[The following post contains spoilers for the most recent episode of The Walking Dead. Please don’t read any further unless you’re willing to hear about the ignoble way the show sent off its central protagonist.]
Last night, AMC said farewell to the character of Rick Grimes on The Walking Dead. Or rather, it pretended to do so, having conducted a months-long promotional campaign around actor Andrew Lincoln leaving the series, concluding the story of the ex-sheriff who came to be the leader of a hardy band of survivors in the zombie apocalypse. As it turns out, that was sort of bullshit: The story of Rick Grimes will continue, the show having essentially pushed him off the top of the dumpster that is the regular series into what looked like certain death, only to have him crawl underneath said dumpster and survive in the most ludicrous way possible in order to go on and star in some stand-alone made-for-TV movies. Rick was seemingly mortally wounded at the end of last night’s episode, only for a helicopter to magically whisk him away into the unknown—“the unknown” being some AMC Studios Original Films.
Starting in 2019, Lincoln will star in the production of several planned films following the character after his disappearance from the flagship series. The first will be written by former Walking Dead showrunner (and current overseer of the larger Walking Dead universe for AMC) Scott M. Gimple. (Hopefully he won’t bring the same indelicate touch he brought to the story of Rick Grimes’ leaving the show.) As we once again dust off the unfortunate phrase “expanded universe,” it sounds like that’s exactly what AMC wants to launch, as Gimple will be helping create not only the additional films, but new series, special, digital content, and god knows what else. As the channel’s press release puts it, “Some of the stories will relate to The Walking Dead as fans know it while others will be standalone stories that break into new creative territory.”
For his part, Lincoln sounds pretty happy with the arrangement, presumably because anyone would be happy after getting the equivalent of a few swimming pools filled to the brim, Scrooge McDuck-like, with money. “It’s not the beginning of the end, it’s the end of the beginning,” the actor says. “And I like the idea that we get to tell a bigger story, maybe with a sort of wider vista. And I’ve always been interested in what’s going on out there, you know, whether or not there is contact with the wider world. I want to know the meta of it all. And I suppose to be able to kind of touch upon that in a contained story for me is a very exciting proposition...Maybe it’s the start of a bigger story.” Hopefully a better story than the one he got saddled with for his character’s last bow on the series that started it all.