Rick Grimes' story isn't over yet, Andrew Lincoln is not yet done with the Walking Dead universe.
Despite the fanfare surrounding tonight's episode as his final Walking Dead episode, AMC has announced that Lincoln will star in multiple movies that will continue Rick's story. The first one, which will likely begin production in 2019, will explain where he ended up after he was taken off in a helicopter at the end of tonight's episode, leaving the rest of the crew to believe he's dead.
The episode also felt like quite the swan song, flashing back to all of Rick's loved ones over the seasons as Rick struggled to stay alive, eventually having to blow up his beloved bridge to save everyone else. They all thought they saw him die in the explosion, but he was actually just injured and picked up by Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) and her mysterious helicopter.
We then flashed forward a few years to see a Rick's now preteen daughter Judith Grimes saving a totally different day.
"It's not the beginning of the end, it's the end of the beginning," said Lincoln himself in a statement. "And I like the idea that we get to tell a bigger story, maybe with a sort of wider vista. And I've always been interested in what's going on out there, you know, whether or not there is contact with the wider world. I want to know the meta of it all. And I suppose to be able to kind of touch upon that in a contained story for me is a very exciting proposition... Maybe it's the start of a bigger story."
The new movies will be written by executive producer Scott M. Gimple, and while the first one will explore where Rick went in the helicopter and "what he faces in a new corner of the zombie apocalypse," the other films will tell various other stories in the Walking Dead universe.
"We have a lot on the horizon–starting with a new epic featuring one of the greatest leading actors in television history and one of the best people I've ever met," said Gimple in a statement. "These films are going to be big evolutions of what we've been doing on the show, with the scope and scale of features. We're starting with the first part of the continuing story of Rick Grimes, and there is much more on the way, featuring yet-unseen worlds of The Walking Dead and faces from the show's past, as well as new characters we hope to become favorites, told by TWD veterans and emerging voices. We want to break new ground with different, distinct stories, all part of the same world that's captured our imagination for nearly a decade of the Dead."
Gimple's plan also features "specials, series, digital content, and more," so basically, we're gonna get all the Walking Dead content we could possibly ever need, and we don't even have to say goodbye to Rick to get it. What a world we live in.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.