The Walking Dead feature films might accomplish what the television show never could: maiming Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes, whose comic book counterpart lost a limb early on when the villainous Governor chopped off Rick's right hand in the book's 28th issue. Both Lincoln and franchise creator Robert Kirkman supported putting Rick's hand on the chopping block, but it was determined to be an unnecessary complication for the television show, and pricey CGI costs prohibited its producers from digitally erasing one of the limbs of its leading man. (In Season 9, an injury to Ross Marquand's Aaron resulted in his arm being amputated and replaced by a prop prosthetic.)
Lincoln exited that same season, and he'll next appear across a trilogy of bigger-budgeted movies revealing what happened to Rick when he was abducted from Virginia more than six years before TWD Season 10. Presumably, the films aren't beholden to the same budgetary limitations that prevented Rick's injury on the television show.
"I think cutting Rick's hand off when we did was great for the comic. It's just that in another medium it would be harder to pull off," Kirkman wrote in a 2014 Reddit Q&A when asked why the show spared Rick of his injury. "We cheat in the comic because things aren't moving. You can't do that on the show. You'd see Rick not being able to reload his gun and things like that."
He added, "The CGI of cutting off Rick's hand would be expensive, but we did it with Hershel's (Scott Wilson) leg so if we felt strongly about Rick losing a hand, we'd do it."
Lincoln spent years requesting Rick lose a limb, telling ComicBook.com it could happen to any other character besides the show's lead.
"I was saying, 'You've gotta do the hand, guys!'" Lincoln said. "And Victor [Scalise], who was in charge of special effects, just said, 'No, no no no. Anybody else but not you. It'll cost a fortune with green screen and blue screen.'"
Kirkman, who is heavily involved with the films alongside TWD chief content officer Scott Gimple, once said he wasn't entirely ruling out Rick's injury making its way into the live-action franchise:
"Andy would be all for it but you never know. It's entirely possible that we've closed the book on that issue right now but it could crop up in the future," Kirkman told The Hollywood Reporter in 2014 after the TV show killed off David Morrissey's Governor. "It is the bane of my existence in the comics because I'm constantly having to rewrite scenes that you can't do with one hand. I'm not going to rule it out; it could happen at some point but it certainly hasn't happened yet."
Interestingly, Lincoln once pitched an ending for the franchise that involved Rick receiving a walker bite to the arm. Expecting to die from the wound, Rick would instead discover he hasn't turned — he'd then find out he's "invisible" to the flesh-hungry walkers, making him realize he's the cure to the zombie apocalypse.
Should Rick lose a limb, it could happen by walker or a newly-introduced villain. Because Gimple frequently played with time on The Walking Dead, audiences might even see a narrative split into past and present. This would slowly unfurl what's happened to Rick during the six-year period of his disappearance — explaining why he was unable to return home to Michonne (Danai Gurira) and children Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor) — and in that time, Rick might have already suffered his injury.
AMC and Universal Pictures have not yet announced a release date for the untitled Walking Dead movie, but Lincoln's co-star Pollyanna McIntosh, who returns as Anne-slash-Jadis, recently confirmed the movie is still happening.