The Walking Dead has debuted the full official key art for the upcoming season 9 after a snippet of the promo appeared online earlier today.
The image sees Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) front and center with a look similar to the ‘Old Man Rick’ glimpsed in the hopeful visions of a dying Carl Grimes in season 8. Alongside Rick are Carol (Melissa McBride), Michonne (Danai Gurira), Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Daryl (Norman Reedus).
Behind them is a decayed D.C., as well as the familiar recurring helicopter that appeared infrequently throughout season 8, hinting at a larger world that could be tied to mysterious Hilltop benefactor Georgie (Jayne Atkinson).
“I think what’s exciting about next season is, just by virtue of the narrative, the story evolves a great deal,” executive producer Scott Gimple told TV Line in April after season 8 concluded with Rick Grimes and the unified communities of Alexandria, Hilltop, Kingdom, and Oceanside victorious over the Saviors, whose ousted leader, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), is now Rick Grimes’ prisoner.
“From the things said in the finale, there’s a bigger ambition now, a bigger thing that they’re chasing. It isn’t just regular, everyday survival, which they’ve become quite adept at. It’s what to do with that. Now they’re going after civilization,” Gimple said.
As the communities take their first steps towards the new world and achieving the “very ambitious dream” of the peaceful future envisioned by his dead son, Rick Grimes will come to realize that dream reality “requires cooperation,” Gimple warned, saying of season 9, “the stakes are much, much higher. That leads to very different types of stories and different sorts of conflicts.”
One conflict will be shared between Rick and two of his closest allies, Daryl and Maggie, who will give Rick problems in season 9 as result of Rick’s controversial decision to spare Negan’s life and keep him prisoner instead of executing him for his vicious crimes.
Gimple, who has since been elevated to chief content officer of all things Walking Dead for AMC, said the upcoming season under newly minted showrunner Angela Kang means the show “evolves in a huge way” — and will do so without, or because of, the departure of longtime leading man Andrew Lincoln, whose Rick Grimes is expected to be gone before the season’s midway point.
“They’ll be dealing with things we haven’t seen them deal with before and dealing with each other in ways we haven’t seen before,” Gimple teased, explaining the show “just feels new” with its newest season.
“It feels like an evolved show. This very much lived in world that Rick began with. It was so informed by the pilot. It just takes this quantum leap forward in the stories that it tells.”
AMC will debut The Walking Dead season 9 trailer at San Diego Comic Con Friday, July 20. The series debuts its ninth season this fall on AMC.