This post contains spoilers from The Walking Dead comics & season 8 premiere.
The Walking Dead season 8 has officially launched its All-Out War story arc, but the question is, will it end with Rick Grimes killing Negan? The villainous character, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, made his debut in the season 6 finale, which ended with an insulting cliffhanger that left audiences wondering who the bat-wielding character had killed until the season 7 premiere. When the series returned, viewers found out that two of their favorite characters - Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and Sgt. Abraham Ford (Michael Cudlitz) - were no longer with them.
The show's season 7 premiere kicked off a story arc that had Rick Grimes and the people of Alexandria essentially working for Negan and his band of Saviors. Understandably, though, Rick's relationship with Negan was rocky - and that eventually led to Alexandria allying with the Hilltop and the Kingdom to rebel against the Saviors who had tormented them for so long. The battle that occurred in the season 7 finale ended up becoming the impetus for an all-out war between the factions, and that's what season 8 will essentially be about.
The Walking Dead season 8 premiere, "Mercy," aired tonight and it showed the beginnings of the massive war between Alexandria - along with the Hilltop and the Kingdom - and the Saviors, with Rick and his crew preparing to execute a multi-pronged strategy that involves an inside man (Dwight, who showed his cards during season 7) and drawing a herd of walkers towards the Saviors' compound. While the plan to defeat Negan and the Saviors is sound, it also puts them in danger. They're not only leaving Alexandria relatively defenseless but they are also sorely outnumbered.
As evidenced throughout the episode, Rick is clearly obsessed with killing Negan - after all, the villainous character murdered multiple of his closest friends and family and had reduced them to indentured servants, of sorts, constantly scavenging trying to earn him "sh*t" - but murder (or execution) may not be the answer. Although Rick and his people have made their peace with killing the living, executing Negan isn't the only way of defeating the Saviors, even if it is the most logical and most cathartic option. Rather, they can simply overthrow Negan and imprison him, which is essentially what happens in the comics.
For those that don't know, in the comics, at the tail-end of the All-Out War story arc, Rick and his people effectively defeat the Saviors (after a long and deadly war), but Rick doesn't believe they've actually won. In Rick's eyes, fighting each other is a lose-lose scenario; the only people winning are the walkers. And so, he wants everyone to work together to defeat the undead, but Negan isn't someone who could be involved with that future, so Rick slashes his throat. However, Negan doesn't actually die. Rather, he's later seen imprisoned in the basement of an unknown building two years after the war ended.
Of course, while this is how things happened in the comics, that may not be how things end up playing out on television. Considering that The Walking Dead TV series has differed in many ways from the source material, Rick could eventually kill Negan, but that may not happen this season. If anything, Negan would die in the season 8 finale, but it's possible that the powers that be may want to keep Negan around, even if he's imprisoned or otherwise removed as a thread for now, until they establish a new threat, then either kill him off - and see how that affects Rick - or bring him back into the fold. We'll just have to wait and see.
The Walking Dead season 8 airs Sundays on AMC.