“I’m Negan, and I do not appreciate you killing my men.”
In film, television and literature, the hero can only rise to epic heights when he is able to overcome an insurmountable obstacle, often in the form of a worthy adversary. From Darth Vader to the Joker, from a killer shark to a shape-shifting alien, these enemies come in many forms. The Walking Dead has risen to its meteoric level of popularity not just for the flesh-eating zombies that pose a constant threat, but for its notorious villains. We’ve had The Governor, then, Gareth from Terminus, and now perhaps the baddest of them all, Negan, along with his trusted sidekick, Lucille. (**** What follows are spoilers from the season 6 finale, Last Day on Earth.****)
Fans of The Walking Dead comics have been anticipating the arrival of Negan for some time, especially since it was announced awhile back that actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan would be playing him. Morgan is best known for his roles on Grey’s Anatomy and, most recently, The Good Wife. Genre fans know him as the Winchester boys’ father on Supernatural and as the Comedian in the big screen graphic novel come to life, Watchmen. He generally plays a good guy, but his role as the Comedian gives hints of what he’s capable of at the other end of the spectrum. To really get a sense of Morgan’s darker side, check out the 2014 western, The Salvation, where he plays a ruthless gang leader opposite Mads Mikkelson (NBC’s Hannibal Lecter).
“Also, when I sent my people to kill your people for killing my people, you killed more of my people. Not cool.”
As the above line uttered early on by Negan shows, unlike the Governor, who was all business, Negan at least possesses a sense of humor, even if it is twisted, which should make him a more compelling character to watch. And as opposed to the Governor, who was psychotic and unnecessarily cruel, there is a method to Negan’s madness. From what we’ve seen so far of his character, he even seems somewhat reasonable. Rather than killing Rick and the entire group they’ve captured, it makes more sense to put them to work for him, providing food and supplies, something he’s above doing himself. But not before he sends a message by taking out one of Rick’s group in retaliation for all those Rick and company killed of his. And that leaves us with a classic television cliffhanger, ala ‘Who Shot J.R.’, though instead of a ‘whodunit,’ it’s a ‘whowasitdunto’.
“You are so gonna regret crossing me in a few minutes.”
It was inevitable that someone from Rick’s group would die at the hands of Negan in this episode. The title alone, Last Day on Earth,’ let us know what was coming. And while the blood-spattered screen and horrific sounds of Negan’s barbed-wired bat, Lucille, pummeling someone’s head spelled certain doom for one of our beloved characters, we’re left to ponder who the recipient of that vicious assault was until The Walking Dead returns in October. While some people will naturally be dissatisfied with such an open-ended ending, it was a brilliant move by the producers to keep us guessing, wondering and arguing who is no longer with us.
Negan stated that he wanted to keep Rick’s group alive to work for him. Now, he doesn’t necessarily need physically powerful people to provide food and supplies. All of Rick’s immediate group have shown varying degrees of strength just to survive this long. Now it seems unlikely that Negan would kill a woman in this instance, especially take such relish in it. After that first whack, it appears the victim withstands it, and sits back up straight as Negan exuberantly exclaims, “taking it like a champ!” The only member of Rick’s group who seems capable of enduring that initial smackdown would be Abraham, the physically strongest one. Also, while everyone, including Rick, seems completely frightened out of their minds, Abraham is the only showing any defiance. While an astute Negan realizes Carl is Rick’s son, killing him would destroy Rick, while killing big, burly Abraham sends a message that this war is over, Rick’s lost. The whole episode, where every exit route was cut off with increasingly threatening obstacles, and Rick’s group was essentially herded by the Saviors into this trap, was a series of mind games meant to beat Rick and everyone down. Killing someone weak or injured says nothing, but striking down someone who seems indestructible says everything, and is why our money is on the creatively foul-mouthed Abraham.
One other point to make, and it’s probably just a coincidence, but a fun one nevertheless, is that this episode, which featured a lethal baseball bat, fell on the first day of the major league baseball season. Seeing Rick and the others lined up in a row at the mercy of Negan was like a baseball lineup, but one where you don’t want it to be your turn at bat. Again, the timing of this episode with the start of baseball couldn’t have been planned, but it serves as a curious and amusing coincidence. Unfortunately, it was strike three for someone.
Of course, while the inescapable clash with Negan formed the crux of the episode, there are plenty of other loose ends, from Maggie and her baby, to Carol and Morgan’s inner demons, to Father Gabriel manning the fort at Alexandria, to Tara and Heath out on a supply run, with all the goings-on apparently unbeknownst to them, to Jesus and the Hilltop denizens, to a new group of seemingly friendly horse-riding warriors. We’ll leave all that discussion for another day. In the meantime, who do you think saw their Last Day on Earth? Give us your thoughts in the comments below.
— written by Brian de Castro