When “The Walking Dead’s” Season 6 finale came to a close, it was with an impact unlike any the show has ever experienced. Newly minted big bad Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) brought a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat crushing down on somebody’s head, obliterating one of our surviving heroes.
It’s the scariest entrance any “The Walking Dead” adversary has made yet and it’s incredibly fitting, given how dark and demented the character will prove to be based on what we know from the comics. Negan is merciless. He doesn’t feel, he just kills and maims to gather power and ensure his own survival and that of his followers.
That’s why it’s important that, at a certain point, the TV show deviate from the comic book canon. Because eventually in the graphic novels, Negan loses his edge and ceases being the incredible character he’s been built up to be.
If you don’t read the comics and don’t want to be spoiled, this is definitely where you should check out as we are going to dive into spoilers for creator Robert Kirman’s books which could end up becoming an outline for future seasons of “The Walking Dead.”
In the comics, Negan is eventually defeated by Rick and — surprisingly — isn’t immediately killed. Instead, Rick throws him in jail where he intends to let him sit until he dies of old age. That, by itself, is a strange way to handle the most dangerous threat any of the survivors have ever faced.
How could Rick — or any of the survivors — let the man who brutally murdered their own survive? Not only is that not justice in the show’s world, it’s simply not the way anybody on “The Walking Dead” operates when it comes to their opposition. From Gareth, to the Governor, to the Wolves, to Shane, to even little Lizzie — they all ended up dead.
And none of them are more dangerous than Negan.
But the strange turn in the story didn’t end there. Because Negan didn’t stay in jail. Instead, he eventually earns a bit of good grace with Rick, who allows him out of his cell to fight with the survivors in their next major war — against a group called the Whisperers.
You read that right, Rick releases Negan to trust him as a front line soldier in an entirely new battle. Giving Negan, as a character, this kind of saving grace is strange. He’s the one there should be zero hope for.
As he says in the comics, “I don’t feel anymore. I don’t feel sad … I don’t feel scared … I don’t feel happy. I’m just … here. That’s my strength. That’s why I’m alive. You tell me I have to crush a field of babies to keep breathing? Sure. You say people who rely on me aren’t going to live unless I turn someone’s head into a bowl of gravy? I’m there. I don’t feel bad about it. I don’t think about it. It just is what it is. It’s survival.”
This is a man for whom there is no redemption. The writers and producers of “The Walking Dead” should keep that in mind for the future. While Negan will is a force to be reckoned with that will surely bring pain and devastation for a long time to come, when it’s time for his reign to end it needs to be with his death.
“The Walking Dead” returns Sunday, Oct. 23, at 9 p.m. on AMC.