'The Walking Dead': One Character Loses an Arm -- How It Pays Tribute to Rick Grimes (Exclusive)

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Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

WARNING: Spoilers Ahead! Do not proceed unless you've watched this week's episode of The Walking Dead!

The Walking Dead suffered a devastating loss on Sunday's episode: Aaron's arm. 

While the show proved it wasn't holding back by killing off a character in last week's season nine premiere (RIP Gregory, but not really), Aaron's loss of a limb was a little unexpected -- mostly because it's supposed to happen to Rick Grimes. 

Rick lost a hand pretty early in the comics, during his first encounter with the Governor. When the Governor came and went on the series, fans thought the traumatic event might happen with Negan, who even toyed with chopping off Carl's hand (RIP, for real), but it still didn't happen. And with Rick's upcoming departure this season, viewers had pretty much expected that the losing-a-hand storyline just wouldn't make it to the show. 

That all changed on Sunday's episode, when Aaron's arm was crushed by a log in an unexpected Walker attack. The damage was so bad that Enid (yes, Enid) had to amputate it with Daryl's help. 

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Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

"[Showrunner] Angela Kang talked to me about it at the beginning of the season, and she asked how I felt about it," Ross Marquand told ET's Leanne Aguilera at the show's season nine premiere last month. "I said, I felt that's an amazing character choice, and it's one, of course, that Rick has in the comics. He loses and arm, and I was all too happy to accept that challenge."

According to the actor, Aaron's disability might actually prove to be useful when it comes to fighting off Walkers. 

"I've been tying my arm behind my back, and trying to do things just without my arm, to get in the habit of it. And it's been a fun challenge," Marquand said. "Ironically, it's been a great accessory because what comes after, and I'll let the fans see, of course, it's a useful tool in a way that I don't think any of us thought it was going to be until we started working with it, with the storyline."

"We found, oh, an inanimate object strapped to your hand, a prosthetic, that's a great baiting tool, and I think it's a great way to lure Walkers in, and then kill them pretty easily," he teased. 

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Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

The circumstances of Aaron's amputation are different from Rick's -- "that storyline is Rick's, and Rick's alone," Marquand noted of the comics -- but it's not the first time the show has given a character's comic book storyline to someone else. In fact, the Ezekiel-Carol romance fans can't stop talking about was meant for Ezekiel and another woman on the show. 

"It’s a little bit based on a storyline from the comics where Michonne ends up with Ezekiel," Kang dished to ET at the premiere. "So it was part of a natural evolution over time that we’ve been building to for a while." 

As for Rick's upcoming exit, that, too, will be different from the comics. 

"I think it's a beautiful, beautiful end, and wrap up for the main character of this show. He is the show," Marquand said. "Andy [Lincoln] is every bit the leader that we had hoped he would be, and we'll never be able to replace him. And it's a very fitting conclusion for his character, but I think it's also, it's a very bittersweet one, because Andy is, he's the best."

"He's the best actor I've maybe ever worked with, and that's not an exaggeration by any stretch of the imagination," he added.  

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC. See more in the video below. 

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