The Walking Dead has had highly variable reactions from viewers in regards to the creative choices made, and in keeping with this, not everyone was happy with the decision to spare Negan in the season 8 finale after all the death and suffering he had caused, one of whom was the episode’s director, Greg Nicotero.
He objected to the lack of agency that Maggie was given in the moment, believing she should have taken some kind of vengeance on the megalomaniacal thug for his callous murder of Glenn. Speaking to Collider interview series The Witching Hour, he had this to say:
“I said to Scott Gimple, the showrunner, ‘I think Maggie should shoot him. I think Maggie should either kill Negan or shoot Negan or do something, because she’s right there’. I said, ‘It’s really a hard moment to shoot knowing that Maggie collapses to her knees because Rick spares Negan’s life.’ I sort of pitched this idea to Gimple, ‘Why doesn’t Maggie shoot him? Why doesn’t Maggie kill him?’ And obviously, Negan’s character had more of a journey, there was a lot more going on.”
Nicotero had some similar thoughts on the season opener, which he also directed and where the communities united to assault the Sanctuary. Elsewhere in his interview, he had this to say about that:
“I kept saying, ‘Can Negan get shot in the leg? Can he get shot in the arm?’ You have a hundred people there, and none of them actually shot anybody. Even Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] was like, ‘Come on, man! Give me a bullet hole in the shoulder or in the leg, or something!’ I was like, ‘I would love to shoot you.’ Andy [Lincoln] was like, ‘Can I just shoot him?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah, we should!’ When we were shooting that episode, I went, ‘I know I’m gonna hear about it [online]. I’m gonna hear about a hundred people outside the Sanctuary, not one of them actually hit anybody.’ And we did.”
Of course, The Walking Dead has improved somewhat since the conclusion of its interminable and deathly tedious arc of the war against the Saviors, and while Negan has on occasion proved himself to have some uses, it’s debatable whether someone as evil as him can ever truly be redeemed, and if sparing his life was the right choice.
But looking towards the future, and the show is now on hiatus due to the current pandemic and it’s unclear when we may see it return to wrap up its current season. When it does come back, though, you can expect to see Maggie once more and it’ll be interesting to find out what she’s been up to and how she’ll react to everything that’s taken place in her absence.