The Grimes family has been completely fractured on The Walking Dead, with fan favorites Rick and Carl both making their departures from the series. However, little Judith remains, managing to stay alive since her birth at the prison in season 3. Due to a time jump in season 9 pushing the story six years ahead, the part has since been cast with child actress Cailey Fleming, who's likely to stay in the role for some time to come. Not forgetting her character's roots, Fleming recently posted a photo on Instagram with actor Jon Bernthal, who played Shane Walsh on the show. Of course, longtime viewers will remember that Shane is Judith's biological father, the result of a season 1 affair between Shane and Lori.
The fans aren't the only ones aware of how Judith came to be. Rick's adversaries have been taunting him with this knowledge since the Governor in season 3. Having presumably done the math, Rick confessed to Michonne in season 7 he was completely aware Judith wasn't his biological daughter. Still, Rick and Michonne both accepted Judith Grimes as their child and part of the family. Judith might have lost a father figure in Rick and a big brother in Carl, but the Grimes family continues to live on with Michonne and a new little brother. Because Rick is technically still alive, there's always the chance he'll one day reunite with the rest of his family in a future episode of the series.
Jon Bernthal's character may have died all the way back in season 2, but Shane remained a very important part of Rick's story all the way to the end. At various points in the series, Bernthal would reprise the role, but only as a hallucination in Rick's mind. His final appearance came with Rick's final episode, with the two reuniting on camera one more time to close out what has been the show's main storyline since the very first episode. People like the Governor and Negan certainly gave Rick a lot of trouble, but Shane has stayed a key villain for the show years past the character's death. Shane was long-dead by the time Lori even knew she was pregnant, but a part of him remains with Judith still going strong.
Judith's survival is one drastic change made from the source material. In the comics, Judith was killed when she was still an infant. Comparatively, Carl is still alive in the comics, with his TV show iteration now deceased. This opens the door for Judith to fill in for some of the adapted storylines from the comics which were used for Carl, such as his peculiar relationship with Negan. Now the one wearing the trademark sheriff's hat, Judith can now be seen as the future of the show, and hopefully her survival odds pan out better than her mother, older brother, and biological father.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC with new episodes on Feb. 10. While ratings for the long-running series are significantly lower than what they used to be, critical reception for season 9 has been rather strong. It's hard to say just how much gasoline is left in the tank for the show, but Fleming is likely to play a very important role in the episodes ahead. You can take a look at Fleming's Instagram photo with Bernthal below, 7th photo in, along with photos of her enjoying some convention time with other Walking Dead stars.