The Walking Dead: Ep. 1022 – Here’s Negan
Warning: This review contains spoilers!!
Here’s Negan, essentially a heartbreaking origin story for the former leather jacketed bat wielder, brings Season 10 of The Walking Dead to a satisfying close. While the majority of the episodes in Season 10’s extended season have been character driven pieces few resonate as well as Here’s Negan does. It’s a tour de force for Jeffrey Dean Morgan, pays some serious fan service and features the husband-and-wife team of Morgan and Hilarie Burton, who plays Lucille, in some emotional and heartfelt scenes.
The Maggie/Negan cold war continues with no resolution in sight until Carol steps in to try to defrost the chill between the two. No matter what has happened in the years since Negan murdered Glenn, Maggie is unwilling to see past it and forgive him. Carol’s solution is to relocate Negan to the woods to reside in the cabin Daryl once shared with Leah. Idle time turns into a trip down memory lane and Here’s Negan peers into the life he led before the world fell apart.
Although the tension between Negan and Maggie is at peak level, there’s another silent battle Negan is waging – and that’s with himself. Or rather who he used to be. When the Lucille wielding Negan persona arrives to drop a few condescending “I told you so’s” his way, Negan bristles and his response indicates that he may actually be a changed man. Although he may be different, the fact he’s holed up in Daryl’s abandoned cabin gives credence to his former persona’s manifestation that he won’t ever be truly accepted by Maggie or those in Alexandria.
A shattered glass takes Negan back in time to his final confrontation with Rick and his time in prison asking Michonne about Lucille’s whereabouts. In the present he returns to the tree with the hanging stained-glass and begins searching for his long-lost bat. Relieved when he finally digs it up, the scene shifts 12 years into the past to a decidedly different time and Negan.
Here’s Negan is told in reverse taking segments out of Negan’s past and tumbling backwards again and again to fill in the blanks. The first real time jump finds Negan at the mercy of some bikers. They are a tad upset that he hasn’t been completely straight about where he’s getting a fresh supply of drugs and IV bags. Negan’s tales take us further back in time showcasing just how different and desperate he was back then. The reason for his desperation is that his wife, Lucille has cancer and he’s been administering her chemo treatments whenever he can get the supplies she needs.
His search for those supplies leads him to a doctor named Franklin. Negan, in the process of robbing Franklin to get the needed drugs and chemotherapy for his wife, is beat down by Laura – yes that one – with the bat that would eventually become his signature weapon. That Negan is the first victim of that bat is deliciously ironic.
One of the startling things about Here’s Negan is how life’s unpredictable trajectory can change one’s perception of things and people. Seeing Laura as part of a medical effort to save people is in stark contrast to our perception of her as a Saviour. Time and circumstances can change a person and nowhere is that more evident than with Negan. Now the elements that eventually turned him into what he became where always there. However, he was just a regular guy with normal vices and virtues that could pull him up or drag him down depending on the circumstances. Pre-apocalypse he was a high school gym teacher and remnants of that aspect of his personality were evident in his dealings with Carl. The savagery that took Glenn and Abe’s lives also resides within the kind and caring man that nursed Lucille through her final days.
Not everyone can be a straight arrow, particularly during desperate, unpredictable times. While it doesn’t condone Negan’s actions as leader of the Saviors it does provide some context as to why he changed. Lucille’s death was the birth of the Negan viewers first met on The Walking Dead. Being delayed by the bikers kept him from reaching Lucille in time and put Franklin and Laura in a compromising position. Leaving Franklin and Laura to fend for themselves was cold but Lucille was his top priority, especially after not making her one before she became ill. Her death is heartbreaking, shows Negan at his lowest and casts him in a sympathetic light.
In the end he’s left with a choice. Embrace what he was or move onto something else. Whatever epiphany Negan reaches when he returns to Alexandria, not even Maggie’s epic death stare can annihilate. The cold war I mentioned at the start is heating up and the Negan/Maggie conflict will be one of the points of interest during The Walking Dead’s final season. Here’s Negan is a rewarding and triumphant study of one of the show’s signature characters and required viewing for Negan fans.