HUGE SPOILER ALERT: Major plotlines for both The Walking Dead comic books and Season 7 are discussed here.
The Walking Dead Season 7 has only just premiered, but already it has a much darker tone than any of its previous seasons ever did. What's more, The Walking Dead's new villain has gone above and beyond what any of us could ever have fathomed. Comic book fans may have an idea about Negan's fate, but this Negan is much more wicked and sadistic than he appeared to be back when he was first introduced in Season 6 finale.
Could this mean that The Walking Dead producers have a whole different Negan from the comics planned for the show? Let's take a look and find out!
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What Is Negan Like In The Comics?
The introduction of Negan in the comics marked a turning point, making him out to be not just Rick's next nemesis, but also a reset button for a whole new plot in The Walking Dead. In Robert Kirkman's comics, Negan is this well-groomed, charismatic and seemingly sympathetic villain; one that constantly tries to make Rick and the gang understand his reasons for doing all the bad and twisted things that he does.
It's almost as if he tutors Rick in how to be a different leader — somewhat like Shane tried to do back in the first two seasons of the show — and, in doing so, he actually uncovers a whole new side of Rick. Through Negan's combination of committing terrible acts & having seemingly justified reasons for doing so, Rick finally understands what kind of leader he has to be. In order to actually create a community that will eventually grow and prosper, Negan's ways teach Rick that the time has come for them to no longer be "the walking dead" - they have to start building civilization back up again.
The old Rick would have killed Negan and chopped him in a million tiny pieces. So, as a testament to his changed ways, the 'new' Rick decides to keep Negan locked up in Alexandria Safe Zone, as the first ever post-apocalypse prisoner.
Negan's First Impression On The Show
Negan was the hype of pretty much all the back half of last season, with each episode giving Rick and his Survivors more and more insight into who this mysterious evil man actually was. In Episode 8, Daryl, Abraham and Sasha met a group of Saviors who bluntly told them that their "property belonged to Negan" but, as Abraham so brilliantly put it, they had no idea whatsoever who this Negan was.
The build up continued with Jesus and the Hilltop. On their first trip into the new colony, Rick and some members of his group found out that Negan had ordered Gregory, the Hilltop leader, to be executed. Jesus also explained that Negan liked to make his point clear "right off the bat" by killing someone. Then, in 'The Same Boat', Carol and Maggie discovered that the Saviors "are all Negan", which made it clear that Negan was actually viewed as an active and feared leader.
By the time the Survivors actually met Negan in the finale, Rick knew he was up against someone with an entirely new approach, and who was powerful because he was a leader others willingly followed. Then, Negan gave his eeny-meeny-miny-moe speech and, although it was clear that something really bad was coming, he managed to be a somewhat relatable guy — as a leader who was doing what needed to be done to keep his people safe.
Does Negan Resent That Cliffhanger?
It would appear Negan got tired of waiting to use Lucille — pretty much like we all did — and has come back this season with a vengeance. The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere took Negan's objectiveness and ruthlessness a little bit too far. His skills as a motivational speaker were perfectly demonstrated, as was his assertion of his leadership — as he proved with his "right hand man" Simon time and again — but he was much more foul than his Season 6 and comics book counterpart. The worst part is that it wasn't just that he killed two Survivors instead of his usual one, but that he was way too sadistic in doing it.
The whole thing with Rick's ax and demanding that he cut Carl's arm off was borderline beastly, even if he did that to prove a point. He needed Rick to bow down and submit completely and, as Michonne put it, they all got it right at the first head smashing, but still Negan went as far as he could. He managed to break not just Rick's mental state, but also his spirit into a million little pieces.
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What Does It All Mean?
The possibility that Rick could opt for locking Negan up indefinitely instead of killing him is now long gone. He bashed in Abe's and Glenn's heads, he made Rick his bitch by asking him to fetch his axe, he took Daryl as a pet, he almost chopped Carl's arm off and he squashed any dream of happiness and peace Rick might still be holding on to. That means that, moving forward, Negan might face a much different fate in the show than he did in the comics, with a horrible death being a pretty safe bet.
Plot-wise, this means that many of Negan's actions post-imprisonment might not come to pass in the series after all. Of course Gimple and his gang are more than capable of a 360 where Negan is concerned, and of shoving him down our throats as the redemption-worthy guy they want him to be, but right now that's pretty unlikely. Someone who does get a much better chance at forgiveness because Negan overplayed his ruthlessness is Dwight. Until now, he's the one responsible for screwing up Daryl in every possible way but, considering Dwight and Daryl will now be roommates and spend some quality time together, maybe Dwight will come out of it all as the lesser of two evils.
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At any rate, the season is just taking off and there will be plenty of new worlds, characters and emotional moments to go through until the finale next year. For now, Negan is simply the stronger leader, the man that broke Rick Grimes and our hearts in "seven strikes or so"; whether he'll end up serving as an inspiration to make Rick a better leader, or do his worst and be killed off by an 8-month pregnant Maggie is yet to be seen. What? It could happen!
Check out next's week promo above, and let me know in the comments what could Negan possibly do to earn YOUR forgiveness.