‘Walking Dead’: What’s Next After Rick and Negan’s Deadly Call?

Forecasting the future of two foes on opposite sides of “All-Out War.”

[This story contains spoilers for season eight, episode ten of AMC’s The Walking Dead, “The Lost and the Plunderers.”]

“Who’s next?”

You are.”

Those are fighting words, issued by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) to Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) in the latest episode of the AMC zombie drama — and those words are also completely antithetical to the final wishes of Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs), only one episode following the young hero’s demise. 

Moments before his last, Carl sketched out a vision of an idyllic future for his father. He implored Rick to think about what life will be like once the dust settles on “All Out War,” how he needs to make sure he’s fighting for something “after.” As his son was minutes from departing this world, Rick solemnly vowed to follow Carl’s wishes all the way through.

This past week’s episode, however, sees Rick whistling a different tune. Brutally traumatized by Carl’s death, Rick spends “The Lost and the Plunderers” very much in the same head space he’s occupied all season long. Indeed, he even fires a warning shot at Jadis (Pollyanna McIntosh) following the deaths of the Garbage People, rather than lend a helping hand, as Carl would almost certainly advise.

Rick’s unhinged nature makes itself fully known at the end of the episode, when he speaks with Negan over the radio, and gives him the news about Carl. The call is triggered by one of Carl’s last acts: before he died, he wrote letters to the people in his life, Negan included. One can imagine the content of the letter, given Carl’s final interaction with Negan in the midseason finale. Rick certainly knows what was on Carl’s mind, having read the letter himself — but whatever wisdom is inside, Rick instead decides to antagonize Negan, with Negan responding in kind.

What’s next for these two warriors, following their blood-soaked conversation? If the show is sticking to the comic book script, we know the answer: Rick and Negan eventually have another discussion about the shared future of Alexandria and the Sanctuary, about how both communities can work with one another in harmony. At the end of that same conversation, Rick overpowers Negan and throws him in a prison cell for the next several years, all while Alexandria thrives as a community.

With that said, the show has deviated so far away from the comic books (see: Carl’s death) that Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard’s original tale is hardly a reliable road map anymore, if it ever was. Here’s what we know in the context of just the show: Negan is seen in the idyllic vision of Alexandria’s future, pleasantly interacting with Judith. Is this Rick’s own vision of how he wants things to shake out for Negan? Is it a holdover of Carl’s wishes for the resolution of the war? Is it an image of something that will actually come to pass?

Given Rick’s reaction to Carl’s death — namely, that he’s currently doing the opposite of what Carl would want for him at nearly every turn — it’s likely that the vision of Negan stems from Carl’s letter to the king of the Saviors. Intriguingly enough, Negan’s pained reaction to hearing about Carl’s death (not to mention his insistent commitment to the Saviors’ genuine value in the apocalypse, as uttered previously in the episode while speaking with Steven Ogg’s Simon) strongly suggests that Carl’s hopes for the villain could pan out… assuming he’s given a chance. And let’s face it: it’s a big assumption, based on Rick’s attitude on the call, and based on his bloody future teased in the midseason premiere. 

Perhaps there will be peace for these two in the future. But before there is peace? There will be blood.

What do you think is next for Rick and Negan? Sound off in the comments section below and keep following THR.com/WalkingDead for more coverage.