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story.lead_photo.caption Happier days? This idyllic scene from the new season of The Walking Dead would suggest post-apocalyptic peaceful times ahead. Don’t bet on it. Shown are (from left) Danai Gurira as Michonne, Chloe Garcia as Judith and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes.

At last, fellow Deadheads, our favorite series is finally back on the air tonight.

Ah, but it will be bittersweet.

The Walking Dead returns for Season 9 at 8 p.m. today on AMC in what is being billed as "the final episodes of Rick Grimes." That would be Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes. Lincoln has played the series' main character since Day 1, when Rick woke up in the hospital to find himself surrounded by the apocalypse.

Why leave now? In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Lincoln explained, "I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older. It was that simple. It was time for me to come home."

The series' producers promise to "honor the journey" and send Rick out in style. But will he be killed off? No hint yet.

And, alas, we also know that Lauren Cohan, who has played Maggie Green (Rhee) ever since the second episode of Season 2, is now the co-star of ABC's midseason comedy/drama Whiskey Cavalier, in which she plays a CIA operative. Cohan will be in perhaps as few as six of the first eight Walking Dead episodes.

We do know that Maggie will not be killed off. Whiskey Cavalier could tank, so the door will be left open.

What can we piece together from the many preseason Walking Dead tidbits and teasers that AMC has dropped? The main thing is that a year and a half has passed since our heroes won the war against the Saviors and Rick unilaterally decided to imprison Negan rather than kill him.

In one Season 9 teaser, Rick is lecturing Negan and says, "It wasn't that long ago we were fighting just to stay alive. It isn't like that anymore. We're growing. We're building. We're getting back a piece of what we used to be. It's all happening. We're making a new beginning."

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is unrepentant and patiently awaiting the time when he hopes to rise again.

Also, Rick is no longer the sole leader and not everyone agrees with his and his son Carl's vision for the future. "The war may be over," AMC says, "but the struggle for peace is just beginning."

What about the others?

Michonne (Danai Gurira) is leading Alexandria alongside Rick and focusing on the philosophical ideals by which all the communities may prosper.

Maggie gave birth to a healthy baby boy and is now the leader at Hilltop. She has also been biding her time, waiting for her opportunity for vengeance on Negan, who brutally killed her husband, Glenn (Steven Yeun).

Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) is skeptical of Rick's path and there is a growing rift to their friendship.

Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) has found new happiness with Ezekiel, and is loyal to Rick's vision.

Ezekiel (Khary Payton) is still the revered king of the Kingdom, which is still struggling from the events of last season.

Tara Chambler (Alanna Masterson) is no longer afraid to stand up for what she believes is right.

Eugene Porter (Josh McDermitt) is slowly gaining back his group's lost trust.

Rosita Espinosa (Christian Serratos) has come to trust Eugene again and is working to unite the communities.

Gabriel Stokes (Seth Gilliam) has finally found his place in the world.

Aaron (Ross Marquand) still mourns Eric, but busies himself raising his daughter, Gracie.

Enid (Katelyn Nacon) is learning medicine from Siddiq (Avi Nash).

Jesus (Tom Payne) is Maggie's right-hand man at Hilltop and still the voice of reason.

Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh). The former Jadis is still challenged trying to assimilate into life in Alexandria and worries it's just a matter of time before her past catches up with her.

Meanwhile.

Somewhere out there lurks the cunning and savage group known as the Whisperers.

And the helicopter. What's up with that helicopter?

AMC reminds us that The Walking Dead is "the highest-rated cable series in history and the No. 1 show on television for the last six seasons." It will be interesting to see if the series survives the loss of at least two major characters.

OTHER SHOWS

Doctor Who kicks off a historic Season 11 at 12:45 p.m. today on BBC America. Jodie Whittaker (Broadchurch) takes on the role of the title character. She is the 13th -- and first female -- incarnation of The Doctor.

The premiere episode will encore at 7 p.m. today. Subsequent episodes will air at 7 p.m. Sundays.

Alongside The Doctor will be her team of friends -- Ryan (Tosin Cole), Yasmin (Mandip Gill) and Graham (Bradley Walsh).

• Dancing With the Stars: Juniors debuts from 7 to 9 p.m. today on ABC. There will be professional junior ballroom dancers paired with 12 celebrity kids.

• Shark Tank arrives with Season 10 at 9 p.m. today on ABC.

• Madam Secretary kicks off Season 5 at 9 p.m. today on CBS.

The TV Column appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Email:

mstorey@arkansasonline.com

Style on 10/07/2018

Print Headline: Walking Dead shedding two main characters

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