to stick around for a TWD without Lincoln?

6. Some fans think a post-Lincoln era could work

The cast of The Walking Dead speak onstage during the Comic Con The Walking Dead panel at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on October 7, 2017 in New York City.

Could the show shift its focus to other cast members? | Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for AMC

  • Who needs Rick when we have Michonne and Daryl?

No matter how passionate its fan base, The Walking Dead has lost its status as must-watch TV over the past few seasons. And given that Rick has been at the center of many less-popular plot twists, it’s fair to ask whether ditching him could give the series a much-needed boost.

Some fans argue that Lincoln’s departure could actually save TWD, because it would force the series to rely on its rich ensemble of characters. And there’s no denying that Michonne (Danai Gurira), Daryl (Norman Reedus), and Carol (Melissa McBride), among other characters, deserve to have more time in the spotlight.

But one huge problem remains with the prospect of a Lincoln-less Dead.

Next: Here’s why The Walking Dead just won’t work without Rick.

7. The Walking Dead won’t work if it’s dictated by behind-the-scenes drama

Rick, looking sweaty and disheveled, looks directly into the camera

Andrew Lincoln’s exit may force the show into an awkward storyline.  | AMC

  • A TV show should always be driven by story first.

Would Rick’s departure or death from The Walking Dead be a huge twist? Yes. But it would be hard to argue it’s one the writers’ planned for from the beginning, or one that they meant to happen. It would be a storyline driven by real-world events.

It’s well within Lincoln’s rights to want to leave the series behind. But since the series was conceived around Rick’s survival and redemption, there’s no good way for them to shift the focus this late in the game and not have the series suffer as a result.

The Walking Dead’s creators would have had to plan for Rick’s exit far in advance for it to play out in a meaningful effect. And if that’s not the case, then no amount of shock value can save the show in the long run.

Next: The final verdict on TWD’s future.

8. The Walking Dead should know when to call it quits

Rick and Carl on The Walking Dead

This could mean it’s time for The Walking Dead to end. | AMC

  • The Walking Dead has an opportunity to end on a high note.

Given the size of TWD’s ensemble, and the fact that the comics that inspired it are still going strong, the series could feasibly run for several more years. But just because it can doesn’t mean it should. If Lincoln does, indeed, depart at the end of Season 9, then the series’ should follow suit.

It could give The Walking Dead a chance to finally tie all its loose ends together, and go out on a high note. Book-ending the nine-season show with a glimpse at the world through Rick’s eyes is the most meaningful and logical way to approach the overall storyline. And ultimately, whether it’s always been good or not, TWD has been telling a story.

To drag on after its main protagonist is gone would be a huge risk for the show’s legacy. To wrap it up and finally reveal the ultimate end game would be the best for everyone involved.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!