It was learned Tuesday longtime leading man Andrew Lincoln will be exiting the series in its upcoming ninth season this fall, bringing his time as the sheriff deputy-turned-Alexandrian leader to an end.
Viewers have already taken to social media threatening to drop the show once Lincoln leaves.
The petition, started on Change.org by John Smith, says fans have become "so invested" by Rick Grimes' journey on the show since its first episode in 2010.
"The large majority feel the character is what makes The Walking Dead what it is," the petition reads.
Lincoln has yet to reveal his reason for wanting to exit the series — speculation has pointed to the death of his onscreen son, Carl (Chandler Riggs), as being partially responsible — but his reason for leaving is tied to off screen controversies surrounding the show, the petition opines, offering up Carl's death and co-star Lauren Cohan's well-known contract dispute as explanations.
"Sign this petition to encourage the creators behind the show and Lincoln himself to rethink the magnitude of the premature death of the character who has been set up to restore civilization, law and order and to raise his daughter safely," reads the petition.
"Andrew Lincoln has poured his heart and soul into the show and if he feels it's time to bookend the characters story and have more time with his family, the creators behind the show should reconsider the timing of his departure and the effect his death will have on the shows overall arcs and other characters."
The petition has already garnered over 125 signatures of its 200 signature goal in 24 hours.
Rick will reportedly be "phased out" in the front half of season 9 and the show will bump Daryl Dixon actor Norman Reedus to the starring role — to the tune of $20 million dollars. That deal is not yet concluded.
Also returning for just a handful of episodes is Cohan, whose new spy dramedy Whiskey Cavalier was ordered to series by ABC in May. The actress will be included in just six episodes this season and is expected to be out before the mid-season finale — likely for good.
Lincoln's exit — and presumed death, as is typical for The Walking Dead — means the show will have lost both Rick and Carl Grimes, Maggie Rhee, and Morgan Jones in the span of just a few episodes. Actor Lennie James chose to depart the flagship series in favor of spinoff Fear The Walking Dead, joining that series' cast at the start of season 4.
The Walking Dead season 9 is expected to undergo a time jump as seen in Robert Kirkman's comic book series, which picked up with the united communities roughly two years after the defeat of Negan and the Saviors following the conclusion of the All Out War storyline.
The series returns this fall on AMC.