UK TV review: The Walking Dead Season 10, Episode 22 (Here’s Negan)
There Goes My Negan9
You Are My Negan9
Neil Brazier | On 06, Apr 2021
Already seen the episode? Read our for additional, spoilery notes.
The Walking Dead ends its series of bonus episodes with a story everybody has been clamouring for: the origins of Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan) and, to a lesser extent, his baseball bat, named after his wife, Lucille (played by Morgan’s real-life wife, Hilarie Burton). Taking us on a journey as far back as the pre-apocalypse days, when cell phones were relevant and actions had consequences that came with parole officers, Here’s Negan shows us that there are more sides to this character than a rhombic triacontahedron. It’s a fun trip through his life that shows how the person who he is now has been shaped and influenced by his past – but has this tale come too late?
Fans were asking for more depth to Negan during his main story-run in Season 7 and 8, but it never came. Some felt the seasons continual good guy/bad guy arc could have used something different and many were pleased when Negan finally got his comeuppance in the Season 8 finale, having grown weary of his shtick. The character was then moved to the auxiliary plots and not seen so much, even until his involvement with the Whisperers, but that only meant whenever Negan was given a scene, he stole it, developing his character each time. Since his imprisonment, Negan has actually evolved from a character you loved to hate to one you just love. Finally having an episode dedicated to him where we get to see more of his personality than just snide jokes or cocky swagger creates yet more admiration – and when the Season 6 finale Negan shows his face, all the weariness we felt towards him at the end of his run is replaced with childlike joy.
After tensions with Maggie (Lauren Cohan) in Alexandria continue to boil, Carol (Melissa McBride) thinks it would be a good idea to move Negan out. Left with nothing but his leather jacket and his own thoughts, a familiar face appears and the episode begins to Inception itself, telling story after story from Negan’s history, layering themselves within one another. It’s clever insomuch as Negan has often been criticised for talking too much and this episode perfectly captures what is very much his essence.
If you are a fan of Negan the sadist, you might find yourself disappointed. That Negan only appears later and the violence is kept mostly off-screen. But Morgan has fun with being that guy again, a wicked smile crossing his face as he nods into his trademark lean, heightened by the blood-dripping barbed wire-clad baseball bat. For the rest of the runtime we see a completely different Negan, who, like that rebel with a biker jacket at high school you had a crush on, manages to make you hate him for all new reasons, although you stick with him because you think you can change him. The girl in this story who thinks that is Lucille and this episode is their love story. You can really feel the emotion between the pair, amplified by the actors’ real-life relationship.
Hilarie Burton portrays the agony of a cancer diagnosis and being married to this hapless Negan with perfection – just as her husband has been stealing scenes in the main series run, here she’s the real star. Her life, love and tragedy are what define the Negan character, warts and all, from a former high school gym teacher who struggled to kill a single walker, to the person who is capable of damn near anything. Negan has adapted to his situations and grown a new face each time. As we reach the final chapter in The Walking Dead’s tome, might there be just one more evolution to this character? And will the catalyst be Maggie or himself? He may have had his ups and downs, but Here’s Negan shines a brilliant spotlight on an extraordinary character which a rich back-story that, hopefully, isn’t over just yet.
The Walking Dead Season 10, Part 3 is available on FOX UK. Don’t have pay TV? You can also stream it live and on-demand legally on NOW, for £9.99 a month, with no contract and a 7-day free trial.
Entrails and innards (spoilers)
Having been banished by the “council”, Negan stares into the fireplace when his former, villainous self appears and tells him how weak he has become. We get a little treat of quick flashes to former episodes to remind us who Rick and Michonne were – but, more importantly, that what Negan needs is Lucille. Heading out to the place Rick slit his throat, Negan digs around until he finds her, his old flame, his bat.
Then begins a series of flashbacks which feel like they don’t add up to the timeline, just like in Find Me. We first go 12 years into the past and find a Negan being held captive and beaten up for information on where he got the drugs he needs for his sick wife. We keep going further back until we’re pre-apocalypse and we find out that Negan has been fired for beating up a pupil’s father at a bar. The slacker playing video games is so far removed from the skull bashing psychopath we were introduced to that it is almost impossible to make the connection.
Negan is a bit of a lazy slob who has a parole officer and a motorbike and spent a fortune on a leather jacket that he tore the receipt up for. Lucille asks him to bring her home from the doctor appointment the next day as she’s having an MRI but Negan says he has a meeting with his parole officer. Later, this is revealed to be a lie and he’s actually having an affair. More reasons to hate this guy.
After Lucille reveals her cancer diagnosis, Negan suddenly changes; now everything is about making her better, even after the sky falls. Living locked away, the pair continue the best they can, Negan scavenging for medicines, fuel and food while Lucille stays home and watches Bond movies. They have enough treatment to see out a plan and Negan is hopelessly holding on to the belief that once this course is done his wife will be all better. When the generator fails, the meds are ruined as they cannot be kept cool and so Negan, against the better wishes of Lucille, goes out to find more. She just wants them to be together and seems afraid to die alone.
Negan finds a travelling hospital van and attempts to rob it but he’s knocked out by a girl holding a baseball bat. It’s Laura (Lindsay Register) and the bat later goes on to become Lucille. Both Laura and Franklin (Miles Mussenden) are kind to Negan and forgive him, giving him the medicine he needs, but it is here he is captured by Baxter (Rodney Rowland) and the Inception is almost complete. Giving up the location of the van and its occupants, Negan races home to Lucille only to find she has killed herself, taken an overdose and covered her head in plastic. She is tied to the bed so she can’t attack Negan on his return and she has left a note asking not to be left this way.
It does feel, for a minute, that Negan is going to use the bat to take out Lucille. Instead, he sits with her, inconsolable. This event changes him into the aggressive, blood-thirsty Negan and after burning his house to the ground with Lucille inside – not a much more glamourour end for his beloved – sets off to get revenge on Baxter, saving Laura in the process. Having taken out the rest of the gang, Negan confronts Baxter, who is knocked down to his keens. Lucille is already dripping blood and here we have pages ripped right out of the Season 6 finale. Negan gives a beautiful soliloquy about the reasons he came to be fired, which was the last time he saw red. Then, those actions had consequences, but now, there are none, so he can do what he likes, which is unfortunate for Baxter.
Back in the present, Negan returns to Alexandria having said a teary goodbye to Lucille by burning her on the fire. This itself must present a real heartache for him – two Lucille’s up in flames. The emotion and love exuding from him is superb and although he named a stupid bat after her, he loved his wife with every fibre of his being.
Carol reveals that she tried to save Negan by banishing him, as Maggie will surely kill him rather than let him live in the same walls as her son. What version of Negan has returned? The one who wants to get along? The one who sees red? Or is this a new Negan, buoyed by his love and his loss who is going to help lead these survivors into their final sunset?
Photo: Josh Stringer/AMC