It was confirmed over the weekend that Lauren Cohan — who plays Maggie Green on The Walking Dead — would only return for six episodes in the ninth season of The Walking Dead after her series, Whiskey Tango had been picked up by ABC.
Today, Collider is reporting (and it has been confirmed elsewhere) that Andrew Lincoln, who plays the nominal lead Rick Grimes, will also depart the series after six episodes.
What does that mean? Either very good or very bad things for The Walking Dead.
After spending two and a half agonizing seasons locked in a war with Negan and the Saviors, the series finally has a chance to break free from that running storyline and begin anew. That starts with where the eighth season left off: A brewing showdown between Maggie and Rick, and based on the episode counts alone, I’m guessing that it will result in the demise of one or both characters (Cohan, I believe, could still return, based on whether Whiskey Tango is picked up for an additional season).
While I might normally suggest that the departures two of the series biggest stars — departures dictated not by the script but by the actors — means the beginning of the end, I’m not so sure where it concerns The Walking Dead. Next year sees the arrival of a new showrunner in Angela Kang and what I know is at least some new blood in the writers’ room and in the director’s chair.
That is to say: I would not bet against a creative resurrection this late in the run. Andrew Chambliss and Ian Goldberg have done absolute wonders with the rebooted Fear the Walking Dead — so much so that I legitimately love it, and don’t just watch it because I need to for my job — and AMC has enough riding on The Walking Dead universe that they’ll be motivated to inject new life into the series rather than let it fade away.
Truthfully, we’ve gone through Rick’s character cycle so many times now that I can no longer keep count (hero, villain, psycho, hero, villain, psycho) and it’s not like the comics have a lot in store for Maggie in future seasons. I like the idea, in fact, of a show being led by Daryl and Michonne and showrunner Angela Kang. I think the drama can get back to what it once was — a search for humanity in a post-apocalyptic world — instead of the dreary, interminable game of war and death that it has become. I like Lincoln, and appreciate what he’s done for the show through eight seasons, but it’s time for the show to move on, and the Brit Andrew Lincoln deserves a break from 9 years of Atlanta summers.