For ten+ years, I have been a loyal fan of The Walking Dead. I have trudged through some of the worst deaths to make my way here. I have smiled through the most heartwarming moments, and I have somehow, someway, done it all without losing interest in the show despite it constantly being about the same thing - evil humans and walkers.
But I’ve come to realize why, and that’s because of one man - Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who popped up on our TV screens and broke our The Walking Dead minds at the tail end of Season 6. Now, with The Walking Dead Season 11 upon us as part of the 2021 fall TV schedule, I knew I needed to talk about this man and give him the honor he deserves, as one of the best characters that we can watch on TV right now.
And obviously, a big old SPOILER WARNING is needed.
Negan Is A Morally Gray Man Who Isn’t Quite Good Or Quite Bad At This Point On The Walking Dead
One of the many things I love about Negan on The Walking Dead is that he’s just morally gray. At first in Season 6, he was presented to us as a villain, this evil man who murdered Glenn and Abraham, and was planning on taking over the communities by taking all their stuff.
As the series goes on, however, we start to learn that Negan isn’t all that one-dimensional. He’s not just this evil man that wants to take over people for the sake of power. As we found out at the end of Season 10, he didn’t just make the Saviors because he wanted to take over. He was trying to keep his wife alive and a series of bad situations led to him creating the group. Over time, he gained respect from his group members, becoming the leader.
But back in Season 7, when Negan was still perceived as the villain, he still had his morals. He never allowed rape in the Savior compound, and tried to make sure that people there were treated fairly, despite him being a brutal killer. He’s a very complex man with a strange set of moral rules, but that’s what makes him so compelling in the first place.
Even in Season 10, when he helps Carol defeat Alpha, there’s quite a bit of questioning to see if he’d actually do it after everything he had been through, but he does. That creates a very compelling character.
As A Leader, Negan Did Actually Listen To What People Had To Say
I think one of my favorite parts about Negan is that he wasn’t a dictator when he was a leader, although he very well could have been. While he’s not a leader now in any way shape or form at Alexandria, during his time with the Saviors, he did actually give a crap about what his men had to say, and valued people’s skills.
For example, while Eugene was acting as a double agent during the entirety of Season 8 against the Saviors, we didn’t know that as viewers until the very end. However, while Eugene was there, Negan valued his skills. He valued what he had to bring to the table. He didn’t just order him to start building stuff or else he died.
Would there be consequences if he didn’t? Of course there would - there always are in situations like this. But at the same time, Negan still saw what Eugene could do for them and listened to what people had to say.
Negan Has A Sympathetic Side Towards Children
While Negan in The Walking Dead has a lot of people he hates - and I mean a lot of people - he always cares about children. He cares about the safety of them, and believes that they shouldn’t have to deal with the world that is being pushed upon them. Two great examples of this are both his relationships with Carl and Judith Grimes.
Carl is a more complex relationship, because Carl did despise the man just as anyone did from Alexandria at the time. But Negan actually admired Carl. He admired that the kid wasn’t afraid to confront him and try and kill him, saying that he had major balls to do so. Even when Carl is bit and dies, you can visibly see that Negan is upset by this. He never meant for any children to get hurt, especially Carl.
Later on, years down the line when Judith is older, you can see this relationship building between Judith and Negan. Obviously, she isn't dumb. She knows what Negan has done in the past. But she sees past that and constantly talks to him, and he talks back, creating a fun dynamic between the two, despite him not being the biggest fan of all the adults there. He even helps her with her homework - I mean, how can you not love him?
And this is continued at the very end of Season 9 when Negan saves Judith - and Dog - from the crazy blizzard that happened, showing that while he's made horrible decisions, he still wants to try and make up for it, and that begins with his compassion towards children.
Negan Realizes The Error Of His Ways Over Time, And Isn’t Stuck In The Past
One of my favorite episodes of The Walking Dead is “Here’s Negan,” the final episode of Season 10, showing Negan’s backstory. This episode is a key part in Negan’s character arc, because it proves, yet again, that Negan is not stuck in the past.
He knows what he’s done wrong. He knows that he made bad decisions and that he has to atone for them. But what makes this even better is that he moves on from his past entirely - even burning his beloved bat that he named after his dead wife, Lucille. This in my eyes was him coming to peace with his past.
He was constantly haunted by the image of his deceased wife, of the people that he killed, of everything, but now, this was his chance to finally move on and become a better version of who he was - at least by a little bit. And then, he returns to Alexandria, accepting whatever fate is coming for him.
It’s the perfect way to show that he’s not Negan from the Saviors anymore. He even got rid of one of the most iconic things about him - his bat - to show it. He’s just Negan. Not good, not bad, just a guy who had to just survive somehow.
But Negan Is Still Negan On The Walking Dead - And With That, He’s Still Cocky
Even so, Negan on The Walking Dead is still Negan. He’s still kind of an asshole who cracks jokes and acts cocky. Even when he was trying to attempt to get on people’s good side, he still made jokes that probably would make them not so happy, because that’s just who he is.
We see this perfectly at the end of Season 10 when Negan comes back to Alexandria. He walks in and sees Maggie glaring at him - the wife of the deceased Glenn - but he only smirks back. For someone who wants to try and stay alive, usually you wouldn’t do that, but he’s Negan. He’s not like everyone else.
He knows he’s walking on thin ice there, and knows the consequences of his actions. He’s tried his best to prove his worth. But at the same time, he’s not going to let that deter him from being who he is - a cocky man with a killer swing. And truly, I can’t wait to see more of that with the group in Season 11 of The Walking Dead.
Out of all the character relationships on The Walking Dead, I think I’m going to miss Negan and his bat the most. Regardless, with this being the final season of this iconic zombie show (at least until the spinoff with Daryl and Carol comes out), I’m going to be watching with bated breath to see where Negan goes from here, and what enemies he might get to smash down next. He was one of the best villains, but he's also one of the best characters too.
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Big nerd and lover of Game of Thrones/A Song of Ice and Fire. Will forever hate season eight. Superhero and horror geek. And please don't debate me on The Last of Us 2, it was amazing!