Then, of course, there's Rick Grimes, who reclaims the centre stage of the series, but at what cost?
His decision to spare Negan's life had been coming ever since he finally decided to read Carl's letter. Carl was always Rick's redeeming feature, the ray of light that kept him tethered to the side of good and gave him something to survive for, and even in death that's proved to be the case - but it didn't always look like going that way.
In the immediate aftermath of his passing, Rick was a man consumed by grief and plunged into darkness. He mercilessly killed the Saviours, and it looked as though nothing would stop him on his quest for revenge against Negan. And honestly, it was a fascinating direction to take the character, and one they really should've fully committed to.
Countless times over the years we've seen Rick do terrible things and flirt with villainy, but it's always been justified by the fact he is the main hero of the show, or because of who and what he's fighting for, or that the other guys are even worse. He might've been occasionally challenged by someone like Morgan, but ultimately everyone has fallen in line with Rick and supported his actions.
As the increasingly stale series heads towards a ninth season, it needs something to freshen it up. Now imagine the reaction had Rick slit Negan's throat and left him to die. It would've pushed him much further down that dark path, towards him becoming the series' true villain. Seeing the previously good hero become the twisted villain is something of an old trope, but it fits perfectly with The Walking Dead's nihilistic tendencies and the way it flips between hope and despair, and would've given Andrew Lincoln new shades to play, of which there aren't many left. He could've had genuine conflict against his oldest friends, rather than minor squabbles; he'd be a villain we're truly invested in, with the characterisation already done, and split loyalties both within the show and for viewers. And he'd be a total badass to boot.
Instead, as it's so often done, it reverts to the status-quo, except with Daryl and Maggie plotting together (and Lauren Cohan's contract means it's unclear how much follow-through that will get). For all the promises of Season 9 being like a whole new show, it's going to be starting off remarkably similar to other years, with a new threat on the horizon. It just would've been so much more exciting if the old threat had been properly wiped out first, and that said new threat was the show's biggest hero.
Are you happy with how the finale played out, or do you wish the show had killed off Negan? Let us know down in the comments.
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.