Lincoln spoke with ComicBook.com in an exclusive interview following Episode 8x16, explain The Walking Dead is "a story about love rather than hate." In fact, Lincoln claims such themes have "always been in [The Walking Dead's] genetics, been in the DNA of our show from the very first frame.”
It also happens to following its comic book source material in preserving Negan's life.
While Carl's death was certainly a catalyst in Rick's decision on the TV series, it wasn't the only factor which saved Negan from Rick's wrath. “I think we’re telling a story about restraint rather than revenge," Lincoln said. "We’re telling a story about a love between a father and a son not a hatred between two old men and I think it’s that simple. It’s self-explanatory. It’s in the episode."
Lincoln can identify the key moments which lead to Rick's decision in the Season Eight finale. "There are many leading up to it, of course," Lincoln said. "Daryl’s trying to get him to open up at the grave site, Michonne encouraging him to read the letter, then there’s Morgan pulling out after the massacre in Episode 8x14, when he says, ‘Why did you save me? Your son was there.’ ‘Because my son was there,’ he says is why."
From there, Rick may have feared becoming everything he thought he was standing against. "I think Rick realizes in these points of darkness and trauma and grief, killing ain’t gonna take the pain away," Lincoln said. "Revenge isn’t gonna do it. When he slits his throat and he says, ‘The boy didn’t know a damn thing, there’s that common knowledge that Negan says he’s appalled. He says, ‘You just used your son’s name in order to kill me!’ And he recognizes himself in Rick’s actions and it’s only at that point that Rick realizes how far he’s gone and where he’s headed if he continues that way.”
In many ways, Sunday's finale episode felt like a series finale, though it does provide The Walking Dead with the opportunity to have a fresh start in Season Nine. "I think that when we got the news that Carl was dying on the show, it certainly for me, it felt like very much a bookend of a much bigger journey that began in the hospital," Lincoln said. "Searching for his wife and his son were the two engines that kept this man alive at the beginning of the show eight years. To lose the second engine that fueled him, at this point, certainly did feel, to me personally, not just the end of a chapter but a book, really."
The Walking Dead will return for its ninth season in the fall. Fear the Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.