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The Season 6 finale of The Walking Dead finally introduced new bad guy Negan. He's only had one scene so far, but that one scene is more than enough to indicate that he's going to have an epic reign of terror for however long he's on the show. Now, it looks like Negan's reign of terror is going to last a long time for Rick and Co. Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been signed on as a regular for Season 7, along with three cast members who were previously billed as recurring. Austin Amelio will be back as Negan's minion Dwight, Xander Berkely will reprise the role of Hilltop leader Gregory, and Tom Payne's Jesus has also moved up in status.
Judging by these four new regulars, the clash between the Saviors and the surrounding settlements won't be coming to an end anytime soon. The additions bring the regular cast member count up to a whopping twenty, according to THR. The Season 6 finale saw one of the current regulars on the verge of receiving a face full of Negan's baseball bat Lucille, so that number will probably shrink by one early in Season 7. With Negan (and Lucille) sticking around, the number will probably drop even more as the episodes pass.
It's not a huge surprise that Negan will be taking a major role in The Walking Dead for at least Season 7. The character is still alive, kicking, and killing in the Walking Dead comic series after more than 50 issues of violence, and it was unlikely that the show would waste such a skilled actor on such an iconic role by killing him off early or only showing him occasionally. Frankly, the show locking down Jeffrey Dean Morgan for Season 7 bodes well for everything about the Savior storyline.
The Walking Dead hasn't had a properly scary villain stick around for a while now. The Governor was the most effectively evil to date thanks to his terrorizing ways in Seasons 3 and 4, but that's been pretty much it for long-running bad guys. The cannibals from Terminus showed promise, especially after the Season 4 cliffhanger, but Season 5 ended the Terminus story early on. The biggest human threat before the Saviors came on the scene were the Wolves, which... were more of a drag than anything else. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's promotion to regular means that The Walking Dead will be delivering on the build of the Saviors from Season 6 rather than sending Negan and his crew the way of the Wolves.
For those of us who are craving spoilers by this point in the hiatus between Seasons 6 and 7, it would have been nice if any of the actors who have been confirmed as regulars for Season 7 were characters who were candidates for the big death. Jesus, Dwight, and Gregory were all safe from Negan and Lucille in the Season 6 cliffhanger. Assuming that Daryl survives Lucille, he could be in for a rough time courtesy of the grudge-holding Dwight and a possible comics plot with Negan. Maggie wasn't looking so great when last seen, but the fact that Gregory will be around more in Season 7 may mean that she hasn't been executed by Negan. Jesus mixed things up in a good way for Rick and Co. in Season 6; more Jesus in Season 7 can only mean good things.
We still have a while before we get to see Jeffrey Dean Morgan and the other three new regular actors in action again. Check out our breakdown of what we know so far about The Walking Dead Season 7 for a look ahead.