The Walking Dead: the Joy of Negan

 

As a culture, we love our bad guys.

We claim to be hero-worshippers who cheer when the good guys beat all odds… But the awful truth is we can’t wait to see what the bad guy is going to do first. We get off on both the thrill of fantastical violence, and the thought that it “wasn’t us.” We love to see adversary overcome, but first we want to see the adversary. Whether they’re diabolical, scary, terrorizing, or just plain evil, we love our villains just as much as we love the heroes we call on to vanquish them.

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This Sunday night, on AMC’s mega-hit show The Walking Dead, one of fiction’s best bad guys will make his screen debut… and to quote the late, great Ben Kenobi, “I feel a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror, and were suddenly silenced…” I fear something terrible is about to happen.

I have no idea how they are going to get away with this, but I’m keeping an open mind.

Since the beginning of the show, there has always been some terrible threat just around the next corner. Whether it’s the flesh-eating hordes of the undead that walk the Earth, or the savages that have been made of the men who once called this place home… A staple of The Walking Dead has always been death. As sheriff Rick Grimes and family struggle to survive in an insane world, multiple members of the main cast and countless red shirts have lost their lives since they first left Atlanta. From Andrea’s sister Amy to Carol’s daughter Sophia, Lori, Dale, even Andrea… One by one, the “core group” has dropped away over the years. Almost no one is safe in The Walking Dead.

So far, the show has done a great job of setting up Negan’s arrival. They’ve put our heroes in a particularly vulnerable position thinking that they’ve got it all figured out. I’ll tell you this right now, if you’re not prepared for a core-group member to die this Sunday, you’ve got about a day to let it sink in.

In the books, the Alexandrians meet the Hilltoppers much like they do in the show, via a bearded mystery ninja named Jesus. They agree to take care of Negan and the Saviors, who have been running a local protection racket with the communities around Washington D.C. because they are who they are. Apparently not many other groups have had the same experiences and self-training that our heroes have, and in order to secure enough food to survive, Rick agrees to do what they do best because confrontation is not something they’ve ever had a problem with. Plus, life in the new world is tough enough with flesh-eating zombies everywhere… Rick is too much of a good ol boy sheriff to let these assholes go on exploiting everyone else.

t8JuQKBAs a Walking Dead comic reader, hindsight is 20/20, and it’s their arrogance that blinds them to what they can’t see coming. There was no “midnight raid” on the savior outpost in the books, but again, the build up to the fall is what this has all been about. Our team of murdering heroes have crossed over into the “we don’t take chances” realm… And they are about to get a wake up call regarding their REAL position in the new world.

So what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? In the books it was a blood-soaked multi-issue arc called All Out War… If that gives you a clue.

This Sunday night is the main event as far as The Walking Dead goes. All of this misery, torment, and death has led us on a bloody road to this moment. I don’t know WHO is going to die… But I have my suspicions. And know this: you might as well call in sick for Monday now. It’s going to get REAL nasty, and I mean… Nasty… As in, bring a bucket and the Kleenex, it’s going to be a hell of a ride.

You see, as bad as the Governor was, and as bad as the other Human Bad Guys our heroes have dealt with were, Negan is something else. Negan is insanity, brilliance, and cruelty wrapped in a generous code of ethics and an endearing flair of colorful language.

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Actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan (The Watchmen, The Salvation) is set to bring Negan to life on the small screen, and while the AMC executives are cringing, those of us who get physically ill when crazy shit goes down on Sunday nights are about to have the ride of our lives. In the books, Negan’s arrival is like a nuclear bomb going off, destroying everything we thought we had known about how comics work as stories and as character-driven pieces. I will always remember reading that book, feeling my hands sweat and my pulse pound, feeling my jaw hit the floor as tears welled in my eyes.

Even though I have STRONG suspicions that the show is going to switch up the batting order, all I will say is that no one should ever go out like that. See you Monday morning for the reactions. The season 6 finale of The Walking Dead airs this Sunday night on AMC.