SEASON 10; EPISODE 22
So season ten came to a close with an episode dedicated entirely to the villain that everyone loves to hate; Negan. When you think back to what this character was like when we first met him, it's quite astonishing that here we are taking a look at his origin story and coming away feeling as if he is some kind of anti-hero. But here we are.
I think the 'bonus' episodes we have had these last few weeks have been a bit hit and miss. Even the better ones haven't been that great but there's enough in 'Here's Negan' for it to be considered perhaps the pick of the bunch. At times it has been frustrating to sit through, but I think having a breather after the sheer relentlessness of the Whisperer storyline was probably a wise move. They've been self-indulgent and a little unfocused at times. Or in the case of last week's episode, largely pointless but this focus on character over action these last few weeks indicates that the show might go all out in it's eleventh and final series (which begins this summer).
Generally speaking, I like my villains to be ambiguous. Antagonists are quite often a lot more interesting than the heroes of any story and in part this is due to some semblance of intrigue and mystery. It's also easier to fear something unknowable because as soon as you start filling in the gaps and revealing more information, bad guys tend to lose some of their power. I think that 'Here's Negan' does do that to some extent. Negan has always been an enigma and although we have been given a few bits of information about his past life, we've always had to imagine what type of person he was before the apocalypse. What job did he have, what was his relationship with his wife like, did he always have the capacity to do horrendous things? We got answers to all those questions (and more) but I am not sure if we ever really needed to know them. The fact that Negan has undergone some form of redemption arc and is now not considered a 'threat' ultimately means that the writers felt that they could flesh him out a bit more. Humanise him a little. I get that and I understand the reasoning behind it.
At the beginning of the episode, Maggies shows Negan his new living quarters – a cabin in the woods just outside Alexandria. Maggie's return has made his position there untenable and to avoid Negan's death on her conscience, it's been agreed to banish him from the township before Maggie tries to exact some form of retribution. Negan can't really complain, he did bash her husband's skull in. And to be fair he doesn't. Instead he locates his old bat (Lucille) begins to reminisce over his wife (also called Lucille) and post apocalyptic life. Although at first it seems as if we are going to get another one of those 'a character has a conversation with himself' dealios, this is quickly abandoned and we get a series of flashbacks that take place 12 years ago (and a little further). In this timeline, Negan is trying to source some medicine for his very ill wife. He manages to obtain some but is then apprehended by a local gang who threaten to kill him unless he tells them where he managed to get the medicine from. We skip back a few weeks before this and see the life that Negan and Lucille share, hidden deep in the woods. Although Lucille is in a bad way, the love they have for each other is obvious. Negan is devoted, albeit a bit of a wimp. We are then shown Negan's pre-apocalypse life where he is a bit of a bum. Sacked from his job as a high school gym teacher, Neegs spends his time playing computer games and maxing out credit cards – including spending £600 on a leather jacket. He's also cheating on his long-suffering wife. However, his character transforms into the loyal, caring husband when she breaks the news to him that she has cancer. We then switch back and forth between timelines until Negan returns home with the medicine (after giving up the location of the people who helped him) only to find that Lucille has ended her own life and turned into a walker. 'Please don't leave me like this' is written on the bedroom door as he enters and after understandably breaking down, something inside of him clicks (or dies). He burns down his house (with his walker wife inside) and heads back to where the gang has locked him up – and where they are now torturing the people who helped him. Negan kills the gang mercilessly (and single-handedly) and as he delivers a speech to Craven (the gang leader) before he kills him, we see that this man has changed fundamentally. By his own admission, he's now capable of anything. The end of the episode sees Negan burn his beloved bat in the fire of the cabin he's been banished too. Is it a sign of him moving on and beginning a new chapter of his life. Yes. However as the episode ends and we see him venture back to Alexandria, it's obvious that he's not going to go quietly and the look he gives Maggie leaves us under no illusion that there's still enough of the Saviour Negan in there to mean there are going to be problems ahead.
All in all it's actually quite a well done episode and a lot is crammed in. Seeing this other side of the character certainly adds a level of depth – he's no longer the caricature he once was. But it's just a bit of a shame that some of the answers to our burning questions were a little flat. Where did he get the jacket? He bought it. Where did he get the bat? Some stranger gave it to him. Why does he sing 'you are so beautiful' to his wife once she's turned into a flesh eating walker? You got me. Also, a high school gym teacher? That feels a little underwhelming. I don't think we needed all of these questions answered to be honest. However there was enough emotional drama in 'Here's Negan' to pull us through and although we aren't entirely sure what type of Negan we now have on our hands, it looks as though a showdown with Maggie is inevitable at some point in the next (and final) series of the show.