Why Didn't Rick Kill Negan On 'The Walking Dead'? He Had His Nemesis Right Where He Wanted Him

Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 finale. The defining moment in one of TV's most long-lasting feuds has finally come, but the endgame wasn't exactly what many fans might have have been expecting. So why didn't Rick kill Negan on The Walking Dead?

It appears that Rick has taken some of Carl's advice to heart — before Rick's son shockingly died earlier this season as a result of a walker bite, he urged Rick to envision a better future than one just full of war and chaos. Carl envisioned a kind of utopia where people could live peacefully and work together instead of breaking off into these factions that were constantly at war with one another. It was unclear if that was a path Rick would ever realistically take, but in the Season 8 finale, he pushes a message of hope in a moment where he easily could have ended Negan's life.

After slashing Negan's throat (though somehow in a way that he was sure he wouldn't die?) Rick tells the rest of the group that they were going to save him. Maggie is outraged — Negan is the one who killed Glenn, so how could they possibly let him live? — and she's not the only one who's a little confused. Fans on social media were quick to discuss the decision.

These are all valid points, but in the end, it seems like Rick was just trying to honor Carl's vision — Carl wanted Rick to strive for peace. And after sparing him, Rick makes it perfectly clear that Negan's reign of terror is no more. "Negan's alive, but his way of doing things is over," Rick tells both his people and the remaining Saviors. "Anyone who can't live with that will pay the price, I promise you that. Any person here who would live in peace and fairness, who would find common ground — this world is yours, by right. We are life. That's death, and it's coming for us, unless we stand together."

Not everyone is so thrilled with this notion of peace, though. Later in the episode, Maggie hasn't let go of any of that initial anger she felt when Rick initially let Negan live. "We have a lot to do. We have to build this place up, make it work better than before, make it thrive for the people who live here," she tells Jesus. "We need our strength — the ability to defend ourselves better — we have to have that. But ... Rick was wrong to do what he did. Michonne, too. So we’re gonna bide our time, wait for our moment, and then we’re gonna show him." So, it sounds like Negan isn't safe altogether. Maggie hasn't forgotten what he did to Glenn — not by a long shot.

Gene Page/AMC

Regardless of what happens with Maggie, it's clear that the Season 8 finale was meant to provide some kind of solid ground upon which to build Season 9. The big conflict of Rick vs. Negan is supposedly done, and showrunner Scott Gimple told The Hollywood Reporter that the episode was meant to provide "closure." He continued, "[The finale] closes down every character's story pretty much in some tragic ways and in some sad ways, and even some hopeful ways to a degree. There's closure, in every iteration of what that means, in the finale."

Perhaps closure was granted for some characters and storylines, and maybe the bulk of the conflict between Negan and Rick is over, but as long as Negan is alive, there's always the possibility for some explosive twists, especially when there are those like Maggie who still want him dead. Rick and Michonne tell Negan toward the end of the episode that they plan to keep him in a jail cell for the rest of his days, as some kind of example that society can be rebuilt along with justified and traditional punishments instead of murder. So, while fans will be waiting a while for Season 9, at least they know they can expect more Negan, regardless of if Rick's plan for peace works out.