Behold, a look at our imminent return to the sweaty, gory, grimey (but soon to be less Grimes-y) world of The Walking Dead. AMC released a whole batch of new images from the zombie drama’s ninth season premiere. Surprise! Nobody looks happy—except for Carol and Ezekiel in a rare tender moment—but at least our survivor crew has a dope old Western lookin’ wagon to haul around now.
This season marks a bit of a seismic shift for the show. Back in May, we reported that this year would be the last for Andrew Lincoln, who has been the sweaty-bearded face of The Walking Dead since the beginning as pack leader Rick Grimes. Speaking to EW, Lincoln explained that being locked into the zombie apocalypse was taking away from the actor’s valuable family time:
As for why the star is leaving the biggest TV series in basic cable history, the reason is simple: family. Lincoln lives in England and The Walking Dead shoots for over half the year in Georgia, keeping him away from his wife and kids for prolonged stretches of time. “I have two young children, and I live in a different country, and they become less portable as they get older,” says the man who helped change the zombified face of television. “It was that simple. It was time for me to come home.”
Lauren Cohan, whose Maggie is not quite a day-one character but still a recognizably large part of the show’s heart and soul, is only set to appear in six episodes as she moves on to the CBS drama Whiskey Cavalier.
Season 9 also marks the first for showrunner Angela Kang, a staff writer since season 2 that eventually rose to the rank of executive producer. Fellow EP Greg Nicotero has already said that Kang is looking to pivot the series [via Fandom] “back into a season 4, season 5 vibe.” Season 4 and 5 are, not coincidentally, the highest rated seasons of The Walking Dead.
Check out the images below. The ninth season of The Walking Dead debuts on AMC Sunday, October 7.