Fans have been questioning why Rick (Andrew Lincoln) didn't just gun down Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) during their standoff in The Walking Dead's season 8 premiere, and Andrew Lincoln has the answer. When asked by a fan during a Q&A session at Walker Stalker Con Atlanta why Rick didn't simply shoot Negan right away, Lincoln offered up an explanation:
"Just so you know, I sent maybe seven emails to [showrunner] Mr. Scott Gimple around the subject before we shot it," Lincoln answered. "What we wanted to do was offer up a deal. If we had taken him out straight away, the war would’ve just been off to the races. It was an aggressive counterstrike. We wanted to give them the offer first, you surrender. Obviously, he’s not gonna surrender… We don’t wanna lose any lives so it’s a big show of force… blow it up, retreat, and use the walker army, which are the dead. You will find out in episodes 2, 3, 4 and 5 the whole plan."
Rick made his offer to Negan's lieutenants, Simon (Steven Ogg), Eugene (Josh McDermitt), Dwight (Austin Amelio), Regina (Traci Dinwiddle) and Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith), telling them that only one person needed to die: Negan. The offer wasn't accepted, and Rick and his assembled forces from Alexandria, the Hilltop and the Kingdom opened fire on the Sanctuary before unleashing a massive swarm of Walkers onto the Saviors' home base.
Lincoln's explanation is in line with the reasoning previously given by Gimple, who explained it was a way for Rick to avoid as many deaths as possible:
"What shouldn't be glossed over is Rick is offering surrender to everyone else," Gimple said. "He wants them to, more or less, be on his side after that. If he just shot Negan there, that would have been a shortcut to the war. He was making a play to not be in full violence with these people because you see what happens after that. The next step for everybody is pretty heavy and intense. If in fact Negan's other lieutenants had given up, it would have been over."
Nonetheless, Rick was absolutely trying to kill Negan as he shot at him from across the courtyard, and Negan may have caught a bullet.