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It’s Time to Face the Fate of Rick Grimes (An Open Letter)

Gene Page/AMC

Dear Internet,

When it comes to formulating our own opinion, we as people struggle. It only appears that a handful of people have a true voice on the internet and we take what they say and spread it without stopping to process whether we truly align with it. While this happens quite often in the entertainment industry, lately it appears to be happening the most with Star Wars…and The Walking Dead. While I could write an entire article regarding the negativity from Star Wars fans against the universe they claim to love oh so dearly…today I am going to focus solely on the fan driven negativity surrounding the recent news of Andrew Lincoln ‘leaving’ AMC’s The Walking Dead.

LOVE AT FIRST RICK

From the moment he graced the screen, Andrew Lincoln’s charisma and commitment to the character has shined through and hooked us from episode one of The Walking Dead. With the pilot of the series focusing on Rick Grimes, it was captivating, moving and unlike anything we’d seen before on television. Flash forward to years later, and we’ve followed Rick through the loss of his best friend, his wife, his son and many of the people he felt obligated to protect. This is a character journey that can only be truly fulfilled if the character were to step down in a big way. But, with the pressure from the audience viewing Rick as the ‘main character’ of the series, there is a lot of disbelief that AMC would ever ‘kill off’ the main character of this show we know and love. The issue here is that fans of the show seem to be forgetting what The Walking Dead is all about…it’s about the people. It’s about the people that Rick has affected and made an impression on. It’s about their constant fight to survive and find hope/meaning in a world that seems absolutely hopeless. It’s about a group of survivors who try to avoid becoming ‘The Walking Dead,’ even after seemingly accepting that that’s what they are.

With a lot of speculation of Rick Grimes being ‘killed off’ by the shows writers…it seems as though not a single fan is exploring the option of Rick just leaving the show. That’s right. I said it. What if Rick Grimes just exits the series. Walks off into the sunset, leaving the option open for Rick to cross paths with our survivors down the line. Fans loved it so much with Morgan; why are they so against the idea with Rick? If Rick leaves the group to go ‘find himself’ because he feels that after failing everyone time and time again, he’s finally had a win with Negan. The saying ‘stop while you’re ahead’ really applies here, and hits home that maybe it’s best for Rick to up and leave the group. There are so many compelling characters that have yet to be fully explored, because, the writers focus solely on Rick Grimes. With Rick gone, we can finally spend more time with the characters we wish we could get so much more of. Enid, Aaron, Jadis, Dwight…hell, even Daryl deserves much more than the occasional grunting he is written.

BUT, THE COMIC BOOK!

It’s no secret that the writers have struggled these past few seasons. Fans have noticed and so have critics. And, after seeing the success both critically and fan-wise, The Walking Dead can take a note from Fear The Walking Dead (I can’t believe I just wrote that) and have the writers shift focus from the leads that are eating up all the story and write more compelling material for the secondary characters that don’t have much to do other than follow Rick Grimes around.

Now, before the comic-book fans jump down my throat, I do understand the true powerhouse this is Rick and Carl Grimes in the comic storyline; but, things change. Adaptations are sometimes frustrating in that the creatives behind the adaptations struggle sticking with the source material; however, the source material will always exist. If you want to see how things could be different for Rick and Carl, you can order The Walking Dead Compendium’s from Skybound and read away. As a fan of both the comics and the series, I love having two different ways that this story is being told. While the comics feel a bit more gratifying at times, I am still in love with this series and will follow it through all of its battles to get the show back on track to the compelling series it once was. And, all it takes is that little glimmer of light that shines through specific scenes in recent episodes that gives me hope that this show will find it’s footing once more.

IN ANGELA WE TRUST

While fans have been dragged along for a rocky ride these past couple seasons, we finally have a new leader to look up to and trust…Angela Kang. Angela has had a firm understanding for the source material since Season 2, and a lot of her episodes of the past couple seasons were ones that had that glimmer of light that I was referring to in the previous paragraph. I do think that she will get this series back on track and breath enough life back into it to run another healthy 3-5 seasons to give us the ending that we all have hoped for since day one. If Rick truly does leave the group à la Morgan, how incredible would it be seasons later for the group to stumble across him going full on solo-survivor crazy person Rick? These are the things we should be thinking about. But, instead, we are letting the internet guide us down a long, dark negative tunnel telling us that we should ‘boycott’ the show for taking a chance. Yes, this is shocking news; but, it works. How many more times can we see Rick lose everything? The man has lost it all, and it’s time for him to face his own demons elsewhere. If stayed on the show, we’d just get a ton of episodes following crazy Rick all over again…and, all that is is one massive step in reverse. We need a show that will move forward, take risks and give us something new. It is very apparent that Angela is trying to do that and we need to be as supportive as possible. While we might not be happy with every single decision, we can at least stick with the show to see what the payoff might be.

LET’S BE REAL

While I was speaking from the heart as a true fan of this series, I am going to come back to reality for a second. Sometimes it’s hard to separate the fact that these characters are portrayed by actors…the same actors that have been there for almost 9 years now. I don’t know if 9 years seems like a long time to you; but, it’s a long time to me. To portray a character that long becomes taxing, and your mind begins to wander towards what else might be out there for you. I know that there have been other issues that have plagued this series with show runners and even a couple of the actors leaving the show prematurely due to contractual issues, but, these are human beings and we have to know that some things are just out of the studios/actors control.

The beauty of a comic book is that you have the characters involved aging as fast or slow as you want them to until you make the decision to remove them from the story. Unfortunately, that’s just not how the film/tv industry works. These actors push themselves to portray these characters, and can only control their appearance to a certain extant. So, we have to take a second to step back and understand from a production standpoint the trials and tribulations that both AMC and the amazing actors who portray these characters we know and love go through.

Will I miss Andrew Lincoln’s portrayal of Rick Grimes? Absolutely. Will Andy miss portraying Rick Grimes? I’m sure he will. But, that would be the beauty of not killing him off. He’d be able to re-enter the series down the line and give us one of the most compelling episodes in TWD history. Now, if they decide to kill him off, there is one particular death he could take from the comics (that I won’t spoil here) that could be an emotional send-off to the character. But, no matter what happens, I think it’s time we focus on these secondary characters and give them more material to chew on…because, they have so much to say. To see them all react and respond to the ‘loss’ of Rick could make for some incredible storytelling…especially dealing with Negan and whatever new threat could be on the way.

Only time will tell what will happen next…but, I am extremely excited for what’s to come on The Walking Dead, and I truly think you should be to.

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Nick Floyd

Director, Media Development and Production
I'm Nick. I'm a filmmaker. I have an extensive DVD Collection, my iTunes consists of over 10,000 songs, I still don't "get" INCEPTION and I used to feed Fruit Loops to horses when I was 3 years of age.