As if it wasn’t difficult enough to watch our favorite characters get killed off or make unceremonious exits, fans of The Walking Dead must also face the dreaded aftershock of bad news — when the actors respond to that news and seem just as heartbroken as the rest of us. Such is certainly the case with the disarmingly sentimental photo Norman Reedus just posted of his longtime TWD costar Andrew Lincoln.
In a still from the show shared by Reedus, he and Lincoln embrace. A man of few words, Reedus simply captioned the snapshot with a heart emoji.
And, on that note, here you go, Reedus — we saved you the trouble and just pulled our own still-beating hearts from our chests since you seem so intent on breaking them anyway.
The reason the photo is so sentimental, of course, is the fact that mere days ago, reports began surfacing that Season 9 would be Lincoln’s last. Although Reedus doesn’t outright confirm that, the timing and content of his post certainly suggest it.
Naturally, fans are convinced that Reedus made a tribute to Lincoln in the spirit of goodbye, and everyone is falling apart over such a tremendous loss: for the show, for the fans and, obviously, for Reedus too.
— The Walking Dead HQ (@TWD__HQ) June 1, 2018
With the recent Instagram posts from Norman Reedus and Michael E. Satrazemis, it looks like we can confirm the rumor we feared to be true is true. Andrew Lincoln will be leaving #TheWalkingDead. Like all of you, I am completely devastated.
— Abraham Ford (@TheAbeFord) June 1, 2018
Norman Reedus posted a single picture of himself and Andrew Lincoln with a “❤️” underneath and the entire fandom is crying, well done
— Love, Sarah (@KeptinOnZeBridg) June 1, 2018
According to Us Weekly, a source close to the show confirmed that Lincoln is leaving — and in his absence, Reedus will step up to fill the lead role. Multiple outlets are reporting that the Ride with Norman Reedus host negotiated a $20 million paycheck to stay on board the apocalyptic series.
As was previously reported, Lauren Cohan, who plays fan favorite Maggie Rhee, will be exiting the show after the first six episodes to lead the new ABC series Whiskey Cavalier. Sources are also suggesting that Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne in the series, will leave when her contract is up after Season 9.
With just about as much unrest behind the scenes as on camera, it remains to be seen whether The Walking Dead can make it through so many casting changes without losing viewers. At this point, the zombie apocalypse doesn’t appear to be the biggest threat — The Walking Dead might not survive itself.