In the long barrage of major changes for The Walking Dead over the past year, none is bigger than the imminent sendoff of Rick Grimes, the series’ main protagonist. And while we’ve long known that star Andrew Lincoln would be leaving the show sometime this season, AMC has finally confirmed exactly when — if not how — it’ll happen.
Let’s just say the Nov. 4 episode of TWD is poised to be a ratings high for the still-young Season 9. Via the show’s official Twitter account, the season’s fifth episode set to premiere that night — titled “What Comes After” — will be fans’ long-awaited chance to wave goodbye to Rick.
Fans of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels have watched the TV show’s divergence from the comics accelerate dramatically over the past year, especially with the surprise death of Carl Grimes, Rick’s son, right in the middle of Season 8. While Carl’s demise was foreshadowed in the midseason finale after he was bitten by a walker, we still don’t know whether Rick will actually die when it’s his turn to leave, or if he’ll simply ride off into the sunset.
Lincoln explained his departure from the show back in July, saying his children were reaching an age that makes it tough for him to spend quality family time amid TWD’s busy shooting calendar. But he’s also indicated he doesn’t want to leave the show behind for good, telling Entertainment Weekly in September that he plans to return in Season 10 to direct at least one episode.
Kirkman, who’s also one of the show’s executive producers, has already said Carl’s death marked an “exciting” opportunity to take the show in a new direction, regardless of how faithful the TV version remains to the character arc of the graphic novels. He appeared to approach Rick’s departure in much the same way at New York Comic Con, when he told a fan panel that Rick’s sendoff, while heartbreaking, won’t “limit us from adapting stories from the comic.”
In any event, we’ve only got two weeks left before finding out how Rick’s final moments cement themselves in the TV version of Walking Dead lore. You can catch new TWD episodes each Sunday at 9 p.m. ET.