Potential Spoiler Alert

Like the entirety of The Walking Dead’s fans, I was left stunned when the credits rolled on the hotly anticipated season 6 finale. Rick and his group had not only been captured by the Savours, but they had met the most infamous villain in The Walking Dead universe; Negan. As anyone who has read the comics will know, Negan is a brutally macabre character who’ll not only terminate countless amounts of people with his trusty barbed-wire coated baseball bat named after his deceased wife, Lucille, he’ll do so with a strangely endearing smile on his face. The question was, would Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan live up to the comic’s version? – Well, anyone who watched the season finale have their answer; make no mistake, The Walking Dead television series hasn’t seen the likes of him before, and we’re all the better for it.

As Negan devilishly went about picking who was to be exterminated in the season 6 cliff-hanger, he resorted to a simple, but effective, system; ‘eeny meeny miny moe’. If Rick’s group weren’t fully aware yet of what they were dealing with, they were now. As Negan smiled and told the group that their sole purpose in life was to give him work as well as ‘their shit’, he also stated that someone was going to die that night. He was a man of his word, and old-trusty Abraham was first to feel the wraith of Lucille as Negan bludgeoned a much-loved character over and over – TWD is a gruesome show, but never has a much-loved character been so visually annihilated as this before. Negan meant business. Yet, even I, an avid reader of the comics, was left shocked by what transpired only moments later. Having made it crystal clear to Rick’s group that he now owned them, Negan – seemingly randomly – introduced Lucille to perhaps the most popular TWD character – Glenn. Again, what transpired was a brutal execution performed by a man who is as charismatic as he is abhorrent. Rick, having just borne witness to two of his friends being brutally dispatched and being psychologically battered and bruised by Negan’s mind games had come to realise that he was no longer the leader any more. As season 7’s pilot episode concluded, one thing became apparent; this season belongs to Negan.

Episode 2 shifted focus towards another aspect of life within TWD, however, episodes 3 and 4 really honed in on Negan – and they, along with all four episodes were Negan plays a prominent role, were amongst the best episodes in TWD’s history. Negan hadn’t ‘merely’ killed two of Rick’s friends, he had obliterated them right in front of him and taken his right hand-man, and another extremely popular character, Darryl, prisoner, in a further effort to quell any possible retaliation that Rick may have otherwise planned.

The Walking Dead

Negan of The Walking Dead, an altogether tragically unstable man with a bat.

Episode 3 showed Darryl’s struggle. Locked up in an impossibly confined dark room with insufferably loud music blaring, Darryl luckily – or so he thought – managed to escape his prison cell only to be ultimately caught by Negan and his crew. As he’s addressing Darryl, Negan points to the fact that his entire crew are ‘Negan’ and so he’s ‘everywhere’ making any escape seem a near impossibility. Indeed, Negan goes on to note that if not for Darryl’s breakout attempt, his life would ‘have gotten so much better!’. One must assume that Negan was the one who instructed his men to leave Darryl’s door unlocked to test whether he understood the chain of command. He didn’t, and Negan takes no prisoners (other than in the literal sense). The entire episode focused on giving the audience an insight into what life under Negan rule looks like. It looks like this; if you follow his command and accept that he is the dominant and only leader, you’ll do just fine (in an apocalyptic morally reprehensible kind of way) or you don’t accept the aforementioned and you either end up working for Negan ‘as a dead man’ or in a capacity wherein you’d wish you were dead. The choice, as Negan put it, seemed simple, yet Darryl, being the utterly fearless ‘tough guy’ that he is, refused to say the following words; ‘I am Negan’ and for that, his future looks bleak under such a tyrannical dictator.

TWD really made their point with Negan, nobody was in any doubt as to who the new sheriff was yet in episode 5, they went for the jugular once more. In episode 1, Negan had promised Rick that he would visit the groups settlement, Alexandria, to take half of their valuables. He did just that, and left with lots more than just valuables – as Negan puts it; ‘half is what I say it is’. As Negan came waltzing through the gates of Alexandria, he told Rick, with a typical smile across his face, that he was early as he ‘missed’ him. Negan paraded Darryl around Rick like a beast. He was chained, told not to speak and to do whatever Negan commanded. He was unrecognisable from previous seasons. Had Negan broke him? Maybe, but as of right now, it is Rick, who seems the most damaged. As Negan readied to leave Alexandria following a successful pillage, he had now killed two of his friends, taken one hostage, taken all Rick’s group’s guns and half their goods and valuables. Not only this, but Rick was more or less forced to thank him for doing the aforementioned right as Negan left Alexandria. If Rick isn’t broken, I don’t know what broken is.

So, with season 7 of TWD well upon us now, fans are being treated to the most sinister and disturbing antagonist that the show has ever seen, by an extraordinary distance. The Governor, the previous ‘bad-guy’ was indeed brutal, but in comparison to Negan, he was positively normal. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has provided a boost for a show that, despite remaining as popular as ever, was beginning to follow a rather stale formula season after season. With Negan, stale doesn’t come into it. He may be a brutal, abhorrent dictator, but he’s also the most intriguing character in TWD right now, and for that, fans should be happy.

Ger Ball