[Spoilers for the Season 8 midseason premiere of The Walking Dead and the comics follow, read at your own risk!]
If you're like me, then you were pretty peeved about going through 99 percent of the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead without even a glimpse of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the show's most interesting — and most hilarious — character.
But in the final minute of the episode, Negan finally showed up in all his sh*t-eating grin glory! Only this was Negan... in the future? In Rick's dream-like fantasy future? Digging in Rick's garden and saying, "Good morning to you, darling!" to Rick's daughter? What gives, man?
It all but confirms that the show will follow what happens in the comics, where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) ends the war between his group and the Saviors by sparing Negan's life. And the meat of the episode seemed to hammer that home as Carl (Chandler Riggs) died asking his dad to show mercy and stop resorting to violence as the answer to everyone's problems. It's revealed that these foggy future scenes we've seen with Old Beardy Rick have been visions of Carl's, not Rick's, and they're of a happy future that Carl has seen if his dad can stop murdering people, even the bad guys.
"I'm gonna make it real, Carl, I promise," Rick said to his dying son.
This differs from the comics in that Carl doesn't die here. I'd suspect that part of the (controversial) decision on showrunner Scott Gimple's part to kill Carl and make Eyepatch the one who changes Rick's mind about his stance on murdering his enemies is because deciding not to kill Negan after everything that bastard has done is a really tough sell to television viewers. Negan has been nothing but a scumbag who deserves to die, but it's looking like he's going to make it out of this war alive after all. Who better to believably hammer some mercy into Rick's brain than the person he loves most?
I'm not saying it's the right thing for the show to do at all; in fact, I don't like it one bit. Count me on #TeamKillNegan. But it appears to be the direction the show is going with, so we'll all just have to deal with Negan picking the group's carrots in the future.
As for those scenes of red-eyed Rick, we're sticking with our guess that those take place right after he spares Negan's life and has Carl's words echoing inside his head. It's a tough call for Rick, but he did make a promise to Carl. Is that reason enough to spare Negan? Ehh, that's up to you to decide.
The Walking Dead continues Sunday at 9/8c on AMC.