The introduction of Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) on "The Walking Dead" stirred many emotions among fans -- especially those who thought the show crossed a line when it comes to the violence and gore it touts. In the episodes that have followed, the AMC series seems to have pulled back a bit on how graphic things can get. Still, we've seen Negan go to some depraved places throughout Season 7.
Is this the new standard for big bads on "The Walking Dead"? According to showrunner Scott Gimple, not really. "It's specific to the character, it's specific to the scene. Negan wanted to horrify these people. I mean, he put on a show and it was specifically to horrify them," the EP tells us at the Paley Festival. "And he succeeded."
As Gimple points out, that's Negan. He's a monster with a flair for the dramatic -- a showman. He's the kind of guy that would put theatrics into his torture and want to make the kind of impact that comes with a baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire.
But what about the next major villain's killing methods? "It could be a poison cookie," Gimple jokes. "They could shoot someone into space."
It's actually reassuring to hear that Negan isn't the new normal. While he has proven to be a worthy foe for Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and his rag-tag group of apocalyptic misfits, there's only so far "The Walking Dead" can push its gore and violence. The Season 7 premiere, in which Glenn (Steven Yeun) and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) are beaten to death with Negan's bat, drew a distinctive line in the sand and many viewers found themselves on the wrong side of it.
There's a way to approach the show's violence cleverly and portray it as brutal without making it a chore to watch. Regardless of whoever happens to come after Negan -- our fingers are crossed for the Whisperers -- the producers are going to have some work to do in that regard.
"The Walking Dead" airs Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC.