The Walking Dead showrunner Scott M. Gimple has offered confused fans an explanation as to why Rick didn't simply shoot Negan in the season 8 premiere, despite seemingly having a golden opportunity to do so. After much anticipation, The Walking Dead returned this week with its "All Out War" arc, focusing on the conflict between The Saviors and the alliance of Alexandria, The Hilltop and The Kingdom. Opening episode "Mercy" was an action-packed affair that saw Rick score an early victory over his nemesis during a tense, bullet-ridden stand-off.
However, there was one element of the episode that left some viewers scratching their heads: why Rick couldn't have just shot Negan dead during the exchange and ended the war before it even began. The allied good guys went to great lengths to bust down the gate to the Saviors' stronghold and drew Negan and his Lieutenants out into the open. Rick then proceeded to offer terms of surrender, which Negan was quick to dismiss, at which point the bullets began to fly. During the conversation however, there were several moments where Rick had clear sight of his nemesis and neglected to pull the trigger.
In an interview with THR, showrunner Scott M. Gimple has now clarified exactly why Rick didn't drop Negan where he stood, despite having multiple opportunities to do just that. Gimple states:
"What shouldn't be glossed over is Rick is offering surrender to everyone else. 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... If in fact Negan's other Lieutenants had given up, it would have been over."
Gimple's explanation does hold up to scrutiny. Even if Rick had shot Negan, one of the villain's Lieutenants (most likely Simon) would've simply taken up the newly vacated leadership position, whereas if the rest of the Saviors surrender, Negan can't very well fight a war by himself. The scene is also important as it clearly sets Rick's group out as the morally superior faction ahead of what will inevitably be a bloody and brutal conflict. As far as TV logic is concerned, Rick offered a peaceful solution, therefore his actions from this point onward can be more or less justified.
It's also worth remembering that once violence did erupt and the surrender was declined, Rick made two concerted and prolonged attempts to gun Negan down and would've done so if he didn't have the accuracy of a blindfolded Stormtrooper. Concessions also have to made in terms of not expecting too much realism from a TV show centered the dead coming back to life and eating the living. Yes, Rick arguably could have shot Negan in the season 8 premiere but that would make the remaining 15 episodes of "All Out War" very boring indeed.
The Walking Dead continues October 29th with "The Damned" on AMC.