The Walking Dead is all but Rick Grimes' show. From the very beginning, the series has revolved around Rick and his family both pre- and post-apocalypse. Going forward, Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan will take a lot of the focal character role from Rick Grimes but The Walking Dead will still very much be about the survival of Rick.
That said, what would happen if Negan actually killed Rick to start Season 7? What if Negan brought his bat down and cracked open Rick's grey haired skull in front of his son, girlfriend, and Alexandria family? They would be distraught and broken in the moment but the show must go on. Where would it go?
Needless to say, Rick dying in the Season 7 premiere would be the largest possible diversion from The Walking Dead comics but we're going to set that aside for now as we imagine where the show would go without Andrew Lincoln's character.
First of all, someone would have to emerge as a leader.
The most likely candidates to take Rick's place would have to be Abraham, Michonne, or Maggie. Abraham is the most equipped for battle, suited for a position as the General of an army but not necessarily someone who delegates responsibilities and plans of action to the community. Michonne has proven her ability to detach herself from situations emotionally if necessary. She is a skilled fighter, logical and quick on her feet during difficult, quick-thinking situations. Sometimes, even more so than Rick.
While Abraham and Michonne might be able to step up if necessary, the best suited leader of Alexandria is Maggie Greene. Not only does Maggie have a lot to live for with a child on the way, she has dealt with more loss than most characters on the show. Her entire family has been wiped out, some even losing their heads right before her eyes. Even so, Maggie remains level headed and at the ready for pressure cooker situations and ready to do what is necessary, even if it means making sacrifices.
Maggie's first order of business would be maintaining trade lines with the Hilltop. A struggling Alexandria, a weak group which can no longer offer protection, would have very little to offer the pompous Hilltop leader Gregory in exchange for his supplies.
So, Maggie emerges as the leader in Alexandria, and then what? Carl grows into a villain.
There are plenty of ways Carl could turn out alright but the apocalypse could easily get the best of him. So, let's play it out that way.
Carl already took out his own mother in his earliest teenage years, if he was even that old at the time. After watching her die giving birth to his sister, he had to put a bullet in her head to prevent her reanimation. The only thing Carl would be living for after watching his father's brutal death is protecting his sister without Rick's guidance. While there's a chance the teenager would obey the rule set by Maggie and others, Carl likely would rebel against all things Alexandria and Negan and set out on a war path to protect himself and Judith. We all saw the savage side of Carl when he shot down an unarmed teen in the woods outside of the prison back when he still had a parent.
Who's to say Negan wouldn't be able to recruit Carl to the Saviors?
Moving on... Maggie is the leader. Carl has gone crazy. Anything else? One more thing: Negan takes Alexandria.
Most of Alexandria will probably get themselves killed without Rick's wisdom. People like Spencer, Sasha, Daryl and Abraham won't put up with the Saviors coming around to take half of what's theirs. They're haste and aggravated decisions would cost themselves and others their lives. Alexandria would crumble without definitive, courageous, and experienced leadership -- sorry, Maggie.
The focus void would certainly shift from Rick to Carl. We would see Carl's fall into darkness with extra scenes featuring the new leader. The biggest change, which is one we'll be getting anyway, is the thorough exploration of Negan's mentality and community. The Saviors will be at the forefront of Season 7, in addition to Alexandria and new communities like the Hilltop and Kingdom.
An apocalypse without Rick Grimes is not one we want to live in.
The Walking Dead Season 6 is available on blu-ray and DVD on August 23, exactly two months ahead of its October 23 Season 7 premiere. For complete coverage, insider info, and more all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter and check out The Walking Dead on ComicBook.com on Facebook.