There was a pretty huge elephant in the room during The Walking Dead's Comic-Con panel, which is why Andrew Lincoln decided to kick off the day by confirming the news that he'd be leaving the show after Season 9.
"This will be my last season playing the part of Rick Grimes," Lincoln said to a chorus of wails from the fans in Hall H. "Now, hear me out please. I love this show, it means everything to me. I love the people who make this show. I promise not to cry. I've done enough crying on screen. I'm particularly fond of the people who watch this show, you people. This has been the most extraordinary, amazing and beautiful experience of my career, made largely because of you guys and the relationship we have here with you in this room and also in the rooms across America and the rest of the world. I just want to thank you."
If your eyes are getting a little weepy, don't worry -- you are not the only one. There were fans shedding real tears as they left the panel, though that was mostly because when it came to a close, Norman Reedus had everyone give a round of applause (and a standing ovation) to Lincoln for dedicating 10 years of his life to this amazing series.
And hey, we've still got Season 9 left to come, and Lincoln promises it's going to be one of the best we've seen in years. In fact, he went so far as to say that there will be two episodes in Season 9 that are his personal favorites since the pilot!
"We're deeply, deeply proud of the work we've done this season," he said. "I suppose what I wanted to say is that my relationship with Mr. Grimes is far from over and a sort of large part of me will always be a machete-wielding, Stetson-wearing, zombie-slaying sheriff's deputy from London, England."
Watch his comments here:
The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9/8c on AMC.