Love what you do, do what you love
Who doesn’t like Negan? Jeffrey Dean Morgan just won MTV’s Best Villain Award for his portrayal of the brutal but fair dictator from The Walking Dead AMC TV series. According to a poll on Gold Derby, 76% of respondents say he’s the Best Villain of the Year.
He’s a fan-favorite, and by that I mean people love to hate him. And to watch him. This is true even more than it was with the Governor, who is my favorite TWD character. (We’re talking about the AMC TV series, by the way. I don’t like the Governor in any other incarnation besides David Morrissey‘s portrayal. I do like Negan in the graphic novels/comics, though.)
I started out loathing both the Governor and Negan. For both of those characters, I said to myself that I’d never like them, even though I usually root for the antagonist/villain. Well. That didn’t last long. The Governor was a multi-layered character with a rough past and a desire to help his people. Ah, but what about Negan?
Why do people like Negan? I’ve read a few articles. A good one is 15 Reasons Why We Love Negan From “The Walking Dead.” It breaks it down well, so I’m not going to rehash it. The reasons are some of the same reasons why I like Negan. So why do I like him? It has a lot to do with Jeffrey’s portrayal of him. He’s got charisma a politician would kill to have. He’s terrifying while also being understandable and sometimes even downright hilarious. He’s deadly but honest. Nobody keeps it more real than Negan. And most of all? He just seems to get such joy out of what he does! In a world where everybody is one container of black eyeliner and a razor blade away from being an Emo Goth, he’s having a blast. He’s not wantonly cruel, either, unlike the Joker in Batman. But maybe because he does have a flavor of the Joker about him, we find him so out of the ordinary that we can’t help be intrigued.
But this is an episode review, not a discussion about Negan. I will, however, be focusing on him, as the article title should have clued you in about. You can read other episode reviews if you wanna analyze Rick’s every twitch and Carol’s every eye roll and Carl’s every hair flip.
Note: I haven’t watched past this episode, so I can’t and won’t reference anything that happens after. I also only know as much about him as the AMC TV series tells to this point.
Negan is still waiting for Rick. In Rick’s house. With Rick’s kids. He knows how to turn normal into creepy and awkward. That said, he’s not being threatening. He’s genuinely playing the part of an visiting uncle or family friend. It’s only disturbing because you know his past. Other than a reference to Lucille being hungry, he doesn’t even make veiled threats. Heck, he even says please pass the rolls.
In another part of town, everybody’s least-favorite pretty boy is preparing to suck up to Negan. I’m frankly surprised Spencer’s lasted this long.
In other parts of the tri-county area, our regulars are working up their killing urge for Negan:
Michonne carjacks one of the Saviors, but she quickly rethinks her plan when she sees the scale of Negan’s operation. Smart. She’s learning.
Rosita and Eugene teamed up to make a suicidal plot involving her shooting Negan with a single small-caliber bullet that Eugene’s cobbled together.
Enid, Sasha, and Maggie are at the Hilltop. Sasha plots her own assassination attempt against Negan. Maggie eats pie.
Richard, one of Ezekiel’s knights, is trying to drag Morgan and Carol into fighting. The best part of all these scenes was Richard saying, “Carol, I imagine that violence and fighting is something you haven’t been a part of.” Hilarious! Even better is his acceptance of Morgan saying she’s the most capable fighter in the room.
Meanwhile, Negan is blissfully chilling on Rick’s porch with Carl. Then Spencer arrives to commence boot licking. He’s brought liquor to kick off the bad-judgement fest! He sweet talks Negan, who acts happy to see some cooperation.
Thanks to Spencer’s ingenuity, they play pool in the street. The game is a symbol for the game Negan is playing with, well, everybody.
Spencer commences trying to con Negan into killing Rick. I respect Negan here, because he sees through Spencer’s plot and calls him on his treason. While Rick is out “gettin’ shit done,” Spencer is backstabbing. Negan doesn’t care who rules, I don’t think, so long as they sort it out themselves and keep getting him his goods.
Negan also calls him out on his cowardice. With a knife. To the stomach. Turns out Spencer did have guts after all! Not anymore, though.
I know this is supposed to be a villainous move, but…it falls flat. Nobody liked Spencer in the first place. He’s screwed them over before. Now he’s trying to get Rick killed? Oh, that’s not cool. So really, Negan just spared everyone drama and trouble.
Rosita thinks this is a great time to act. You know, because everybody in town is now standing around. Don’t sneak up behind him when he’s drinking with Spencer on the porch. No, that wouldn’t be sporting!
It’s the perfect combination of crappy workmanship and equally crappy marksmanship. Result: the bullet gets stuck in Lucille. That is one seriously under-powered round. And how bad does your skill/luck have to be that you hit a 3 inch piece of wood but miss a guy who’s almost 2 feet across? The thought that one small-caliber bullet would kill him is also misguided. It might, but odds are he’ll survive long enough to order the Saviors to kill everybody.
Now, I was expecting Negan to have another “catch a tiger” scene. Or just walk up and hit a home run with her skull. Nope, he just says one of his minions should cut her face and kill somebody else. Just one person, though. Never mind that Rosita won’t tell who made the bullet and she tried to kill him. And Negan doesn’t even kill Olivia personally. At this point, we all knew Olivia was going to die soon. I was just surprised she hadn’t been murdered or eaten earlier. I’m not saying she wasn’t liked, I’m just saying it wasn’t a surprise to see her draw the short straw.
Rosita gets a cut on her face. Yep, just a cut.
Eugene goes as a prisoner of the Saviors to make bullets for them. Negan is smart; don’t kill the bullet maker, use him.
When Rick finally arrives, Negan does a great painting himself as the hero while the sheriff was out of town. And…he’s right in an objective way. He didn’t kill Carl; he babysat him and Judith instead. He made them spaghetti!
Then he took out a traitor that everyone hated. The mess with Rosita, Eugene, and Olivia was regrettable, but what’s a man to do when somebody tries to shoot him in the face? The Nazis would have wiped out the whole town. Yes, Rick and Co are still in the hole as far as resources go, and are expected to find more, but they were supposed to do that anyway.
When Negan lays it all out, it doesn’t sound that unfair, or even that villainous. He’s the occupying force, but he’s not going around randomly raping, pillaging, and plundering.
After the initial episode with Glenn and Abraham, Negan has apparently had a softening of heart. After all, Carl rolled up and shot a bunch of Saviors, and he’s still alive. In fact, Negan gave him the grand tour and sent him home fed and clean. No beatings. No face ironing. No Easy Street. Yes, yes, I know Negan had a strategic reason for that. But his threat as a big bad villain is dwindling.
So I’m left wondering: was Negan’s day trip to Alexandria a mistake for him in the long run? The more familiar people become with their bogey men, the less frightened they become. The fact that he was as fair as he was regarding Rosita (only killing one person, and that after Rosita wouldn’t tell who made the bullet) might actually backfire in the intimidation department.
What’s interesting is that it wasn’t so much what Negan did that finally convinced Rick that it’s better to die fighting than live on your knees. No, it was what his Saviors did to Aaron that seemed to make the biggest impact on Grimes. “We are Negan,” eh?
Random Mid-Season Thoughts
Oh look, it’s another mid-season finale. And is it ever long. These have gotten really old. If you’re going to break the season, say it’s the end of the season, and the seasons are just very short. As it is, these stupid tricks to get viewers artificially hyped are cheapening the story. Writers have to break with the careful build up to a powerful climax, trading it for a structure with a semi-climax at the middle, then forcing another at the end. The semi-climax steals some of the force from the actual season finale. Now you don’t have a powerful ramp up to a climax that’ll knock your socks off. Nope, now you have two watered down climaxes that kinda just make your feet itch. Then the final finale ends up deriving all its suspense from the question of “who will die?” This is getting old too, especially when favorites get killed and no one replaces them.
It’s not as if the fans won’t wait for the next season. For decades, we TV peeps have been waiting over half a year for the next season of our shows. We’re well trained now. Cutting it off in the middle of the season’s flow actually makes me less interested in the show. Honestly, if I’ll wait over a year for one episode of Sherlock, I’ll wait for a whole season of TWD.
What’s your opinion? Did Negan surprise you? Is he still as powerful a villain, or is he losing his edge? Do you like mid-season finales as a season/series structure?
Author: LC Champlin
About me: Writer, traveler, adventurer, prepper. Lover of all things Geek and Dark. INTJ. I share my experiences because they can help you adapt, advance, and achieve.
I write fiction because the characters in my head have too much attitude to stay in my skull, I want to see the world through different eyes, and I want to live life through different souls.