The Walking Dead  Season 9 will premiere on Sunday, October 7th on AMC, it was revealed at San Diego Comic-Con, and the new footage shown at the panel reveals big changes ahead for the juggernaut zombie series – but no change is bigger than the exit of Rick Grimes.

The Walking Dead’s longtime protagonist Grimes played by Andrew Lincoln confirmed that he will be leaving the show after nine seasons.

Lincoln bid an emotional farewell to fans at SDCC 2018, thanking the showrunners and fans for the experience he had on the show.

Executive Producer Scott M. Gimple noted how, after two years of “all-out war,” this season “could not be more different.” And the new trailer showcased Rick and various other survivors working toward a brighter future. That includes rebuilding, easing tensions – and a few fights between factions, including what looks like a confrontation between Rick and Daryl.

At the trailer’s end, a walker seemingly croaks out the phrase “Where are they?” while in pursuit of a couple of our heroes. Fans of Robert Kirkman’s comics will know what that means: Season 9 will finally introduce The Whisperers, with Samantha Morton cast to play Alpha.

With Lincoln out,  look for the series to turn towards Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, has been in negotiations for a new $20 million-plus deal to take over as The Walking Dead‘s leading man.