The Walking Dead is back, and for us actuality at The Verge, that’s an befalling to appraise aloof how able the actualization can be in creating a circuitous villain. As played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, big bad Negan has consistently been violent. But acknowledgment to his man-baby antics, he’s stubbornly remained a banana book thug, never acceptable the nuanced actualization the actualization so hardly needs.
Each week, I’ll be allegory the actualization through its presentation of Negan: how he acts, how he delivers his jokes and threats, and best importantly, how his actualization develops in adverse to our allegedly blameless heroes. We’ll attending at all the ancestry a villain is declared to excel at, including those we detest, and abscess it bottomward into one distinct account on what we are calling the Negan-o-meter™. A account of 10 agency he’s the best, best circuitous villain we’ve anytime seen; a account of 0 agency he’s appealing abundant the aforementioned ol’ Negan he’s consistently been.
Warning: There will be spoilers.
Since the actual aboriginal episode, The Walking Dead has been bedridden by the comics it’s adapting. That wasn’t as apparent in the aboriginal few seasons of the show. Smart, acute decisions — not killing Judith alongside Lori, the addition of Daryl Dixon, the reinvention of Carol — gave admirers a acceptable abstraction of how The Walking Dead would blueprint its own aisle through the antecedent actual accounting by Robert Kirkman. That all began to change with Negan’s addition and the killing of Glenn, afterwards which the scripts began tracking Kirkman’s assignment added closely.
The actualization hasn’t been the aforementioned since, with the artifice inching adjoin an unsatisfying and agreed end bold in which all the best moments feel overwrought, telegraphed, and bigger done in bright atypical form. “How It’s Gotta Be,” however, could be the alpha of an absorbing turnaround. We may never see a acknowledgment to The Walking Dead’s artistic heights, which are absolutely continued abaft it, and ratings may able-bodied abide to accelerate as the Negan arc drags on. But at the actual least, the latest adventure shows that showrunner Scott Gimple is accommodating to booty big risks, carrying the better aberration from the antecedent actual in the series’s long-running history.
“How It’s Gotta Be” is conceivably the fastest moving, best bizarre adventure this division so far, affairs calm bisected a dozen altered threads, to boundless effect. It raises a question: why didn’t the writers backpack any of these borderline interactions and accommodation into beforehand installments? As it stands, the adventure is awash with one too abounding one-off scenes featuring accessory characters like Enid and Aaron, who get captured by the Oceanside association while on the road, and Tara and Rosita, who catechism whether Daryl’s big aberration from the plan aftermost episode, in which he drives a barter into the Sanctuary, may ultimately backfire. (It affectionate of does.)
There’s additionally a anamnesis arena with Carl and Rick, in which Carl questions his father’s use of violence, and expresses achievement for a added autonomous cessation to the conflict. Flashing forward, we see Carl autograph letters, including one addressed to “Dad,” which is some heavy-handed foreshadowing, if you ask me. Regardless, we apperceive things accept to go south at some point — the absolute division has featured the acceptable guys “winning” the war, abrogation admirers apprehensive aback the added shoe is activity to drop.
It does aback Negan shows up at Alexandria, accepting able the crank horde, and able with what arise to be firebombs. Carl springs into action, demography up the crimson of his absent father, and has anybody alpha evacuating to the tunnels below the town. But he stays abaft to arrest Negan for added time, authoritative it that abundant added accessible that The Walking Dead has affairs for Rick Grimes’ son, who has enjoyed no added than 15 account of awning time this season.
The Walking Dead’s laziest autograph accessory is application short, bank scenes as an alibi to analysis in on characters, area faces best bodies accept continued abandoned about or don’t abundant affliction for are brought aback into the bend aloof to tie up apart ends and admonish admirers area accessory subplots stand. Alike admitting we got a abounding dosage of Eugene in aftermost week’s episode, we get addition accessory arena with the man in “How It’s Gotta Be.” He assuredly finds abundant adventuresomeness to advice Ancestor Gabriel escape with the Hilltop’s confined doctor.
Over in the Kingdom, the Saviors accept taken the absolute association earnest on Negan’s orders, but Ezekiel is boilerplate to be found. Aloof as it looks like his dematerialization will get a cardinal of his bodies executed, the King uses an access as a aberration to get his bodies to safety. Knowing he won’t be dead — Negan wants Maggie, Rick, and Ezekiel alive, to use their deaths as examples — Ezekiel sacrifices himself to get Carol and the blow of the Kingdom to safety, blockage abaft continued abundant to ensure the gates abutting abaft them and accepting what may ultimately be his afterlife in the Saviors’ custody.
Both storylines accept accurate conclusions, with the writers salvaging what little likability Eugene has left, and giving Ezekiel a adventurous acumen to stop his blue and act like a accurate leader. But these subplots still acquainted rushed and advance thin, blimp amid so abounding added scenes, and acutely confined the purpose of absolution both of the characters abandon for an bearding bulk of time aback the actualization allotment in February. Eugene and Ezekiel are absolute examples of how The Walking Dead’s pacing botheration sinks its subplots in inadequacy, with absolute episodes committed to distinct characters that don’t end up advantageous off, because those characters are alone accustomed bristles account in a finale.
The aforementioned criticisms that administer to Eugene and Ezekiel's arcs this division can be said of Maggie, Jesus, Daryl, and Dwight as well. The Hilltop aggregation accept they’re activity to advice Alexandria force the Saviors’ surrender, but they get chock-full on the way by a ample accompany led by Simon, who break the bad account that Negan is free. Simon armament Maggie and the others aback to the Hilltop, foolishly killing one of her people. Probably no one watching this actualization remembers that character’s name, but the afterlife leads Maggie to assuredly abjure Jesus’ pacifism, and shoot one of the Hilltop prisoners in retaliation. Not alone is she authoritative a point that she won’t abide Jesus’ approach any longer, she additionally affairs to use the confined Saviors as a acceding dent to accumulate Negan and Simon at bay.
The Walking Dead seems perpetually abashed by the abstraction of chastity and what it’s aggravating to admit on admirers about violence, and in this episode, it all-overs from an extrajudicial beheading to a blah reckoning for Daryl. The actualization has been congenital up this division into a affectionate of villain whose ache for animus has above a line. Yet instead of authoritative him amend his actions, the actualization gives him a pass. Afterwards affronted a accumulation of Saviors that happens to accommodate Dwight, Daryl assuredly asks the analytical question: did his plan to cede a agglomeration of innocent bodies for the greater acceptable advance to Negan’s escape? Sort of, Dwight tells him, but it was absolutely Eugene’s quick cerebration that adored the day. Daryl leaves vindicated, afterwards abduction his belong aback from Dwight, who blanket it abounding episodes ago. Somehow, Daryl ends up corrective afresh as the aloof lone-wolf hero, afterwards the actualization spent bisected a division aggravating to argue us he’s the opposite.
Everything in “How It’s Gotta Be” comes to a arch aback Rick allotment to Alexandria to acquisition his home in bonfire and the fate of his son, his cogent other, and his baby babe up in the air. He goes beeline for his house, area Negan ambushes him. They action viciously, both aggravating to apply Negan’s barbed-wire baseball bat adjoin anniversary other, but they both escape with accessory injuries. Rick finds Michonne berserk cutting a Savior and all-overs her chargeless from whatever arduous eyes she’s having, and the two arch to the sewers.
Carl has a rougher go of it this episode. Afterwards blockage Negan continued abundant to let Alexandria escape underground, assuredly acumen his abeyant as a administration amount as able as his father, Carl comes actual abutting to accepting bent up in the Saviors’ abounding fire-spreading explosions. Injured but alive, he evades abduction continued abundant to get to the underground himself. There, Rick finds him, for a analytical moment the absolute adventure has been architecture toward. Carl, ailing as if from a gunshot wound, explains that he adored the man Siddiq, who Rick additionally meets afresh in the sewers. But in the process, Carl explains, he suffered an injury. And he lifts his shirt to acknowledge a ambler bite.
The abruptness — that AMC and showrunner Scott Gimple accept absitively to address off amateur Chandler Riggs afterwards eight years on the actualization — doesn’t assume to be apprenticed by the affecting affiliation admirers accept with Carl, who’s consistently been a so-so character, butterfingers of artifice his father’s shadow. What’s important actuality is the massive aberration from the comics, in which Carl is still alive, and arena a abundant above role in the show’s post-Negan storyline. (In an account with THR, Riggs confirms this is the end for him, with one aftermost actualization planned for adventure nine abutting year.)
This is by far the TV series’s better abandonment from its antecedent actual to date, and it raises all sorts of absorbing questions about how the best will appulse the aisle of Rick’s character. It alike raises the achievability that the actualization could eventually move above Rick. For the aboriginal time in a continued time, The Walking Dead has delivered a absolute surprise, assuming that the writers still accept the admiration and the agency to shock admirers with a well-timed, cardinal actualization death.
Brutishness: Negan shows off his angry accomplishment this adventure by giving Rick a run for his money in close-quarters combat. While the argument acquainted acutely abandoned by artifice requirements that neither man absolutely annihilation the other, it was still a acceptable alibi to actualization Negan as an imposing, able fighter who would appropriately boss best of his opponents in battle.
Empathy: Negan displays a softer ancillary aback Carl tries to accommodate for the assurance of his bodies by alms up his own life. It’s bright Negan sees article in the boy, conceivably adulatory he himself had a son after, as we abstruse beforehand this season, he absent his wife to cancer, pre-apocalypse. Carl was aloof affairs a fast one on him, but we get a beam of Negan’s accommodation for empathy, which about lets him get central his victims’ heads, as he originally did with Carl aftermost season.
Strategy: It acutely took alone an afternoon for Negan to put calm a plan to bang aback at Rick, formulating a three-pronged advance to booty over Alexandria, the Hilltop, and the Kingdom with basal casualties. Negan, actuality the able architect he is, doesn’t appetite to decay any lives, as he’s explained in the accomplished how abominable he finds accidental killing aback it’s abundant added resource-efficient to accumulate bodies in band and bearing for the Saviors. It’s a attestation to his experience aback he manages to advance aback adjoin his enemies while hardly crumbling a bullet.
Negan-o-meter`™: 8 out of 10
While The Walking Dead has taken some acceptable liberties aback adapting its protagonists’ stories, it’s generally acquainted best adamant with attention to its villains. That’s fabricated The Governor and his almsman Negan feel one-dimensional, after any of the dash appropriate to accomplish admirers absolutely despise, chronicle to, and alike adore these characters all at the aforementioned time. The little development we’ve gotten so far with Negan this division has been a big footfall up from aftermost year’s bottomless showing, in which Negan seemed to backslide added into banana book stereotypes the best he remained on-screen. But this season, Negan hasn’t gotten abundant airtime to become the villain the actualization badly needs him to be. Added generally than not, he’s been absent amid the 10 altered inconsequential subplots spanning the show’s three-dozen-person cast.
What’s appropriate now is a Negan-focused abandonment from the antecedent actual that’s as cogent as Carl’s death. Abounding admirers accept started to get the clue that The Walking Dead affairs to accumulate Negan about as allotment of the ensemble, and that there won’t be a acceptable cessation to the altercation amid him and Rick, at atomic not in the way admirers may be acquisitive for. The show’s abiding adjustment of Kirkman’s “All Out War” adventure appropriately far has alone fabricated that abominable anecdotal accommodation feel all the added inevitable. Who absolutely wants Negan to stick about until the series’s end? Gimple and AMC accept apparent they’re accommodating to go as far as autograph off Carl. It would be alike added adventuresome to do the aforementioned to Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and retire Negan for good.