Andrew Lincoln is about to hatchet his last zombie as Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead, but who will lead the show into the future?
Fans of The Walking Dead have been in a spin since Andrew Lincoln, the actor behind central character Rick Grimes, announced his departure from the show. Rick will be killed off in episode 5 of the show’s ninth season.
Once, this would have been a relatively easy fix. In the comics on which the show is based, Rick’s son Carl has long been set up as a potential leading character in the event of his father’s death.
Unfortunately, the show chose to kill of Carl in Season 8. This was a massive departure from the comics, and an unpopular decision with fans. Now, it seems to have landed the show in a bit of trouble. Without Carl, who will take the lead when Rick dies?
The Walking Dead has a large, talented ensemble cast, so there are a few options.
For many fans, Michonne, played by Danai Gurira, is the most obvious choice.
As Rick Grimes’ current love interest, Michonne is already serving as a co-leader of the remaining survivors. She is committed to making their new society work, recently proposing the creation of a charter they will all live by.
Michonne is also devoted to the memory of Carl, one of Rick’s main goals. In the Season 9 premiere, she is seen wearing a strip of Carl’s shirt around her arm as a memorial.
The main point against Michonne is the rising star of her actress, Danai Gurira. Gurira played the role of Okoye in Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War, two of the biggest films of 2018.
The actress’ big screen success may prompt her to move on from the show sooner rather than later. The Walking Dead won’t want to install a series lead who could soon leave them in the same predicament they currently face.
2. Daryl Dixon
A character created just for the show, Daryl Dixon was initially seen as an expendable extra. However, the character quickly became a fan favourite. ‘If Daryl dies, we riot’ became a catchphrase of many.
Soon after Andrew Lincoln’s departure came news that Daryl’s actor, Norman Reedus, was up for a significant pay rise. AMC seems to be pushing for Daryl as the lead. It makes financial sense. The character is responsible for a large portion of The Walking Dead’s merchandise sales.
There’s just one problem. As great a character as Daryl is, he’s not really series lead material. He’s not quite layered or nuanced enough. Daryl Dixon has always worked best as a right hand man to the lead. The guy who turns up to save the day right when he’s needed. That’s what Daryl has always been, and it’s how he should stay.
3. Carol Peletier
Carol was another ‘expendable’ who grew into a much loved character. Unlike Daryl, Carol did appear in the comics, but her story ended much sooner than her TV counterpart.
The comic’s version of Carol was a seriously disturbed individual, eventually driven to suicide. The show’s version of Carol has become a one-woman army, growing into one of the show’s best characters.
Carol, played by Melissa McBride, has the depth and nuance that Daryl lacks. She has been on a journey to almost rival Rick’s. Perhaps most importantly, the character is loved enough for fans to accept her as the new lead.
Some fans have also suggested that former villain Negan could turn anti-hero to become the show’s lead. However, the character has a lot of growing to do before this is a realistic possibility.
Alternatively, The Walking Dead could forgo a full lead in favour of committing fully to an ensemble format.
We won’t know for sure until after Rick Grimes departs in episode 5 of Season 9, ‘What Comes After’. The episode is set to air on November 4, 2019.