Oh, Negan... how do we love, er, loathe thee? Let us count the ways! Although, if we're really being honest with ourselves, there's more love to go around for The Walking Dead's bad boy these days than we care to admit. After all, it's not like he's the worst villain on TV.
There are examples past and present of TV villains so vile that they simply lack enough humility for fans to find any redeeming quality about them — think The Wire's Marlo Stanfield, Game of Thrones' Joffrey Baratheon, Breaking Bad's Gus Fring... these characters are easy to hate.
Why is it so hard to completely write off Negan despite the fact that he is nefarious?
None of us will ever forget that he took Glenn and Abe from us, because we're still not over it. We may never be over it. It was Glenn, you guys. That's a hard pill to swallow and it ain't going down anytime soon. Negan is sadistic AF, and we're all now acutely aware of it.
But something strange has happened since Negan arrived on The Walking Dead scene. A shift has occurred somewhere along the way, where we've gone from impatiently waiting for someone to kill Negan off to hoping that he ekes out a few more seasons.
So how do we love TWD's resident big bad? Let us count the ways.
Although the character is based on jack-of-all-trades entertainer Henry Rollins, we can't say we're mad that Jeffrey Dean Morgan was tapped to bring the bad guy to life on screen. Morgan plays the part with such... panache.
Does he survive by horrible, awful, no-good, oppressive means? Er, yes. But the raw truth about Negan is that he's the cockroach of the zombocalypse — you get the sense that everything else around him could go nuclear, and somehow Negan would manage to hang on for dear life. In his interactions with others, it's readily apparent he doesn't view himself as a villain. He sees himself as a man who has done whatever he has to do to survive. I mean, damn, he was a PE teacher and a car salesman before. That's quite a transformation.
Despite the fact that Negan did imprison and torture both Daryl and Sasha, he also respected them. He pretty much told Sasha that to her face. And even though he probably wasn't pleased when she took Eugene's suicide pill so she could leap out of the coffin walker-fied and try to eat Negan, I like to think he respected the way she used her last moments to play him. Negan has also had numerous opportunities to take Lucille to Rick's skull, yet he has refrained because he sees Rick as a foil.
It seems counterintuitive that Negan would have a soft spot for anyone, but he's got one for Carl. If you read the comic series, you know that the villain really takes Carl under his wing. And even after he eventually falls from power, he still maintains a connection with Rick's kid. It makes it a little easier to imagine that in another life — the one before everyone turned into zombies — he may actually have had a heart and used it to empathize with others.
Make no mistake: Negan is a bad, bad dude. Here's the thing about him, though — he makes no apologies or excuses for it. He just comes right out with everything and lays it all out on the table. In some ways, it's one of the things you hate most about Negan. If he says he is going to kill someone or that there will be consequences, well, he's a man of his word. On the other hand, it's kinda nice to always know exactly where things stand with Negan.
We all love Rick, but he'd gotten to a point where he was basically coasting. He wasn't the dynamic character we'd known in early seasons. In fact, he had started to get a little predictable (as much as we hate to say so). Negan coming onto the scene and taking away some of the people Rick loved the most added a new depth to our beloved leader. He had to suffer through intense vulnerability, and he came out on the other side of it scrappier than ever
It may not have always seemed like it at some points this season, but The Walking Dead has experienced significant growth since Negan came onto the scene. I mean, think back... can you really remember the season or so prior to his arrival? Like it or not, TWD needed Negan to move it forward — to shake loose more suspense and to help our favorite character grow. Life without Negan would be boring.
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