After almost a decade walking in the boots of a tired old sheriff in the apocalypse, protagonist Rick Grimes will supposedly leave The Walking Dead for good in the upcoming Season 9.

On Tuesday, Collider published a cryptic article promising that “fans can only expect to see [Andrew] Lincoln in half-a-dozen episodes of the upcoming season.” This probably means that whether or not Rick leaves the show by dying, the end of his story will likely coincide with Season 9’s mid-season finale.

Historically, The Walking Dead seasons begin in October and run until either late-November or early-December before taking a break until February. Chances seem pretty high that AMC would want to use a huge cliffhanger like this to break up Season 9. (After all, that’s almost exactly what happened when Rick’s son Carl was bitten and then died in Season 8.) Which also ultimately means that very few of the show’s original core cast will remain when Rick is gone.

Could Rick's eventual death look a little bit like this on 'The Walking Dead'?
Could Rick's eventual death look a little bit like this on 'The Walking Dead'?

Collider also claims that AMC offered Norman Reedus — who plays Daryl — “substantial compensation” as the show pivots to effectively make him the new main character. For many fans, this might be welcome news. How many times can we see Rick Grimes oscillate between madness and lucidity before it’s too many times?

Based on what happened in the Season 8 finale, all of Rick’s “allies” now want to kill him, or at the very least they disagree with him enough that they want some kind of bloody revenge. Maggie has become a kind of shadowy leader conspiring with Daryl and Jesus to “show” Rick how wrong he was to spare Negan.

This shady team-up will inevitably bring them into direct confrontation with Rick. They’ll almost definitely kill Negan, but what happens if Rick gets in the way? Will they go so far as to kill him as well? Maybe.

Will any non-zombie fans remember Andrew Lincoln?
Will any non-zombie fans remember Andrew Lincoln?

Here’s to hoping that Andrew Lincoln gets back into romantic comedies and maybe even helps deliver a legitimate full sequel to Love, Actually.

The Walking Dead Season 9 will likely begin sometime in October 2018, which means Rick Grimes will be dead by Christmas.