The Walking Dead's eighth season finale brought the all out war between Rick and Negan to a bloody climax, but one that - surprisingly for this show - didn't end with a major death.
The whole season (two seasons, really) has been building to this conflict between Negan and his Saviours and the coalition of survivors from Alexandria, Hilltop, and the Kingdom, and it appeared that Negan had gained the upper-hand. Following on from his tactical advantage the previous week, the baseball bat-wielding maniac had his opponents surrounded, only for a rug-pull to reveal Eugene had made faulty ammo.
Out of bullets and with an injured hand from his gun backfiring, Negan ran for cover, and it all boiled down to a physical fight with Rick, which explained the scene under the stained glass window teased previously. Negan had seemingly won, but Rick made a plea regarding Carl's vision for the future - and the role Negan could play - that gave him pause, allowing Rick to cut his throat.
That could've been it, and indeed should've been. Negan has been the villain for two full seasons now, which have also been two of the most tiresome the show has ever delivered. 'Wrath' had a largely uplifting end, but it would've been great to see it draw a more permanent line under this conflict.
Instead, the show plays out in similar fashion to the comics, with Rick instructing Siddiq to save Negan's life, which he does despite the improbability of survival after losing so much blood. The villain is then sentenced to spending the rest of his time in the cell at Alexandria, to serve as a symbol for the life they're leaving behind, and that - except for a potential conflict with Maggie and Daryl - is that.
It's easy to see why The Walking Dead chose to do this: it follows the comic books, it means they can keep Negan (a character the writers are currently in the thrall of) around, and means they can still have Rick as their noble leader. But none of that makes it the correct decision.
A lot of this comes back around to Carl, and his death - which is one of the show's biggest mistakes. Rick letting Negan live is done in his memory, but the weight of that decision is somewhat removed when Carl himself is no longer around to see it. Furthermore, one of the best things about Negan's imprisonment in the comics is the way it offers the opportunity to deepen his relationship with Carl, one of its most unlikely but strongest by that stage, which again can no longer happen.
So what now does Negan offer? A counterpoint to Rick, perhaps, and a reminder of how not to do things. But otherwise it's just going to be Jeffrey Dean Morgan sitting in a cell until his eventual release or escape, which isn't going to be that much fun to watch on TV (just another of many things that will get lost in translation with that character).
Negan has been the show's biggest villain since his introduction in the Season 6 finale (and his Saviours before him), and while the cartoonish nature of the character hasn't always worked (despite Morgan's commitment to the part), he's been so full-on as a bad guy, right down to his last moments, that a death was more than earned. Not to mention that, given The Walking Dead has basically turned from Rick's show into Negan's, he's really outstayed his welcome already, and the prospect of seeing more of him in whatever wounded state he takes isn't an enticing one.
Next page: Rick Grimes Should've Been Made The New Villain
NCTJ-qualified journalist. Most definitely not a racing driver. Drink too much tea; eat too much peanut butter; watch too much TV. Sadly only the latter paying off so far.
A mix of wise-old man in a young man's body with a child-like wonder about him and a great otherworldly sensibility.