This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead up to the season 7 mid-season finale.
Recently, a variant cover for a #TWD comic has sparked the interest of readers and caused a stir. As we know, Negan has our favourite rag-tag group of survivors (including #Rick) under his control for now. But, as the various different survivors' colonies are co-operating, #Negan's reign won't last long. But we are left with one big question - when he is dethroned, who will take his place? In this post, I will speculate and breakdown possibilities on who Negan's successor will be, when he will die, and who will kill him.
There are six major contenders for taking over the leadership role that Negan currently holds. Dwight (far right) would be the obvious choice out of these. Purely because he is Negan's second in command, he would probably be chosen by the Saviors. He would probably take lead over the Saviors if Negan dies or is captured but would not if the Alexandrian group (or Hilltop, Kingdom, and Amazonian groups) take over.
Next in line is Rick (far left). The leader of the #Saviors' biggest group of 'employees' (as far as we know) and the holder of plot convenience, Rick is my pick out of these. Daryl (middle right) is the underdog of the Saviors and currently suffering the worst out of the Alexandria group. He would seem to be being set up to be a major part of the plot, otherwise, we would not have seen so much into his story in the last half of Season 7. Michonne (middle left), who is next up, would probably only take lead if Rick dies (not impossible but as I said earlier, he has plot convenience on his side) but is still a likely candidate if this doesn't happen (she would also be TWD's first female leader with a big role).
The next two are Jesus and Ezekiel. These two would probably take lead if Rick's crew help to dethrone Negan but then proceed to either leave or just live solitarily in Alexandria (which is rather unlikely). Though Jesus is unlikely, he is worth a place on this list because he is obviously aspiring to a leadership role in the show - though probably just taking over from the current leader of the 'Hilltop group' - he could be sizing up for Negan's role. Ezekiel is currently in charge of the most peaceful and successful group of survivors, he is also a fan favourite (mostly because of #Shiva, his pet tiger) and everyone in the show seems to be on good terms with him, even the Saviors. I would say the two most likely to take over from Negan are Ezekiel or Rick (Rick being the most likely).
Not only is Rick the show's main character and leader, but he also has a lot of control over the people that follow him (though there are some exceptions). He also is the one that seems to be organising the uprising. To add to this, a variant cover for the #WalkingDead #Comics episode 163, 'Conquered', shows Rick in Negan's jacket and belt, wielding Lucille (below).
It doesn't really make sense that this cover would be released unless it is teasing something to come in either the comics or show. Though it could just be a publicity stunt to tide fans over until Season 7 Part 2, I think this is unlikely because it was released on the same day as 14 teaser images that seem to tease deaths and action (check them out here) and would have been publicised more by AMC. The scenes in Season 7 when Rick is forced to carry Lucille for Negan could also be foreshadowing to this coming true. I think it would be very interesting to see Rick wield Lucille as his own.
When Will Negan Be Beaten?
We know that he will not be killed or dethroned until after Season 7 because in an interview Jeffrey Dean Morgan (who plays Negan) said:
“I know I will be on board for Season 8”
This means that Season 7 Part 2 will probably be centered around the various communities banding together and organising the uprising and Negan will not be dethroned until #Season8. This season, as always, will probably end on a cliffhanger, all of the communities fully in co-operation and Season 8 will probably climax, midseason, with a full-out war between the Saviors and the Communities. Negan will probably die at this point and the rest of the season will follow the aftermath of the war and a new leader taking over.
Who Will Do The Honors?
The characters most likely to kill Negan are Carl, Rick, Michonne, and Shiva (in that order). Shiva killing Negan would be really awesome and would be a fan-pleaser but is not all that likely. Michonne being the killer would make sense because she has not really had any major effect on the plot yet and this would be a perfect opening. Rick killing him would continue the incredibly predictable pattern that The Walking Dead seems to rely on (though that is now being broken) and would lead perfectly on so that Rick could take over. Carl, the most likely killer, has had a rivalry with Negan since his introduction and would easily be stupid enough to do it when it is not safe and strong enough to do it when it is needed.
Carl will kill Negan roughly halfway through Season 8 and Rick will either take charge or hand the mantle over to Ezekiel.
I hope you liked this theory and let me know what you think in the comments. Be sure to check out my movie/book review blog at Readers of the Lost Arc, my theory on why Iron Man will die in 'Avengers: Infinity War' or other posts here.