The reign of Negan hasn't let up on The Walking Dead since his introduction, no matter how much the other characters (and viewers) might want him gone. He's stubbornly impossible to kill, which is made even clearer by the fact that clues Negan dies on The Walking Dead are pretty much nonexistent. The show may tease his demise and play coy about it from time to time, but Negan's essentially bulletproof. Quite literally, he's been shot at more than once and still ended up without a scratch.
For example, back in Season 7, Negan found his way into a few dangerous situations. When he visited Alexandria, Rosita used the only bullet she had to take aim at him, but he deflected it with his barbed-wire wrapped bat like he was in a Batman cartoon. Lucille got a nick, but no blood was shed. Similarly, when Carl hid in one of the Saviors' trucks and full-on opened fire, Negan was totally fine. If anything, the clues seem to be stacking up that Negan is actually immortal.
Compare Negan to someone like dearly departed Glenn: fans knew his death was coming because he died in the comics, so the show piled on the foreshadowing. At Terminus Glenn was almost hit in the head with a baseball bat, which was how he died in the comics. Then, just weeks before Negan killed him, Glenn had a fake-out death intended to throw the audience off his upcoming demise. All of it was incredibly heavy-handed, and was presented in a totally different way than Negan's near-death experiences.
Back in the Season 7 premiere, Rick promised that he was going to kill Negan. At first, that may have sounded like a guarantee, but it could actually have been a sign that the opposite would happen; a clue in reverse, so to speak. Rick has been so hell-bent on taking Negan out that the only way for this storyline to end in a surprise is for him to spare Negan's life. That has been upheld by the show's resistance in killing Negan whenever a reasonable opportunity arises: every character who tries fails, no matter how little sense it makes.
That's partially explained by the fact that Negan is still alive in the current run of The Walking Dead comics. When the final battle reached its most critical moment, Rick chose to imprison Negan instead of killing him. It seems like the show intends to follow its source material, which means it has to keep Negan alive for the foreseeable future to make whatever point about forgiveness it's trying to make. It started setting up its mercy theme over the last few seasons, when Morgan and Carol both had changes of heart about perpetrating more violence in an already violent world.
The concept of mercy has become a big part of the conversation on the show, and it's likely to come up again in a major way. The characters have always been concerned about losing themselves to their darker instincts, but the line between right and wrong has been getting blurrier than ever lately. Rick's all about vengeance in Season 8, but hints that Negan may live are also hints that he could be moving down a more merciful path. If the show wants to prove that Rick has let go of his desire for bloodshed at any cost, then one way for him to do that is to let his nemesis live.
It won't be the most satisfying resolution, but it seems to be where the story is going. Morgan's trauma over killing, Carl's newfound kindness to strangers, Jesus' insistence in letting Saviors live: they're hardly concrete bits of evidence, but when put together they seem to indicate that The Walking Dead is trying to move towards more peaceful solutions. If that's the case, then Negan might just make it out alive.
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