Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan has been a consequential figure on AMC’s The Walking Dead ever since his highly-anticipated debut in 2016’s Season 6 finale; an introduction that cemented him as the definitive big bad of the show before turning a brutal-but-iconic moment from Robert Kirkman’s comic book series source material into a cliffhanger stunt that proved controversial in all the wrong ways. However, while the character has since experienced a compelling villain-to-antihero arc similar to the comic, the latest trailer for Season 10’s bonus episodes teases a slight divergence to one of the earliest segments in said arc: Negan’s late wife, Lucille.
Hilarie Burton, whose role as Lucille was announced this past November, brings invaluable experience for her portrayal as Morgan’s onscreen wife, seeing as she’s married to him in real life. Her casting also made it clear that The Walking Dead Season 10 will devote time to adapting parts of Kirkman’s limited series, Here’s Negan, an origin story originally released in 2016 as 16 four-page issues. Seeing as the topic has been touched upon by Negan himself on the series, it would hardly be a spoiler to point out that Lucille—the name Negan eventually bestows in morbid fashion to his signature, head-bashing barbed-wire baseball bat—died of pancreatic cancer, leaving him to regret his woefully unfaithful ways during their marriage. However, Burton’s onscreen version of the character will have a lot more to do than just die, at least based on what the latest extended Season 10 trailer reveals below:
Interestingly, the Here’s Negan miniseries merely used Lucille as a martyr early on in its run, depicted as the wife to whom enigmatic gym teacher Negan took for granted, but still loved—at least in his own way. Yet, Lucille eventually succumbed to her illness during the outset of the undead apocalypse, which would lead to a traumatizing, character-defining moment for Negan when she reanimated in her hospital bed; an event that left him frozen in ambivalence, unable to even compose himself enough to carry out a merciful end. That, however, seems destined to play out differently—at least contextually—onscreen on The Walking Dead, since we see an early-apocalypse era Negan uncharacteristically in a heavy hoodie and goggles, haplessly locked in a close struggle with one measly walker—with an earlier attempt to stab it in the eye having evidently failed—before it is shot in the head by a figure in the periphery, who’s revealed to be Burton’s Lucille—who’s…well, not dead yet.
Consequently, it is clear that the series will tweak Lucille’s comic arc, revealing that she survived long enough to see the extended effects of the undead apocalypse on civilization. Moreover, judging by the ease—and clear competence—with which she dispatches the walker, it could also be the case that television Lucille managed to stick around in the timeline for a significantly longer time than her comic counterpart (à la Carol). Yet, Burton’s Lucille appearances won’t take up too much of Season 10’s run time, seeing as they will be restricted to flashbacks, notably with Episode 22 tellingly titled “Here’s Negan.” Thus, it could be the case that Lucille’s comic-anachronistic presence during the show’s take on the Here’s Negan odyssey might be a way to condense the graphic novel-sized story, which saw Negan’s apparent innocence chipped away slowly as he repeatedly witnessed the walker-related deaths of people with whom he’d bonded on the road. Indeed, Lucille’s imminent post-apocalypse-era demise can adequately serve as the primary catalyst that sends Negan down the same comic arc, just in an expediently quicker manner.
Of course, Here’s Negan ultimately culminates when Negan meets Dwight and Sherry, forming—amongst a small camp of survivors—an early, more earnest and upright version of the Saviors. Unfortunately, an attack from a belligerent group permanently hardens Negan’s survival instincts, imbuing him with a sense of kingly entitlement as the “savior” of those they encounter—and conquer. Yet, the onscreen storyline will be used to contrast how far Negan has come after the Whisperers War from his former capacity as a murdering, post-apocalypse Svengali extortionist. Indeed, while the vast majority of the trailer is devoted to the emergence of the powerful new group known as the Commonwealth (signaling an endgame trajectory for the show similar to Kirkman’s 2019-concluded comic series), the words of Lauren Cohan’s returning Maggie explains that her young son, Hershel, asked how his daddy (Glenn) died, to which she succinctly answered, “a bad man killed him.” – She’s not wrong, but we are ominously left to wonder if that’s still the case.
The Walking Dead Season 10 returns from its lengthy hiatus on Sunday, February 28 at 9/8c on AMC.
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