UNITED STATES—Last week I was stunned, and I mean utterly stunned with news that Andrew Lincoln aka Rick Grimes on “The Walking Dead” would exit the series after season 9. This is a devastating blow to one of my favorite shows on TV. I mean how in the hell is “The Walking Dead” expected to continue without one of its biggest stars? That is a tough pill to swallow because as a viewer, one can easily lose his or her interest if a fan favorite is no longer the focal point.
I’m particularly saying this because “TWD” has had Lincoln in the cast since the dawn of the series, so to take him out leaves many questioning where the narrative will go from this place forward. I mean we lost Chandler Riggs earlier this year, and that was a blow audience’s never expected. With that being said, it does post a question: can a series survive without its title or lead character?
If I’m being fully honest, the answer is no, but there is potential to woo the audience back, but it takes time to do so. I will give you a prime example. The CW took a major hit with its series “The Vampire Diaries” when its lead star Nina Dobrev left the series after season six. The show continued for two more seasons, but struggled greatly with Dobrev’s absence. The show did its best to attempt to manifest new female leads with other characters, but it just didn’t work.
It was almost like a complete retooling of the series and as a viewer, I found myself no longer intrigued to watch the show because a character that was a staple on my TV screen was no longer on my TV screen. Yes, the show still had its two male leads, but the female lead keep the dynamics moving between those two characters.
I would make the same argument for “One Tree Hill” that actually lost two of its lead characters in Chad Michael Murray and Hillarie Burton. However, that series did something Uber smart by utilizing a time jump method, which totally reinvigorated the series and put characters that were secondary to the forefront. It worked fantastically in my opinion and made the series 10 times better than what it originally was.
Another series that found a way to alter its series after killing off a main character was “Game of Thrones.” Yeah, it killed off a main character mid-way through season one and the series is now on season eight. So that is a clear sign that a show can survive without its central character, but it is no easy task to accomplish to say the least.
My gut tells me though, that “The Walking Dead” will have a difficult time recovering from this devastating blow. Rick makes the show, and we have strong supporting characters like Maggie aka Lauren Cohan (she might also be leaving the series), Daryl, Carol and Michonne, but I’m weary if any of them can bring that same level of gravitas that Lincoln brings to his character.
Could you imagine “Friends” with Monica, Ross, Rachel, Chandler, Phoebe or Joey? The entire dynamic of that series completely changes if one of those characters exits the show. It’s no shock for a series to lose vital characters, notably to drive narrative, look at “The Good Wife” people, but when you lose the primary character of a series that is a game changer for most TV shows, and in many situations those series soon spiral to the point where not only are they no longer intriguing, they’re not watchable.