Season 6 of The Walking Dead is aiming to blow fans away (as well as some characters), and we already have a decent grasp on the broad strokes of where the story is going and who the new characters are. While we were hoping that the biggest bad guy in the comics would rear his expletive-spewing head at some point, we didn’t really expect to see Negan appear in the show just yet. But now showrunner Scott Gimple has us scratching our heads with barbed wire by saying that it may happen.

No stranger to the rampant fan speculation that has attached itself to The Walking Dead over the past five years, Gimple knows that dangling bait like Negan will just create more of a fervor, and yet he did it anyway, saying this of a Negan appearance in Season 6:
It’s absolutely a possibility. And when I say it’s a possibility, we have a plan in place, but there’s a couple variables for that plan that we’re deciding about. It really depends on a few factors as we move into setting up the last bit of the season story-wise.

Arrgh! If there is one bit of silver lining to this not-quite-confirmation, it’s that audiences shouldn’t have to worry about seeking Negan out at any point before the midseason break, since Gimple says it’s the last bit of the season that they’re still trying to map out. My guess is that we’ll get introduced to the hopefully incredible Paul “Jesus” Monroe somewhere just before the season’s midpoint, and his effect on Rick and the survivors will be explored when the series returns in the beginning of 2016. And then maybe Negan could arrive in the last episode, or possibly even the last shot of the season, letting fans know that the Alexandrians are headed down a rougher road than ever before.

I’d love to know what part of the storyline Gimple & Co. are working on that plays into the decision on whether Negan shows up or not. Maybe something happening in the Hilltop Colony? Maybe the zombie hordes will be more dangerous than we thought, keeping these characters fearing for their lives for an extended period? I could do this all day.

There’s something comforting about this creative team not wanting to rush through things just to get to Negan, as they seem to be aiming for strategy over fan-service on that front. Kirkman also spoke with EW about bringing Negan in – something that he’d previously said might not happen for ages – and says they’re being careful with how they handle such an iconic comic force.
When it comes to characters like The Governor, Michonne, Abraham, and others like Jesus and Negan who are fan-favorite characters in the comics, it’s always a challenge to get it right because it’s those characters—much like Rick Grimes in the beginning—that fans already have a sense of and expectations for. So we’re always careful, and I feel like we’ve done a really good job servicing those fan expectations. Hopefully that trend will continue…if the characters you mention are to appear soon.

Gah, if even Kirkman doesn’t sound like he’s lying, then we might actually get our first glimpse of Negan before Season 7 shambles around. Wouldn’t it be great if the very first shot of this next season was Negan tending to his garden? No? That’s just me? Okay. The Walking Dead will return to AMC this fall starting on Sunday, October 11.

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