Will Rick Still Kill Negan On 'The Walking Dead' After Carl's Death?

Rick Grimes swears he's going to kill Negan, but could honoring his dead son's last wishes see Rick spare the villain?

Rick made his threat-slash-promise during his first face-to-face with Negan following the murders of Abraham and Glenn in 7x01, telling him, "I'm gonna kill you. Not today, not tomorrow, but I'm gonna kill you."

Negan, grinning bastard that he is, sees it as a bill he'll never pay.

When the two met again under similar circumstances in 7x16 — Rick on his knees, pending execution by way of baseball bat, face-to-face with Negan — Rick doubled down.

"I told you already, I'm gonna kill you. All of you," Rick growled. "Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, but nothing is gonna change that. Nothing. You're all already dead."

Now that Rick has lost his son, he's seeing red.

"Rick Grimes doesn't have his son anymore," Rick actor Andrew Lincoln says. "There's nothing more terrifying, that somebody's lost everything. I think he will come back and he will be willing to lose every part of himself to wreak vengeance on this."

As a feverish Carl succumbed to his fatal walker bite, he told Rick and Michonne of his visions for the future: a lush and thriving Alexandria filled with new houses and old friends, a happy future with no more fighting.

Carl's idyllic future even included a reformed Negan, who was tending to a garden and being sweet as pie with Judith Grimes.

Rick made a simple promise to Carl on his deathbed: "I'll make it real. I will."

With Carl dead and buried and Rick struggling with the loss of his son, the preview for tonight's episode sees Rick spitting a familiar promise into a walkie talkie: "I'm gonna kill you," he tells Negan, who Rick sees as the only obstruction in the way of Carl's imagined future.

The All Out War arc, currently being adapted in the television series, played out differently in Robert Kirkman's comic book series. (Spoilers ahead.)

During a brutal standoff with Negan, Rick slashes the villain's throat. He doesn't kill Negan, choosing instead to keep him prisoner in Alexandria's jail.

"We're going to undo all the damage you did... and with you out of the way, we're going to thrive," Rick tells him. "I'm going to keep you alive... I'm going to make you watch what we become so that you can see how wrong you were... how much you were holding us back."

The Walking Dead comic Rick Negan
(Photo: Image Comics)

Negan is imprisoned for years before release, upon which he is evidently reformed and remorseful over his past actions.

Unlike the television series' Carl, the one-eyed teen is still alive in the comic books where he plays a pivotal role as the one day leader of Alexandria.

According to Carl actor Chandler Riggs, then-Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple axed Carl as a way of helping explain Rick Grimes' segue into a more forgiving presence.

"In the comics, Scott was trying to figure out why there was a hole between Rick slitting Negan's throat at the end of the All Out War arc and then there's the time jump and Negan is alive and in prison and Rick didn't kill Negan," Riggs told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Scott was trying to figure out how to bridge the gap between Rick not wanting to kill Negan and Rick also really wanting to kill Negan, which he does right now [in the show's story]. Scott's way to get around that was to make Carl this really humanitarian figure and person who could see the good in people and see that people can change and not everyone out there is bad. That's what Carl's talk to Rick was in this episode: there's no way that they can kill every one of the Saviors and not everyone is a bad person and there has to be some way forward than just killing people."

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All The Walking Dead cast members, save for Lauren Cohan, have re-signed for season 9, THR reported Thursday. Barring an unforeseen and unlikely death, Negan actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan is expected to return — suggesting Rick's mercy will come to prevail over his wrath, sparing Negan from well-deserved death.

The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.