Well, if my main gripe with these bonus season 10 episodes of The Walking Dead has been the lack of effort to do something unique with the format, “Here’s Negan” doesn’t exactly change all of that, but it does deliver a quadruple flashback (a flashback, within a flashback, within a flashback, within a flashback). That’s not nothing, and given how these episodes have largely served as a way to give the fans something, given the large break between seasons, if ever there was a way to preserve a status quo while finding something entertaining to work with, a whole episode focused on Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan could seem like a good way to go.
As I’ve made clear many times before, Negan is not a favorite character of mine, at least to a certain point. Morgan started out doing what he could with the character, but it took a big long while for me to warm up to him in both the comics and the show. Fortunately, we’re at a point in the series where he is one of the more interesting characters in the lineup. So, would an hour exploring his backstory be a worthwhile adventure? Ideally, yes, as it is still cutting around the most irritating Negan stuff, his role as leader of the Saviors. Does this episode deliver? Yes and no.
Working as a story semi-inspired by the actual Here’s Negan book delivered by Kirkman and company to delve further into where this fan-favorite character came from, there are some key details changed for the series. They are made to keep things in line with the series’ aesthetic, as well as a workaround, given the current pandemic-era filming conditions. As a result, you get a story that is compounded as well as convoluted. We get all of the flashbacks, as I mentioned, which serves as a way to get across two major points: Negan couldn’t bring himself to kill his zombified-wife, and he used that guilt and remorse as a way to develop his “Evil Negan” persona that would go on to cause great pain for others.
Maybe there were only so many ways to structure this episode to keep it effective, but something about the many flashbacks made me laugh more than appreciate the layered storytelling. Similarly, while the show wants to get real emotion out of Joe Cocker’s “You Are So Beautiful,” it was hard to get there for various reasons. As it stands, building various levels of drama out of the situation presented was only going so far based on what I know of who Negan would become and a lack of time to really grasp on this pre-walker era.
I will say that Morgan is great here, as is his real-life wife, Hilarie Burton Morgan, who plays Lucille the person (as opposed to Lucille the Bat). Setting aside the friendly doctors and evil biker gangs that also make up a portion of this story (which includes Negan’s introduction to eventual Savior lieutenant Laura), the show spending plenty of time on these two was naturally compelling, given the real-life relationship they share. There was no real sense of suspense, which is a shame, but the show did the best it could to play the “everything we know about this character came about in basically one day” angle.
Still, a similar issue from the other bonus episodes is present in this one. It doesn’t add up to much. One could say there’s character development, but we are watching an arc of a character who has already resolved the aspect of his life that these flashbacks end on. Granted, the present timeline finds Negan finding his bat, apologizing to it (Lucille), and burning it. I guess that could suggest some closure, but have we not already seen this from Negan? I don’t feel like we’ll be seeing a much different version of who he’s become in his time since being freed from Alexandria Penitentiary.
The juiciest angle left on the table is his choice to return to Alexandria after Carol attempted to banish him. Part of that comes from this action placing the character in unknown territory for the audience familiar with the comics. The other part comes from the look Negan gives to Maggie. Is he convinced he can make things up to the woman he widowed? That’s an angle that will, of course, be explored in season 11. For the time being, however, we have an episode that does fine with the waiting game, delivers on presentation, but still feels extraneous. “Here’s Negan” has more going for it than last week’s “Diverged,” but I’ll still have to look forward to some payoffs from what’s been (re)established here.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Lucille comes in right on time to save Negan with a chemo kill.
- “A cult of personality with no cult.” – Always fun when characters call themselves out.
- Glad that stained glass tree made a return appearance, as I at least got some value out of this image that was shoved at me as iconic for the series way too early on.
- Valak’s Vipers suck.
- Negan was a high school gym teacher. I can only imagine what he said to the kids who couldn’t climb the rope.
- Lucille just wanted to watch a James Bond movie.
- Negan’s jacket cost $600, and he didn’t keep the receipt.
- I will say the big monologue Negan delivers about his bar fight was a strong highlight and maybe the most I’ve enjoyed the “Evil Negan” schtick.
- “If you stay here, she will kill you.” – Negan v Maggie: Dawn of Walkers, coming this fall. #MustSaveHershel
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.