The Walking Dead has had some audacious villains throughout its nine-going-on-ten seasons on AMC, but Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is exceptional in his depiction as an irredeemable tyrant and wanton murderer. However, upon the defeat of his post-apocalyptic extortionists, the Saviors, Rick Grimes – edified by a dying decree from son Carl – opted to forgo his previously-promised execution of Negan for a lifetime of imprisonment in Alexandria. Yet, Season 9 showed the beginning of a redemption arc for the former barbed-wire-bat-swinging baddie; an arc that is confirmed to evolve in Season 10.
Negan’s days behind bars are set to come to an end in Season 10, as The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang reveals in an interview with EW. Of course, this idea may not come as the biggest shock to those who have seen Season 9, in which – after time-jump of several years – the terms of Negan’s once-inflexible incarceration were already starting to loosen; the result of the modicum of trust he’s earned with his jailors after an apparent change in personality, as well as the bond he’s established with the young daughter of the now-missing Rick, Judith, which culminated with his selfless rescue of the girl after she got lost in a snowstorm while searching for Daryl’s dog (artfully named “Dog”). As Kang explains:
“We had a whole year with him in his cell, so I think after his heroic rescue of Judith, people might’ve noticed that when he was in that bed in the infirmary, he was not tied up or cuffed. So, we’re dealing with the next stage of what things are for Negan. I think for people who have been wanting us to release the Negan, there will be some satisfaction there.”
While Kang obviously doesn’t dive into spoiler territory, she does hint that this newly-liberated Negan will never quite be a good guy in the conventional sense; a practical step for a character who made his introduction by bashing in the brains of Glenn and Abraham, two of the most beloved characters in the show’s history. Indeed, there’s no group meeting chips out there for something like that in real life, much less the zombie apocalypse. Kang goes on:
“Negan’s story is one of my personal favorites in this season. Things get complicated, because it’s Negan. Some of the stuff [Jeffrey Dean Morgan] is doing is so compelling, because here’s this guy who has been on a path of trying to redeem himself in some way, but he’s still Negan. He’s not the hero. He’s, at best, an antihero, but there’s definitely darkness and an edge to him.”
However, that is not to say that there won’t be opportunities for Negan, especially with Season 10 coming to a deadly crescendo with the skin-mask-wearing Whisperers – and their ruthless leader, Alpha (Samantha Morton) fully established, having carried out the show’s take on their comic book claim-to-fame, the killing of several key characters, leaving their zombified heads on pikes that form a makeshift fence delineating a border that is not to be crossed. Indeed, the peoples of Alexandria and Hilltop are ready for battle against the Whisperers, and they’re going to need every good fighter available. Negan is, if anything, a good fighter. As Kang hints of Negan’s role in the upcoming Whisperer War:
“When that is in the mix with a story having to do with this new set of enemies, and when he himself still is an outsider in the community, just a lot of explosive things are at play.”
While the TV series has strayed rather far from its once-close alignment with its source material, Robert Kirkman’s recently ended comic book series, it still manages to hit the important beats. Pertinently, Negan, well… let’s just say plays a key role in the escalation of the war between the united colonies and the Whisperers; a role that, depending on your take, made things better or worse, but was, nevertheless critical. While the circumstances of Negan’s commuted prison sentence (which also occurs in the comics,) are different, it stands to reason that the result will be the same. Moreover, we should also expect to see more of Negan’s quasi-paternal relationship with young Judith, which is analogous to the comic’s version, in which Negan continued to field a bizarre bond with Rick’s (still alive in the comics) son, Carl.
Of course, we’ll likely know a lot more about The Walking Dead Season 10 after its San Diego Comic-Con panel, which will be held at Hall H on Friday, July 19 at 1 p.m, directly following spinoff Fear the Walking Dead’s noon panel.