The Walking Dead could be working towards an ending pitched by Rick Grimes star Andrew Lincoln. The actor, who has since exited the television series, next returns in a trilogy of feature films plotted by creator Robert Kirkman and then-showrunner Scott Gimple. Now serving as chief content officer and overseer of all things TWD, Gimple began quietly working with the star to plan Lincoln's exit strategy as far back as Season 4: Lincoln originally intended to leave the show in its eighth season in 2017, the same year he publicly pitched an ending series executive producer and director Greg Nicotero advised Lincoln to keep to himself.
"He likes it. I said it in Madrid, and he said, 'Don't tell anybody, because it's good,'" Lincoln said of Nicotero during a cast and crew panel at PaleyFest 2017. Lincoln envisioned Rick and son Carl (Chandler Riggs) surrounded by walkers in a desert somewhere, and it's there Rick is bitten on the arm.
"I'm dying, on my own. On my own, just waiting to die," Lincoln said. "And then I patch up, and a day passes … I don't die. Final shot is, 'Holy shit, maybe I'm the cure?' Final shot of the whole thing, high shot, a herd of zombies coming. Rick gets up, follows the tracks to go see Carl, walking, the herd comes towards him — and they separate. He walks through. Boom!"
Because Carl later died, Lincoln's pitch could still play out with daughter Judith (Cailey Fleming) or RJ (Antony Azor), the son born to Michonne (Danai Gurira) months after Rick's disappearance.
Presumed dead when he exploded a bridge to halt a walker horde, a gravely wounded Rick was rescued by Anne-slash-Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and flown by helicopter to one of three major civilizations represented by the three-circle symbol linking The Walking Dead and spinoffs Fear the Walking Dead and The Walking Dead: World Beyond. (A teaser for the untitled Walking Dead movie hinted Rick was relocated to Philadelphia.)
Season 5 of Fear revealed new details behind the shadowy organization known as CRM, who are "about the future and rebuilding what we all once had," according to black-clad CRM soldier Isabelle (Sydney Lemmon). Because CRM is behind a mysterious human trading program responsible for multiple abductions, Rick included, CRM could be working to identify a cure for the zombie apocalypse, which could lead to a revelation about Rick's possible immunity.
Whether or not a resolution to the wider TWD Universe unfolds across the three movies, Lincoln previously hinted the film series will at least complete Rick's story.