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Mid-Season Status Update: Will The Walking Dead “Die” with Rick Grimes?

Since the first issue of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead graphic novel in 2003 and for almost nine years in the television adaptation of the same name Rick Grimes has been the centerpiece of the entire story. The story in both mediums starts with wounded Sheriff’s deputy Rick Grimes waking from a coma to find himself in a world torn down by a deadly virus that has caused a zombie apocalypse. Rick seeks out his family and tries to survive as long as possible in the new treacherous world.

(SPOILERS FROM HERE ON OUT).

Photo Credit: Victoria Will/AMC

Viewers of the show were thrown for a loop this season, when the character that has been followed by so many for so long was written out of the show due to decisions of Andrew Lincoln, the actor who portrays Grimes in the series. Yes, I know he is not dead, we all saw him fly away in the helicopter. When I refer to the death of Rick Grimes, I refer to it as the characters in the show believe him to be dead and in reference to his absence in general. The absence that leaves fans wondering: Is The Walking Dead really The Walking Dead without the protagonist? Can it survive without him?

AMC’s The Walking Dead is known for loosely following the graphic novels. Throughout it’s eight and a half seasons, it has used the graphic novels as a rough outline for its stories while keeping it fresh by swapping character roles, storylines, big deaths, as well as telling some original stories with characters exclusive to the television show.

As a reader of the comics, I think the differences are some of the best aspects of the show. Because the big plot points are typically the same, a reader of the comics can easily predict what will happen on the show. However, the fun comes with seeing what characters they swap out, how they make the story different, and who they kill off instead.

For example, in Season 4, the beloved Hershel Greene was brutally beheaded by the Governor, one of the classic big bads of the series. In the graphic novels, the same death was given to Tyreese, a character that lived on for a time after that point in the show.  I like these differences because it keeps me on my toes and makes the show interesting.

Most of the liberties taken by the show have been marginal, because all in all the main story has stayed the same through the eyes of Rick Grimes: SURVIVE. But the loss of Rick Grimes is not a marginal change. It’s huge, jarring, and potentially catastrophic to the show… or is it?

Photo Credit: Victoria Will/AMC

This show is not about one character, and it is certainly not one story. While, yes, The Walking Dead we know and love has been mainly about one character, it has used Rick Grimes to introduce us to a multitude of new and interesting characters who all have the same goal: SURVIVE. There are so many examples of why this is true. AMC’s spin-off Fear the Walking Dead follows an entirely different set of survivors in the same world, and it has had success, as it is now renewed for a fifth season premiering in 2019.

A series of video games set in the graphic novel universe also became popular among gamers. The point is that people are not only interested in TWD because of Rick Grimes. What makes the hit drama interesting is the world the characters are forced to live in and the decisions they are forced to make.  In a lot of cases, the people and the danger of trusting them is worse than the zombies that plague the earth.

As I said before, the show has used Rick to show us so many other characters and their potential. His absence gives some of these amazing characters the chance to step into the spotlight. It’s good to see characters like Daryl (a fan favorite), Aaron, Carol, and Michonne (my fav since day one) step into leadership positions and take the reins of the show. These people are surviving and helping others just like Rick did. Although his physical absence is felt, the spirit of his character lives on in almost every character that he came across. His bravery and leadership rubbed off on the best of them.

Photo Credit: Victoria Will/AMC

So, will The Walking Dead die with Rick Grimes? I think the answer is no. I think there are plenty of stories to tell and plenty of creative ways to keep on track with what the graphic novels have done using different characters, just as they have always done. The episodes following his “death” have been every bit as interesting to me, and I am really looking forward to the back half of the ninth season with the epic introduction to The Whisperers, which is one of my favorite storylines from the graphic novels.

For those who have doubts about the future of the show: Hang in there. Have faith. I believe that we are in for some good content. I can’t say for sure how much longer the show will be on, but I can say that it will not go down without a fight for its viewers.

The second half of The Walking Dead‘s ninth season continues Sunday, Feb. 10 at 9/8c on AMC.

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