Rather than end on Carl's devastating farewell, The Walking Dead's Mid-Season Eight premiere chose to throw a curve ball at fans before its conclusion.
Spoilers for The Walking Dead Episode 8x09, Honor, follow!
What was once thought to be a flash-forward sequence years after Rick won the war against Negan turned out to be a dream scenario for Carl Grimes, preaching to his father about rebuilding civilization without so much killing. In this rebuilt and civilized Alexandria, however, the villainous Negan appeared and was getting along with the community's people just fine. It was a shocking and somewhat confusing moment when Judith approached the show's villain in a garden and he gleefully rose up with a, "Well, hello, darling!"
This scene is a play on expectations among fans. The same dream scenario was once thought to be a flash forward courtesy of the look on Rick Grimes as his grey hair, beard, and cane aligned with his look in The Walking Dead comics following the post-All Out War time jump. As it turned out, this scenario was nothing more than a vision of the future Carl had for Rick, Alexandria, and the survivors.
In the end, Negan's appearance in this sequence is a hyperbolic version of what Carl was pleading to his father while dying. He saw the future without so much killing, with structure and civilization, similar to when Rick turned his Woodbury enemies into friendly survivors who lived together in the prison.
There won't be a true scenario which sees Negan planting in Alexandria's garden and being so friendly with Judith. However, there is a strong possibility Negan will not be killed off to end the war. In the comics, Rick elects to spare the villain in favor of tossing him in jail. Certain members of the Saviors are allowed to become allies of Alexandria and the beef between the rival communities is squashed.
So, while Negan won't be a true member of the Alexandria community, smiling and waving at his neighbors, he might ultimately follow the redemptive path laid out in the comics and form an odd sort of friendship with Rick somewhere down the road.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 pm ET on AMC. Fear the Walking Dead will debut its fourth season after The Walking Dead concludes its eighth, at 10 pm ET on April 15. For complete coverage and insider info all year long, follow @BrandonDavisBD on Twitter.