The eighth season of The Walking Dead has been a long, slow build toward a final confrontation between Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), but their relationship is rather complicated. Rick has repeatedly pledged to kill the leader of the Saviors, and Negan’s last words to Michonne were that he planned to return the favor. But Carl’s letter has been weighing heavily on his old man. Could there be a peaceful resolution when this “all-out war” finally ends? Can Negan somehow stay alive? The good news: There’s a definitive answer to Negan’s fate. But if you, like Maggie, wanted him dead, you’re not going to be happy.
In “Wrath,” Negan’s plan to ambush Rick’s ambush seemed to be working perfectly as Rick’s team was surrounded by gun-toting Saviors. But surprise! Eugene made faulty ammo that caused all of their weapons to backfire, including Negan’s very own. With a bloody busted hand, Negan ran for cover and duck behind a tree — the very same tree with the hanging stained-glass panels that we saw Rick sitting beneath in the closing moments of the midseason finale.
Rick, of course, wasted his last bullets firing on Negan from a distance. So it was time for hand-to-hand combat and Negan gained the upper hand. He also made the classic villain mistake of talking trash rather than finishing the job. With both men on their feet and one of them holding a baseball bat, Rick made a plea: Give me ten seconds to explain how this all can end peacefully. Rick repeated Carl’s vision for the future as he and Negan stared deep into each other’s eyes and stood uncomfortably close. Rick looked teary. Even Negan seemed to get misty.
That’s when Rick whipped out a knife and slashed Negan across the throat with one swift stroke. “Look at what you did,” Negan gurgled. “Carl didn’t know a damn thing.” Gaping neck wounds tend to be of the lethal variety, especially on The Walking Dead, but Rick had a second surprise in store: He ordered Siddiq to save Negan, who was still clinging to life.
We last see Negan in bed at Hilltop with a bandage around his freshly stitched throat, as Rick and Michonne explain the unique role he’ll play in building the future of their “new world.” Carl imagined a future where Judith and Negan were pals and the ex-Savior boss pitched in with gardening. Rick, however, has other plans: Negan will spend the rest of his life in a cell, a living symbol of the savage life they’re leaving behind for good. “You alive is gonna help show people that things have changed,” Rick says. Negan looks like he’s getting emotional again, perhaps thinking back to that fateful moment when he gave Rick one last speech instead of making use of Lucille.