'The Walking Dead' takes first steps toward 'Rick-less' future

The post-apocalyptic zombie world will go on even after Rick Grimes -- the character played by Andrew Lincol...

Posted: Oct 5, 2018 8:17 PM
Updated: Oct 5, 2018 8:17 PM

The post-apocalyptic zombie world will go on even after Rick Grimes -- the character played by Andrew Lincoln -- exits this season, at the star's request. But since "The Walking Dead" stumbled through the past two seasons, season nine opens in prove-it-to-me mode, at least for those who see Rick's departure as a good time to consider closing the books on this AMC hit.

Happily, the latest producer to slide into the showrunner seat, Angela Kang, appears to have put the series on firmer footing -- rediscovering key relationships, developing some promising new ones and capitalizing on the core characters, while establishing what amounts to a running mystery. Perhaps foremost, the show moves from a war footing to the more interesting question of sustaining a community, and how to impose order in a lawless world without ceding the moral high ground.

Arts and entertainment

Television dramas

Television programming

Without giving too much away, a chunk of time has elapsed since the bloody battle that decided the Negan war, and Rick's controversial act of mercy at its conclusion. Now, however, the various bands of survivors must find a way to maintain that harmony, even as some of its constituencies begin chafing at the process.

"We're making a new beginning -- getting back a piece of how we used to be," says Rick, seeking to honor those he's lost with a renewed sense of optimism. "Every life counts now," he later adds.

Still, making peace with the Saviors hasn't sat well with everybody, creating friction with some old allies, including Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus). The first three episodes also incorporate a genuine moral dilemma, which has always been the show's primary strength: Here, finding the resolve to forgive your enemies, for the sake of a larger purpose.

AMC has leaned into the promotional benefits of Lincoln leaving -- the season is being heavily promoted as "Rick Grimes' Final Episodes" -- ratcheting up the pressure to craft a meaningful, satisfying sendoff.

The more formidable issue, however, is making the case that there's life after him -- hardly an academic exercise for an expensive show, whose ratings have slipped sharply from their heyday, about to lose its most tangible connection that remains to what set the whole story in motion.

In an interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Kang pointed to the benefits of Lincoln's departure, citing the "very rich" storylines that the shakeup creates for other players. "As our characters navigate 'a Rick-less world,' we get to see who they become in the aftermath of that," she said.

To its credit, these episodes do feel like the series is back on track, and it's true that change in any creative endeavor can help energize a long-running franchise, at least temporarily. That said, there's a nagging feeling that the whole enterprise has moved into a brand-management phase, including the wholesale makeover of spinoff "Fear the Walking Dead" and a host of licensing offshoots.

Even with this promising start, then, "The Walking Dead" still has several hurdles to clear before fully making the case that keeping a "Rick-less" show alive won't turn the series into the TV facsimile of its title.

"The Walking Dead" returns Oct. 7 at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 667262

Reported Deaths: 12737
CountyCasesDeaths
Marion913541660
Lake48729891
Allen36175646
Hamilton32489398
St. Joseph30361514
Elkhart25536420
Vanderburgh21343382
Tippecanoe20240205
Johnson16485363
Porter16077281
Hendricks15955302
Clark12079182
Madison11810323
Vigo11699234
Monroe10440164
Delaware9899179
LaPorte9838201
Howard9127203
Kosciusko8600111
Bartholomew7531147
Hancock7471134
Warrick7456153
Floyd7269173
Wayne6661192
Grant6465158
Boone618691
Morgan6135129
Dubois5942112
Dearborn551570
Cass5489100
Marshall5456105
Henry544395
Noble513878
Jackson465967
Shelby463591
Lawrence4197113
Gibson405585
Harrison404065
Clinton397653
Montgomery391984
DeKalb388278
Miami358463
Knox357886
Whitley352438
Huntington350877
Steuben340455
Putnam334660
Wabash333976
Ripley328062
Adams326349
Jasper319343
White298553
Jefferson296574
Daviess286196
Fayette272756
Decatur271688
Greene262680
Posey261732
Wells259175
Scott252150
LaGrange242670
Clay241644
Randolph226577
Spencer219630
Jennings216944
Washington213327
Sullivan203839
Fountain202842
Starke190051
Owen184254
Fulton179937
Jay178828
Carroll176919
Perry174136
Orange171451
Rush165722
Vermillion161543
Franklin160135
Tipton150041
Parke140216
Pike128633
Blackford120727
Pulaski107844
Newton96832
Brown95340
Crawford92613
Benton92513
Martin80314
Warren76014
Switzerland7568
Union67510
Ohio54211
Unassigned0427

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 978471

Reported Deaths: 17501
CountyCasesDeaths
Franklin1130371251
Cuyahoga969331881
Hamilton739231067
Montgomery47536923
Summit40720831
Butler35859531
Lucas35802720
Stark29602826
Warren22593275
Lorain22218424
Mahoning19586551
Lake18564332
Clermont18541205
Delaware16614121
Licking15096194
Fairfield14653188
Trumbull14437424
Greene13664221
Medina13531237
Clark12394256
Wood11670170
Portage11140172
Allen10822216
Richland10376188
Miami10065194
Muskingum8244117
Columbiana8174210
Pickaway8096111
Tuscarawas8083232
Marion8021127
Wayne7939199
Erie6972146
Ross6178132
Geauga6118142
Hancock6032121
Scioto600988
Ashtabula6002154
Lawrence527886
Union516741
Darke5052116
Belmont5000137
Huron4862108
Jefferson4843137
Sandusky4800112
Washington475596
Seneca4738111
Athens466449
Mercer459781
Auglaize456682
Shelby442679
Knox4056105
Putnam400593
Madison395755
Fulton383461
Ashland383083
Brown375252
Defiance374088
Crawford360198
Logan357673
Preble354187
Clinton342755
Highland328551
Ottawa325471
Williams303568
Jackson292046
Champaign291149
Guernsey288945
Perry271348
Fayette270143
Morrow261637
Henry247961
Hardin247359
Holmes244497
Coshocton241156
Van Wert230357
Gallia223938
Adams218339
Pike217328
Wyandot212450
Hocking195154
Carroll182143
Paulding161134
Meigs136031
Noble129233
Monroe117637
Morgan102220
Harrison100731
Vinton76713
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 33°
Feels Like: 65°
Angola
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 64° Lo: 29°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Partly Cloudy
64° wxIcon
Hi: 65° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 64°
Fort Wayne
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 31°
Feels Like: 65°
Lima
Partly Cloudy
65° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 30°
Feels Like: 65°
Breezy, Warm Tuesday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events