8:15am PT by Josh Wigler
'The Walking Dead': Andrew Lincoln and the Future Rick Grimes Left Behind
[This story contains major spoilers for season nine, episode five of AMC's The Walking Dead, "What Comes After," as well as for the comic books on which the show is based.]
Rick Grimes is going to be all right. That's not a sentence most people expected to read just a couple of days out from Andrew Lincoln's final Walking Dead episode, but here we are: Rick, the face of both the comic book and television versions of Robert Kirkman's horror series, is still alive, on his way toward a new series of feature film adventures.
Will Rick ever return to the family he left behind in Alexandria? It's not likely, according to the creative forces involved, though hopefully the fandom at least appreciates the opportunity to see the man in a brand-new context. Still, there's no question that Rick's departure from the flagship series means viewers are missing out on some truly great opportunities, assuming the show sticks to the comic book script as outlined by Kirkman and illustrator Charlie Adlard.
With that said, here are a few of the moments from the Walking Dead comics we aren't likely to see on the show, even with Rick still somewhere out there in the zombie-filled universe.
The Prisoner's Dilemma
Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been on the record bemoaning the lost opportunities facing Negan: first Carl (Chandler Riggs) leaving the show, and now Rick. With Alexandria's leader out of the picture, Negan misses out on his number one scene partner. The comics feature some exciting moments between Rick as the leader of a burgeoning society and Negan as its most public pariah, including but not limited to the two of them reluctantly joining forces in the midst of…
The Whisperer War
It's the next major conflict facing the survivors Rick left behind. Samantha Morton (Hulu's Harlots) and Ryan Hurst (FX's Sons of Anarchy) are about to hit the series as fan-favorite (and feared) comic book villains Alpha and Beta, respectively, the leader and lieutenant of the Whisperers, a group of survivors who wear flesh suits and walk among the dead. As the leader of the Alexandria Safe-Zone, Rick is first in line in the battle against the Whisperers, seeing their veritable nuclear arsenal firsthand and even witnessing their destructive power in the form of so many beheaded friends. In fact, Rick's war against the Whisperers even leads to one of the biggest losses of his life…
Goodnight, Love: Part 2
In the comics, Carl Grimes is alive and well — but Judith is not. She died as an infant alongside Lori Grimes (Sarah Wayne Callies) during the long-ago assault on the prison. Rick experiences love after Lori in the comics, though not in the form of Michonne (Danai Gurira). In the original and illustrated version of events, Rick falls for Andrea, a vastly different character than the one played for three seasons by Laurie Holden…all the way until her death at the end of the Whisperer War. On second thought, perhaps it's a good thing Rick isn't in the day-to-day Walking Dead world anymore, as it could have spelled bad news for Michonne. Relatedly…
Austin Amelio's Dwight is long gone from the series, last seen motorcycling off toward parts unknown. In the comics, he's a much more significant character, becoming one of Rick's most trusted advisers — until the two men start coming into conflict with each other, fueled in large part by Rick killing Dwight's former lover Sherry in self-defense. Their conflict is ongoing in the comic book, to the point that it's potentially escalating. For the purposes of the show, Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) has taken on much of Dwight's story weight; nobody wanted to see Rick and Daryl go down such a dark path, so, again, it's a bit of a mercy. Perhaps there's still room for a Rick-Dwight conflict, however, should the scarred Savior expat find his way into the Walking Dead feature film world. In fact, it's not impossible that Rick and Dwight could both find themselves heading…
Into the Commonwealth
The most recent Walking Dead story arc involves the arrival of a brand-new community, one that's more advanced than anything seen in the series thus far: the Commonwealth, a sprawling society based out of Ohio, with a brand-new Governor to boot, in the form of Pamela Milton. The Commonwealth is an idyllic paradise on the surface, but a closer look reveals its deadly hierarchical nature. Indeed, the "A or B" dynamic teased in Rick's exit could be something that ties directly into the Commonwealth community, making it a potential setting for Rick's next adventure. Then again, it's such a huge part of the Walking Dead comics, and Michonne's story specifically, that it's hard to imagine it not falling into the territory of the television show. Rick's encounter with Governor Milton, then, is very likely yet another casualty of Lincoln's transition away from full-time Walking Dead detail.
Follow THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage of Lincoln's exit.