I’m really, really not a big fan of villain redemption stories, but Here’s Negan provided some stellar context for The Walking Dead’s best villain. And in the process provided one of the best, most emotional episodes in the entire series.
Last week was the worst episode of the Angela Kang and the whiplash from the amazing quality of this one was enough to snap any walker’s neck. Here’s Negan was a prime example of why Kang was the best showrunner the series could have asked for to wrap TWD.
Tension is tough with Maggie and Negan. And honestly there is no world he should ever expect any kind of forgiveness from her. That’s kind of the downside when you bash someone’s husband’s head in with your barbed wire bat.
Negan asks Carol to put in a good word for him with Maggie. Instead, she offers him a cabin in the woods with his stuff as the council voted to banish him. Negan has been around long enough to know Carol is all about going rogue and doing what works best for Carol and says as much. Carol tries to play it off, but he knows better.
Later on, Negan starts hearing from his old school leather-jacket, red scarf rocking self. This episode features some memorable dialogue, but one of the best was Current Negan telling Flashback Negan he’s a cult of personality with no cult.
On a lark, Negan heads back to the scene of his final fight with Rick. Lucille wasn’t a trophy that would go in the Rick Grimes collection of defeated enemies’ trophy room like The Governor’s patch or the Terminus candelabra. It was actually in the ground, covered up by years of growth.
This sends Negan thinking back to 12 years earlier. Typically, TWD doesn’t try and juggle multiple flashbacks in one episode, but episode writer David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick (Aquaman) handles them just fine. A biker gang has him bound hoping to get a lead on medical supplies in greater stock than the IV bags Negan has in a small cooler.
Negan offers up a story as he fidgets with a loose screw in his chair. He tells the bikers about tracking down a medical convoy and pulling a gun on its leader before he gets knocked out by a baseball bat held by future Savior member Laura (Lindsley Register). Her father, Franklin (Miles Mussenden), is a doctor and is curious what made him so desperate to pull out an empty gun on him.
Time for another flashback. Director Laura Belsey (The Walking Dead: The Tower) handles these rapidly shifting timeline with no trouble and making it easy to follow.
Negan learned how to give his wife Lucille (played by Morgan’s actual wife, Hilarie Burton) chemotherapy and is in every manner being the model loving husband right down to reading Little Women for her.
Back then, Negan wasn’t much of a fighter to the point Lucille has to come out with her IV to help him kill a walker. It’s not that he has a problem so much as he’s afraid he’ll get used to it. Negan’s dutiful checking of the generator and treatment has worked and Lucille only has three more to go.
As a thank you for his efforts, Lucille gives back the leather jacket Negan bought when he was jobless and playing video games online with kids. The celebration is short lived as the freezer busts and Negan’s got to track down the traveling doctors he’s heard about.
He thinks back to seven months ago when Lucille chewed him out over the jacket and how he bailed on picking her up from the fateful appointment with her doctor to sleep around with Lucille’s best friend. Lucille had a choice and instead of pulling out the gun next to her, she brought out the pamphlets saying she had cancer.
Lucille shared this so Negan didn’t feel like he had to be a superhero. She just wanted him to stay. That was six weeks ago in the flashback rabbit hole.
- Invincible – Neil Armstrong Eat Your Heart Out review S1 E4
- Zack Snyder’s Justice League review
- Godzilla vs. Kong review
- The Falcon and the Winter Soldier – Power Broker review S1 E3
Franklin gives Negan the supplies and Laura offers him the bat, but with no other recourse to save Lucille, he rats out their position to the biker boys. It’s all for naught as by the time Negan gets back home Lucille is already dead from suicide.
Belsey staged a gorgeous shot with the dark hallway and Negan plunging into the dark stairway. The use of You are So Beautiful here as Negan burns their place might be the most effective use of the song in TV or film.
Negan now is a little dead inside, but his first act as the barbed wire laced wielding villain is actually a heroic one. He returns to the bar and takes out the bikers. It seems like Franklin is destined to get killed as he starts loosening the screw Negan started. He was able to break the restraints and knocks out the lead biker.
Or just long enough for Negan to have a long chat. This leads to a signature Negan story as he breaks down the incident with a loudmouth at the bar that got him fired. Morgan was Emmy worthy with this episode and the final transformation from devoted, loving husband to the charismatic killer we’ve known is amazing.
“You see, there were consequences for me seeing red. Now there aren’t any.” That’s bad news for a lot of people.
Back to the present. A walker has finally gotten close to Negan and he kills it, but the impact symbolically breaks Lucille. This is the final sign Negan needed to forgive himself for the way he treated his wife and he burns his trusty weapon once and for all.
As he figured, the ban from the council was all a Carol concoction. Carol wanted to keep the peace, but she’s washed her hands and only offers one warning “If you stay here, she will kill you.” Negan is fine with that arrangement. Maybe some new threat will somehow get them on the same page?
These bottle episodes had been rough. The Maggie standalone and the Gabriel/Aaron episodes were good, but the rest were highly skippable. Here’s Negan tips the odds to justify their existence almost singlehandedly with amazing performances from Morgan and Burton. It might be hard to fully hate Negan again after this episode, which is a testament to how well crafted this episode turned out.
Rating: 10 out of 10
Photo Credit: AMC
You can now watch the complete Season 10 of The Walking Dead on Amazon.