This interview contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8 finale, titled “Wrath.”

The Walking Dead chose to end Season 8 with mercy prevailing over wrath, as Rick cut Negan’s throat but still let him live  during their climactic final showdown.

The eleventh-hour twist probably won’t come as a surprise to fans of Robert Kirkman’s comics, since the moment is virtually identical to how it played out on the page: just when it seems like Negan might be coming around to Rick’s proposed peace treaty, Rick unexpectedly slashes his throat.

walking dead negan throat slashed rick

In the comics, Rick asks the Saviors to surrender in order to save Negan’s life, whereas in the show, Negan’s followers have already given up, and Rick chooses to save his enemy because he knows it’s what Carl would’ve wanted – an end to the bloodshed.

Speaking to a small group of reporters following the finale, showrunner Scott Gimple explained why he chose to stick so closely to Kirkman’s vision for the end of Rick and Negan’s feud.

“Just boiling it down, in my opinion, when I read it in the book, it was shocking to me and it was something that resounded with me … I really liked it,” he admitted. “I really liked it when I read it because it was unexpected and it was the right thing for the character, it was the right thing for the world – for what Rick wants, for what Carl wanted for him, it really was the only way forward. And the fact that it’s nice to see something like that, to see a story like that when everything seems to be so combative, so aggressive, was the frosting on the cake.”

Lincoln agreed, joking that while “it’s good to have won,” he was mostly pleased by the plot development because of what it means for Rick as a character moving forward. “I’m thrilled that I followed my son’s wishes that we’re telling a story about restraint, not revenge, because I think it’s very much in-keeping with the show that we’ve always intended to make,” he said. “I do think he is a man that has changed and very late in the day realized that he has to. If he doesn’t refrain from killing him, he’ll get lost … Everything that Deanna told him that he possibly didn’t quite believe about the potential of a new civilization has come to fruition through honoring his dying son’s wishes.”

As for what we might see Rick do in Season 9, Lincoln hedged, “I do think when someone loses someone so important they perhaps … have a fervent desire to let their death not be in vain, and I think possibly that’s a place that he’s gonna go to.”

Following our interview, Kirkman and Lincoln expanded on Rick’s choice during their appearance on Talking Dead.

“This is a huge turning point in a long series of turning points for Rick. This is him finally realizing that he has to choose a different way,” Kirkman said, explaining why he wrote their confrontation in such a dramatic fashion in the comics. “Every major conflict in the history of The Walking Dead has ended with a huge death or someone dying and this is him choosing life and turning over a new leaf and deciding that there’s a different way forward. To have that moment where he’s slashing a throat and saving a guy’s life, to have it so heightened, it marks time in a very important way and shows that from this point on, the stories are going to be very different.”

Lincoln agreed, “When Negan says the kid didn’t know a damn a thing, [Rick] realizes where he’s about to go and what he’s about to become. In that fleeting moment, that’s when he decides, ‘If I continue with this and don’t try to save this man’s life, it’s over.’ It ultimately is a story about restraint rather than revenge and love rather than hate, which has always been integral to our show.”

What did you think of Rick’s decision to save Negan’s life? Share your reactions in the comments and check out our review of the Season 8 finale, and the Season 4 premiere of Fear the Walking Dead.

Laura Prudom is the Executive TV Editor at IGN. You can talk to her on Twitter at @LauinLA.





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