After so much anticipation, it was only a matter of time before backlash in some form or another arrived. When you hype something, or in this case someone, up for months (even years), an audience expects the payoff to be justifiably epic. But the catch is that everyone agreeing on a plot or event and its depiction is as far-fetched as you can get, and such has been the case for Negan's presence on The Walking Dead. For every article or comment I've read praising Jeffrey Dean Morgan's portrayal of the infamous villain, I've read a dozen more condemning the arc as overrated and Negan as a one-note archetype.
Personally, having never read the comics, I was still chomping at the bit when I heard rumors that the show would be introducing Negan, as even a non-reader such as myself knew how infamous he was. The delayed arrival and dragged-out introduction even sat well with me for awhile as it all felt like we were leading up a serious game-changer. And then...things sort of returned to business as usual. Don't get me wrong; Negan's brutal slaying of Glenn and Abraham was horrific, shocking and left me emotionally drained. But the aftermath has left me more than a little concerned with the writers' ability to make Negan into more than just a scary dude with a baseball bat. I've loved Jeffrey Dean Morgan for quite some time, and even a fool could see how much he's enjoying this role. He chews up every scene he's in and his playfully threatening words drip from his tongue like honey. It's the kind of role most actors would jump to play, and JDM dons the leather jacket more than adequately. It's a good fit.
But it's missing something. Perhaps I got spoiled by the Governor's storyline where we got to see more dimensions to the man who would become the bearer of such darkness. While his villainous undertones lurked beneath the surface, we were still able to see glimmers of his past as a stand-up husband and father. It didn't change his present actions or lessen the consequences, but at least we could see the shades of gray rather than just a black and white depiction of good and evil. With Negan, we haven't really gotten that opportunity yet. All we really know at this point is that he somehow convinced legions of people to follow him (How? Just because he has a barbed-wire bat? No, there must be more to it than that.) He's also a ladies man, having married 6 different women in the post-apocalypse, though, like in the comics, he's against rape. He's absolutely merciless when it comes to breaking rules...and yet there he sits on that porch holding Judith, looking like in a former life he could have been World's Greatest Dad. He's a man of contradictions, charm, and capable of heinous deeds, and I really want to learn more about him. The most recent plot involving his manipulation of Carl is the most promising yet in digging deeper into what makes him tick. For some reason, he forgoes his adherence to the rules and takes the little "badass" under his wing in a way. Is it possible he just wants to dig the knife wound deeper into Rick by doing this? Yes, and probable. Could he also maybe just like Carl and want to have an oddly paternal relationship with him? Yes, also possible. It will be fascinating to see how this plays out, and it could also illuminate just how Negan amassed his following. What's that saying? "It is better to be at the right hand of the devil than in his path"?
With Negan confirmed to be in next season, it's safe to say he's not going anywhere anytime soon. So has he lived up to your expectations and become the biggest foe they've faced? Or are you unimpressed? Vote in the poll and let us know!