The Walking Dead Rick

The Walking Dead Season 9 'to pay homage' to Rick Grimes as Andrew Lincoln exits

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Aug 1, 2018, 1:23 PM EDT

As The Walking Dead fans prepare to say goodbye to the man that’s led AMC’s zombie drama for its entire zeitgeist-creating run, they’ll be able to look forward to a season aimed at giving Andrew Lincoln the best send-off he (or his mourning co-stars) could ask for.

In an interview with EW, The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang assured fans that Lincoln’s final season would be one focused on paying respect to the legendary Rick Grimes. “The goal this season was just to pay homage to that character — the character that brought us into the show,” Kang said.

“Rick Grimes has been somebody that people have loved watching, just loved this character’s journey. He is this man who was looking for his family, and found them, and lost many of them, but has fought on and on. And I think that’s meant a lot to people. And we just really wanted to be respectful of that character and send him off in a great way.”

Focusing on Grimes’ exit throughout the first half of the season gives the show plenty of opportunity to pull in flashbacks (which may explain why Jon Bernthal was hanging around set) while it plays with time. Building up to his departure by paying homage to the character at large will allow fans to appreciate the journey Grimes has been on for almost a decade - something that can be lost when watching episode after episode.

After Lincoln’s work has been appropriately lauded, the show must still go on. That means The Walking Dead needs to work on filling the gap left by their leading man.

Kang addresses this, saying that the show’s next big move is to “tell the story of the people going forward, because it’s never been a story just about this one man. It started with him, but it’s always been a story about this group of people that have each other’s backs, that help each other survive, that help each other be more human. And that’s the story that we’ll continue to tell.”

The journey away from Rick and towards his found family begins when The Walking Dead’s Season 9 premieres Oct. 7 on AMC.