It's no secret Robert Kirkman has every intention of killing Rick Grimes. While the writer and creator of The Walking Dead has yet to do so in The Walking Dead comics, it's unlikely the AMC series will last as long as its source material (which is marching to issue #175 and a 15th of publishing). "I've said before, Rick does not survive to the end," Kirkman said at Comic Con. "It was years ago so you guys probably forgot but I foresee there being more story after his eventual demise…"
If Andrew Lincoln's Rick is to leave The Walking Dead TV series, which actor and character is most likely to take over -- especially now that Chandler Riggs' Carl will be exiting the series before Season 8 comes to a close? The most logical answer seems to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan.
Morgan, who previously told Comicbook.com he is in it for "the long haul" with the AMC series, joined the show in its eighth season and has since all but dueled Lincoln for a lead role. Entire episodes have been dedicated to the actor and his charismatic, yet psychotic villain.
There are other characters and cast members who deserve a nod; like Norman Reedus, Lauren Cohan, Melissa McBride or Danai Gurira for example.
Unfortunately, Daryl's character hasn't shown much room for an emotional arc in a leading role since the seasons following Merle's death. Now, he has become more of a revenge-seeking figure on a mission to kill Negan with little room for deep connections with characters other than a run-in with Carol every half-season. Michonne is an unequivocal fan-favorite but Gurira landing roles in titles such as Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War have already sidelined the character for several episodes in Season 8. The absence was organically fit into the story by having her sitting home to recover but won't be enough should she become the main protagonist. Cohan's Maggie poses a formidable argument for the lead role, having joined the show in its second season and needing to grow beyond the loss of her husband while leading the Hilltop and possibly Alexandria. McBride certainly has the acting chops for a leading role, constantly putting her unbelievable talent on display, but Carol is not a character who has ever shown interest in leading.
So, it's Morgan's Negan appears to be the frontrunner for the lead role on the AMC series should Lincoln ever make an exit. His character has the strongest relationships with each of the aforementioned names, albeit quite hateful and fearful relationships, but such dynamics allow room for growth and conflicts in future stories.
"[Rick has] lost the things that he's fighting this war for," Lincoln told ComicBook.com. "That has a huge effect on him and it changes him irrevocably." Such a change may allow him to keep the villainous Negan alive after the dust of their war settles, as he does in the comics, but set the stage for his own death in the upcoming Season 9.
Furthermore, Lincoln's new outlook on the series seems to be one which finally has a finite timeline, at least for him. "There needs to be an end game and that is something that is definitely being talked about," Lincoln told THR. "I can't get into all of that. But all of that will be answered."
Should Lincoln's Rick truly be on the way out, The Walking Dead might just become The Negan Show.
The Walking Dead returns for the second half of its eighth season on February 25, 2018. For complete coverage and insider info all season long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.