5 Ways The Walking Dead Can Survive Without Rick Grimes

By Noah Davis
Published on August 10, 2023
The Walking Dead

Season nine of The Walking Dead rolls up on die-hard fans on October 7th on AMC.

It can’t come a moment too soon, either, with fans learning that the beloved Rick Grimes (played by Andrew Lincoln) will be exiting the series after just six episodes.

Yeah, how’s that for a gut punch?

I’m sure there is upside in this, like if some of the top entertainment betting sites host some Rick Grimes death prop bets. That might be where the fun ends, though.

It’s old news by now, but The Walking Dead without Rick Grimes, well, just doesn’t make any sense.

From the very beginning when Rick Grimes was found in a coma, this entire show was his journey.

He was first just trying to come to grips with his new reality - one that didn’t include the presence of his wife and kid yet did include a whole lot of zombies.

It wasn’t long before Rick located his wife and son, but his mission in life quickly morphed from finding them to protecting them.

In short time, that mission stretched out over his entire party, as the former police officer took it upon himself to lead his new extended family to safety.

Fast forward eight seasons, and it seems like Rick Grimes has done his part.

He defeated Negan, and for all intents and purposes, an argument could be made that his character arc has been completed.

I’d argue there is still an incredible amount of story to tell, but what do you do when the actor playing the heart of your show decides it’s time to leave?

The answer isn’t easy, and it has to be layered.

The main reason why is this completely shakes up the dynamic of The Walking Dead. For the show to survive without Rick Grimes, it needs to set up a foundation of viable life before he even leaves.

Judging by a brilliant season-nine trailer, I’m fairly optimistic TWD showrunners can do just that.

Even so, there are still a few things The Walking Dead can do to ensure this show has real legs without their biggest hero. Here are five of them.

Condense the Character Roster

If Rick has to go, I think it might be high time this show’s entire roster base got a massive facelift.

The Walking Dead has killed off a lot of high-profile characters in the past eight seasons, but they’ve also added quite a few.

I don’t see why legendary characters like Shane, Glenn, and Abraham can be booted from the show, while King Ezekiel, Father Gabriel, Maggie, Jesus, and so many others keep hanging around.

It’s arguable a lot of those characters still have story to tell, but it’s also pretty clear that The Walking Dead has been pulling itself in too many directions for years.

Instead of stretching itself too thin, TWD should focus on a handful of key characters and make the audience care again.

This is precisely why the death of Glenn and possibly Rick are so impactful: because fans actually care. Condensing the character rolodex should help make that happen again.

Don’t Actually Kill Rick Grimes

Of course, I am a fan of the idea that Rick Grimes can leave The Walking Dead without actually dying.

Morgan did it just last season as he crossed over to Fear the Walking Dead, while Heath did it by literally vanishing.

Rick Grimes is way too big of a character to just slide over to another show or have disappear with no answer.

Death or not, Andrew Lincoln deserves a better ending than that.

To me, a death for Grimes simply wouldn’t be organic.

It doesn’t at all align with the comics to this point, and there is just something that would be cheap about an actor’s decision ending the life of a character instead of the natural, organic flow of a story.

Lincoln is free to do as he wishes, but it’s possible he may regret this decision and want to come back down the road. In fact, there are some The Walking Dead theory conspiracists that suggest he will be back on the show at some point in some capacity.

I won’t dive into hypothetical situations that involve Rick Grimes surviving but still exiting the show, but a few do exist.

Keeping Grimes alive would keep fans interested who hope to see him again, while it also wouldn’t prematurely hand the show’s best character such a grizzly exit.

Make Sure Negan Has a Big Role

You could argue at this point that Rick Grimes does have to indeed die on screen for this show to survive. If that’s true, I think The Walking Dead should have it involve the devious Whisperers.

If you’re unfamiliar with TWD comics, this is a nasty group that wears the skin of the dead as camouflage and puts people’s heads on sticks.

They are rather relenting and will in the future pose quite the challenge for our favorite group of survivors.

Grimes going down and getting his head put on a spike could send quite the message, both to our TV friends and fans alike.

The death of Grimes could also deliver the perfect segue for the much-needed return of Negan.

Long thought to be the enemy of the living, Negan could now be built up into the ideal anti-hero. He was absolutely a villain when fans first were introduced to him, and over time, his persona weakened until Rick got the best of him.

That wasn’t a great look for Negan, but he had to lose that first big battle so that he could rise up and take on an even bigger, badder role.

If Rick Grimes has to go, it at least paves the way for Negan to be the face of The Walking Dead. He’s much more ruthless than Grimes ever was, and nobody will balk at Jeffrey Dean Morgan getting more screen time.

Negan could be the necessary counter-punch to the soon-to-be-introduced Whisperers, and in the blink of an eye, everyone who hated Negan will probably love him.

Nothing is going to replace a departed Rick Grimes, but vaulting Negan into the biggest role he’s gotten yet would certainly be the best way to try.

Pick Up the Pace

There isn’t much of a way to know how The Walking Dead season 9 will look or feel yet.

I love the trailer and think the new season has serious promise, but it could struggle if the pace is slow like the past few seasons.

Yeah, seasons. Plural.

I loved the arrival of Negan and everything that meant for the show, but basically ever since he got here, The Walking Dead has been slow, methodical, and entirely way too drawn out.

Gone were the meaningful missions, intense action, and laundry lists of near-death situations.

There was a saturation of character development as the showrunners clearly wanted this entire process to hit you hard.

It worked, but it also suffered from its own doing.

Reincorporating those dangerous scavenging runs, new villains, and a faster pace could liven up the series as a whole, regardless of which characters come or go.

It’s just weird to watch almost an hour-long show and have shockingly very little actually happen. That’s sadly been the case with TWD, and while I have faith season nine will correct that, this remains a major weakness until it’s officially addressed.

Surprise the Heck out of Us

Lastly, The Walking Dead needs to be a bit more spontaneous and not be fearful of curveballs that nobody will see coming and some may even hate.

They’ve done this in mild fashion by shaking up the order and manner of character deaths, but for the most part, the TWD television show has mirrored the comics.

It might be time to go off script.

You don’t want to completely abandon the source material, but at some point (you know, after like NINE seasons), this thing has to be able to stand on its own.

Fans tend to have some idea as to what will happen next, what major plot line will pop up, or even who could be next to get killed off.

The Walking Dead lacks that real shock value, and it’s so bad that fans literally know Andrew Lincoln is exiting the show. Even the (likely) death of Rick Grimes can’t be a surprise!

Keep things more hush-hush, deviate from the comics, and create new characters that don’t already exist.

After all, the iconic Daryl Dixon wasn’t even in the original comic book, and he may go down as the longest-tenured TWD cast member when it’s all said and done.


I want to keep loving this show. That is admittedly going to be incredibly difficult with the show losing its best character.

Maybe it’s just me, but when I think of my favorite television programs and movies, it’s not just about the story, writing, score, or imagery.

It’s often largely about the people, and the most iconic characters are pretty impossible to survive without.

Let’s watch Breaking Bad without Walter White. Why don’t we bring Lost back without Jack? How about Seinfeld without Jerry?

Yeah, I didn’t think so.

I don’t think The Walking Dead will be nearly as captivating without one of the best character portrayals ever. However, I do think it can still be a great show and be reborn in an entirely different light.

Perhaps the exit of Rick Grimes can contribute to that being a far more effortless transition than we currently expect.

Either way, TWD has some work to do to make sure life without Andrew Lincoln doesn’t go horribly. The aforementioned five ways could do the trick.

Have your own ideas for how The Walking Dead can fix itself? Tell me all about it in the comments below!

5 Ways the Walking Dead Can Survive Without Rick Grimes
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5 Ways the Walking Dead Can Survive Without Rick Grimes
With news that Andrew Lincoln will be exiting The Walking Dead, here’s a few ways the show can fix itself and last for years to come.
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