The Walking Dead kicks off star Andrew Lincoln's final run of episodes as Rick Grimes on Oct. 7. Over the course of eight seasons, we've watched Rick grow from an ordinary man — a small town sheriff's deputy who just wants to get back to his family — to a lion of humanity, leading a group of hundreds of survivors as they try to build a new society. He's taken on truly iconic status, with his revolver, his brown jacket, his sheriff's hat and his shooting stance taking on totemic significance. He metes out righteous violence (and sometimes cruel, unjustifiable violence, too), and he shows heartbreaking vulnerability when he loses people close to him. He's the subject of hilarious memes. He's become one of America's most beloved imperfect TV dads, who does everything for his family, even terrible things. We experienced the zombie apocalypse through his eyes, and now the point of view of the show will fundamentally change. In honor of his exit, we've compiled a list of his ten most iconic moments.
10. "Do you have any idea who you're talking to?" (Season 6, Episode 1)
When Rick's group first arrived at Alexandria, the colony that eventually became his long-term home, some of Alexandria's residents chafed at Rick's "new sheriff in town" attitude. But Rick literally was the new sheriff in town, and put rebellious Carter (Ethan Embry) in his place with one of his cockiest, most badass speeches: "You really think you're gonna take this community from us. From Glenn? From Michonne? From Daryl? From me? Do you have any idea who you're talking to?"
9. The Red Machete (Season 5, Episodes 1 & 3)
Another prime Badass Rick Grimes moment came early in Season 5, when he told the cannibal Gareth (Andrew J. West) exactly what weapon he was going to use to kill him when he got free. Rick said this kneeling, with his hands tied behind his back, because when the odds are against him his true gangster comes out. Two episodes later, he delivered on that promise. The red-handled machete became so iconic in its own right that it got its own web series telling its origin.
8. The Death of Shane (Season 2, Episode 12)
In the first two seasons, Shane Walsh (Jon Bernthal) was Rick's foil. Shane was his pre-apocalypse partner who shacked up with Lori (Sarah Wayne Callies) when Rick was in a coma. When Rick came back and took over as leader of their band of survivors, Shane got resentful. So resentful that he tried to kill Rick. And so Rick had to murder the man who was once his best friend. Rick had to do a lot of really unpleasant stuff, didn't he?
7. The Release of Sophia (Season 2, Episode 7)
The first half of Season 2 was driven by the search for Sophia (Madison Lintz), Carol's (Melissa McBride) missing daughter. They found her in the midseason finale, zombified. While everyone was absolutely devastated, Rick stepped up and put her out of her misery. It showed the extent of what Rick was willing to take on and completed his transition from pre-apocalypse Rick to post-apocalypse Rick. It's one of the series' bleakest moments, and one of its best.
6. "What?" (Season 6, Episode 11)
Some random dude felt Rick's wrath in one of his most brutal, feral periods. He and Rick wrestled, and then Rick stabbed him in the throat from underneath, which caused a Shining amount of blood to spill onto Rick's face. The witnesses were aghast, but this is just another day for Rick.
5. The Snot Bubble (Season 7, Episode 1)
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) spent this episode trying to break Rick's spirit. He finally succeeded by making Rick willing to cut his own son's arm off, which sent Rick into a full-on meltdown. No other moment on the show exemplified Andy Lincoln's fearsome commitment to the role than the moment when a snot bubble burst out of his sobbing face. He could have gotten an Emmy nomination for this.
4. Lori's Death (Season 3, Episode 4)
Rick's other iconic meltdown came when he found out that Lori had died in childbirth and Carl (Chandler Riggs) had put her down to keep her from turning. It was a devastating moment that became the most meme'd moment of the series. Disrespectful.
3. The Jugular (Season 4, Episode 16)
The single most brutal thing Rick Grimes ever did, but he did it for a good reason. A bandit was threatening to rape Carl, and Rick went into psycho mode and ripped the dude's throat out with his teeth. Would your dad do that to protect you? Would you want him to? This is the most "doing the wrong thing for the right reasons" antihero Rick moment.
2. "This isn't a democracy anymore." (Season 2, Episode 13)
The line that set the tone for the next six seasons. Rick rallies the troops and lays down the terms for staying with him: if you want to live, you do what he says. This philosophy carried Rick all the way through Carl's death, and as Rick leaves the show and democracy returns in Season 9, the long Ricktatorship era will come to an end. This speech is also one of Lincoln's finest moments as an actor.
1. Where It All Began (Season 1, Episode 1)
The first scene of the first episode ended with Rick Grimes, not yet knowing what had happened to the world during the time he was comatose, encountering a zombified little girl, telling her not to be afraid, shooting her in the head as she charged toward him, then looking absolutely shellshocked about what he's just done. Cue opening credits. It's a portrait of the character of Rick Grimes in miniature. He wants to help, but he'll do what he has to to survive. The show knew exactly who he was in the first episode. Later on it would forget sometimes, but it always came back to the duality within him.
We'll miss him.
The Walking Dead Season 9 premieres Sunday, Oct. 7 at 9/8c on AMC.