Many fans of The Walking Dead were disappointed to learn that this upcoming season 9 of the hit post-apocalyptic series will be the final one featuring Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes. However, according to Andrew Lincoln himself, Rick has actually lasted a bit longer in the series than originally intended, as he wanted his character to be written off back in Season 8.
This original plan for Rick wasn't merely made up by Andrew Lincoln. Instead, it was actually thoroughly discussed by Lincoln and the series' former showrunner Scott Gimple back around the time of Season 5. It was clear around this time that Gimple wanted the show to continue long after Andrew Lincoln would leave, which is evidently still the plan. Here is what Lincoln had to say on the matter.
"We spoke about it and said, 'There's got to be a shape. We need a shape to work out if we get to Season 5 then maybe we've got a couple more.' There were all these if's and but's and strategies. And I said, eight sounds like a good number.' Eight seasons was certainly something. Last season was a shape that I had in my head and it was certainly something that Scott was possibly thinking about as well that was a completion of a certain chapter which could be called Rick's falling. Season 8 came and it got more complicated. I realized that rather than have the funeral, I had to prepare for the funeral and I had to make sure everybody was comfortable with the funeral arrangements."
We are certainly glad that Gimple and Lincoln decided to keep Rick around for a season longer, but not just because it means we get to see an extra year of Rick Grimes. As Lincoln discussed, the extra season will give Rick enough time to make his goodbye emotional and important, rather than making it a quick departure. While other characters had quick departures, like Glenn and Beth, Rick is the heart and soul of the show. If his departure isn't handled well, The Walking Dead could potentially fall apart, which is certainly something that no one involved wants.
Lincoln likely isn't concerned about his departure just for the sake of the show, but also for the sake of his character. Lincoln has been portraying Rick Grimes for nearly nine years, and has undoubtedly gained some sort of emotional connection with him. After nine years of being connected to Rick, Lincoln certainly doesn't want to bring an end to his character too early in an unnatural manner.
Hopefully this final season of The Walking Dead is able to give Rick Grimes the swan song that he deserves. Andrew Lincoln's revelation in his interview with Entertainment Weekly gives a good idea of how the ninth season of The Walking Dead is being handled. Lincoln likely wouldn't have chosen to have stuck around for an extra season if AMC didn't have something great planned for his send off. We will see what is in store for Rick's final episodes in The Walking Dead when Season 9 airs on Sunday, October 7th.