The Walking Dead's Jeffrey Dean Morgan Explains Negan's Big Decision In Season 11's Winter Premiere

Negan standing in the woods on The Walking Dead
(Image credit: AMC)

Spoilers below for anyone who hasn’t yet watched the latest episode of The Walking Dead Season 11, so be warned!

The post-Super Bowl weekend marked the TV return of AMC’s The Walking Dead, which is kicking off the second eight-episode stretch of its eleventh and final season. The winter premiere, titled “No Other Way,” featured what was essentially the defeat of the polarizing villain group The Reapers, with Lynn Collins’ Leah being allowed to go off on her own after the other survivors were offed by Maggie. Leah wasn’t the only one making a presumed temporary departure, though, as the episode ended with Negan taking his own leave of absence after making it seem as if he might murder Maggie as a way to dissipate their ongoing tension.

Having helped Maggie, Daryl & Co. survive their back-and-forth with the Reapers and ever-present walker threats, Negan definitely wasn’t fooled into thinking he would once again be accepted into the larger community while Maggie was still around. And so, after they returned to Alden to find that he’d died in the interim, Negan told Maggie he wasn’t giving her a chance to impulsively break her word in saying they’re square, and he would just be heading out on his own instead. Jeffrey Dean Morgan offered an explanation for Negan’s choice to leave, saying this to Insider

It's not ever gonna be over. And I think him leaving is sort of the only way that anyone's gonna find peace.

While living with Alexandria and other communities’ sub-luxuries may be ostensibly better than being out on one’s own amidst an increasingly depopulated planet, Negan clearly weighed that option against “living eternally opposite Maggie’s hate-filled glares” and decided a farewell made more sense. Perhaps if he’d had a bunch of really close friends to support him, instead of a minimal smattering, it would have been worth the discomfort, but no, especially not after seeing Maggie’s more ruthless nature of late.

It’s definitely worth noting that Negan also took a long-term sabbatical in the comics around this point in the timeline, except in the source material, he was only able to do so after Maggie decided not to kill him. Things obviously played out slightly differently in the TV series, and we can probably expect the future to also have a different turnout, considering Negan didn’t show up again in full on the page until the post-ending special Negan Lives.

Thankfully, we already know that Negan will show up again in Season 11, thanks to the look-forward trailer that was released in January. In the preview, Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s reformed villain can be seen alongside an unidentified character we haven’t met before. While he wasn’t able to say much about this new face, and wasn’t even entirely sure what he was able to say ahead of time, Morgan confirmed that he will not be alone when fans see him again, saying:

I can tell you that Negan's gonna walk off and when he reappears, he's gonna have a mysterious friend with him. We will find out more then.

Check out the trailer below, which features a shot of Negan and the aforementioned mystery woman, who we now know for sure is a “friend” of some kind. 

 One of many TV shows ending this year, The Walking Dead is back at it, with Season 11's middle eight episodes airing Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. While waiting to see where things go next, and whether or not Andrew Lincoln will be involved, head to our 2022 TV premiere schedule to keep up with all the other new and returning shows cropping up in primetime and beyond.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.