The Walking Dead executive producer and former showrunner Scott Gimple predicts what might have happened if Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) killed enemy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) to end the war against the Saviors. Rick acted unilaterally when he chose to capture Negan in the eighth season finale, "Wrath," sparing and jailing Negan to honor the civilized and peaceful future wished for by Rick and Michonne's (Danai Gurira) son Carl (Chandler Riggs). In the ninth season taking place 18 months later, Rick mostly unified the communities — Alexandria, Hilltop, the Kingdom, Oceanside, and the Sanctuary, home to the Saviors — but the living were driven apart once again after Rick seemingly perished saving the survivors from a zombie horde.
"We talk about the butterfly effect a lot, a character being there, a character not being there. We showed it with Michonne's last episode," Gimple said during the virtual Walking Dead Comic-Con@Home panel, where he was prompted to speculate on Rick making the opposite choice. The Walking Dead chief content officer is referring to Gurira's exit episode, where Michonne dreamed up disastrous possible futures that never happened.
"I think if they killed Negan, the conflicts would have been different with the communities," Gimple said, adding those conflicts probably would have been "more intense" in the first half of Season 9. That season saw Michonne draft a charter to bind the five communities by fairness and laws, while vengeful Oceanside leader Cyndie (Sydney Park) led a clandestine mission to execute Saviors over unforgivable crimes.
In this what-if where Rick murdered Negan, Gimple continued, "Maybe Rick would be dead. Maybe that herd would have run through one of the communities. Maybe that would have created more conflict, and maybe the Whisperers would have come in and wiped them all out because they couldn't get it together."
Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the flesh-wearing Whisperers emerged six years after Rick's disappearance, coming at a time where Alexandria leader Michonne — scarred by deeply traumatizing past events — had grown distrustful towards outsiders, including the Hilltop colony led by once close friend Maggie (Lauren Cohan).
United once again following the collapse of the Sanctuary and the Kingdom, the remaining communities and their respective survivors must next band together to ward off Whisperer second in command Beta (Ryan Hurst).
Now seeking to exterminate the heroes, Beta wields a miles-long walker horde in the coming Season 10 finale, "A Certain Doom," where refugees from Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside must survive the final battle of the Whisperer War.
The Walking Dead Season 10 finale premieres Sunday, October 4 on AMC. For all things TWD, follow the author @CameronBonomolo on Twitter.