Today marks exactly four years since The Walking Dead introduced its most popular comic villain, a charismatic bat-wielding narcissist named Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).
For those who followed the comics prior to Negan’s first appearance in season 6’s finale “Last Day on Earth,” Negan’s appearance was an anxiously-awaited and uncomfortable moment because it meant that someone would die in his infamous lineup of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his crew. After a season-long lead-up to Negan’s followers – the Saviors – capturing the group, they finally brought him the people he’d been waiting for. He walked out of a trailer in the final few minutes of the finale with his trusty sidekick Lucille, a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire, and delivered his comic book speech almost verbatim. Soon after, he brought Lucille down on someone’s head, though the camera cleverly switched to their point of view so as to disguise who his choice was, and then the episode ended.
Unfortunately, fans hoping to see who Negan killed were forced to wait a full year for season 7’s tense and devastating premiere, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be,” where they were finally shown that it was Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) who had been Negan’s victim instead of Glenn (Steven Yeun), who suffered the deadly fate in the comics. But before they could finish sighing in relief that the fan-favorite was still alive, Daryl (Norman Reedus) took a swing at Negan, prompting him to turn and slam Lucille on Glenn as a form of retaliation. The gruesome images of the heartbreaking death will forever be etched in the minds of fans.
After the show dragged out the Alexandria and Saviors conflict for two more seasons, things finally wrapped up at the end of season 8 with Rick slicing Negan’s throat before ordering his people to save him. Now, the following two seasons have seen Negan on a path to redemption as he seeks to atone for his past and become a part of the society he once tried to put an end to, even going so far as to kill season 10’s main villain, Alpha (Samantha Morton), and present her head to Carol (Melissa McBride).
Time will tell if Alexandria as a whole can ever forgive Negan for his brutal actions of the past that led to so many deaths and broken families, but if there’s one thing The Walking Dead usually excels at, it’s finding ways to humanize even the most awful of people. Hopefully, we’ll get a little bit more information on what’s next for Negan in this Sunday’s episode “The Tower,” which is currently planned as the final outing until later in the year due to the season 10 finale suffering production delays because of the COVID-19 coronavirus.