The Walking Dead saved the best of its Season 10 bonus episodes for last: Sunday’s emotional “Here’s Negan” focused on… well, Negan — duh — and his relationship with the wife after whom he named his infamous “vampire bat.” And not only did the hour cue up a tour-de-force performance by Jeffrey Dean Morgan, it begged us to rethink whether “You Are So Beautiful” is cheesy, gave us a glimpse into Negan’s introduction to a future Savior and sent back to Alexandria a version of the former (?) villain who is unafraid to cross paths — and perhaps even swords — with Maggie. Read on, there’s a lot to unpack…
‘THERE’S ONLY SO FAR I CAN GO TO GET OUT OF HER WAY’ | As the final episode of Season 10 began, Maggie was out for a stroll with Hershel, telling him that his grandpa used to like to have a walk the first thing in the morning to get a feel for the day to come. “Was the first thing so early back then?” asked the youngster, making a play for Judith’s title of Cutest Kid on TV. Mind you, the levity came to a glaring halt when Maggie spied Negan working nearby — and, at the same time, Carol spied Maggie spying the whole spy-off. It was a whole spying thing. Afterwards, Carol took Negan out with her to check rabbit traps — or so he thought. Really, what she was doing was leading him to his new — unless I’m mistaken, Leah’s old — cabin. Carol knew what she’d promised Negan, but what could she do? The council had voted to banish him, so she and Daryl had taken the liberty of moving his things out. Hmm. He couldn’t help but wonder, “Did the council really banish me, or is this more of a Carol-seizing-the-reins situation?” Whatever it was, he wouldn’t be accompanying her back to Alexandria. He could keep the dead rabbit, though, as a lovely (?) parting gift.
Alone with his thoughts that night, Negan was visited by a version of his mean-spirited Saviors-leader self, who delighted in mocking him for ever believing that he could be accepted by the good guys. You’re a clown, Negan told his old self, “a cult of personality with no cult.” But sticks and stones couldn’t even ding the old Negan’s ego. “You are nothing without her,” said the antagonist, Lucille firm in his grip. Shaken, Negan set off the following day to find Lucille at the spot of his last stand; the bat had been left right where it had fallen when Rick slit his nemesis’ throat. When at last Negan unearthed what he was looking for, we flashed back 12 years, at which point he was tied to a chair and being menaced by the leader of a biker gang (Rod Rowland, who had to have auditioned to play Daryl once upon a time, wouldn’t you think?). The bikers, it seemed, had apprehended Negan on his way back to cancer-stricken wife Lucille with the chemo treatment that he’d obtained from a post-apocalyptic mobile clinic. Assuming that the docs had all kindsa other good s–t, too, the bikers wanted to know their location — and if he didn’t talk, down the toilet would go his missus’ one chance at beating cancer.
‘LET’S PRETEND IT’S SATURDAY’ | From there, we flashed back a couple of days, to Negan approaching the mobile clinic he’d been tracking with gun drawn. Before things could escalate, he was whacked with a bat by — well, hey there! — future Savior Laura. Only at the time, she was just a nice young woman working with dad Franklin at the mobile clinic. And when I say nice, I mean really nice. As soon as he could, Franklin un-cuffed Negan, fed him and asked why he was “trying to rob a bunch of doctors with an empty gun.” Lucille had been in the middle of her treatment, Negan explained, when the world turned upside-down. But following the doctors’ instructions, he’d managed to keep administering her chemo. What happened then? Flashing back another six weeks, we saw Negan and Lucille (Morgan’s off-screen wife, Hilarie Burton Morgan) debating turning off their generator. He wanted to, in hopes that a curious walker would wander off. She wanted him to just dispatch the thing already so she could watch a Bond movie. In the end, he relented but had so much trouble killing the zombie — it didn’t die even after being stabbed in the eye! — that she wheeled out her IV drip and used their last bullet to shoot it.
With gas becoming ever harder for Negan to find, Lucille argued that they needed to go, find other people. They would, he assured her — as soon as he gave her her last three treatments and got her strength up. And man, short of with Judith, you’ve never seen a Negan as sweet and tender as he was in the scenes during which he held his wife as she shook from the chemo, softly singing in her ear her favorite song (the aforementioned Joe Cocker classic) and even playfully wearing her colorful wigs. But on the subject of killing walkers, they disagreed. “It’s not even like killing an animal,” she said as another one lumbered toward the generator. “It doesn’t bother me,” he insisted. “I’m just worried I’m gonna get used to it.” So off they turned the generator once again before dining on a dinner of dog food and tap water. If Lucille had known that the world was going to end, she said, she wouldn’t have been so angry that he’d spent $600 on a leather jacket — which she’d hidden and now presented to him as an anniversary gift. (Because who could say for sure? Maybe it was their anniversary.) She shouldn’t apologize to him, he said, not after everything he put her through. He couldn’t believe that she had stuck with him. “I stuck with you,” she said, “because I could always see the man you are right now… even when you weren’t.”
‘STORY TIME IS OVER, BITCH’ | The following morning, Negan awakened to a horrifying sound: dripping. The ice that was supposed to keep Lucille’s chemo chilled had melted. It was ruined. But he had an idea. He would go after the mobile clinic that he’d heard about, maybe he could catch them. Don’t, she said. “I have something to tell you.” On that ominous note, we flashed back another seven months, to Lucille railing at Negan for blowing 600 bucks on “this Happy Days s–t” jacket when he couldn’t get a new job with a misdemeanor-assault charge hanging over his head. On the plus side, at least he had cooked a nice dinner. And she had bigger fish to fry, anyway. She needed him to drive her home from her MRI the following day. No can do, he said. He was meeting with his parole officer. Only she soon deduced that that wasn’t who he was with — he was with her friend, Janine. Some friend. Some husband. That night, Lucille waited for him to come home with a gun by her side. But instead of shoot him dead, she dropped cancer pamphlets on the table. Flashing forward again, Negan couldn’t believe that Lucille had known about Janine and still stayed with him. Why was she telling him now? “I want you to know that you made up for it,” she said, “and you can stop.” All she wanted was for him to stay with her. He couldn’t do that, though. “We are not giving up,” he insisted, “not ever.”
Back in the mobile-clinic timeline, Franklin and Laura provided everything on Negan’s wish list, asking nothing in return. In fact, since a biker gang prowled at night and he was out of bullets, Laura even gave him her baseball bat for protection — the future Lucille. Yet he still disclosed their location to those very same bikers, who soon returned, tied up Franklin and did God knows what to poor Laura in the RV. Though Negan didn’t even stop to help Laura — cold — he got back to Lucille too late to save her. “Please don’t leave me like this,” read the note she wrote on their bedroom door. Beyond it, he found her with a plastic bag over her head and a collection of empty pill bottles scattered around. She had, of course, turned. What followed was a crushing series of scenes set to “You Are So Beautiful.” During them, Negan pulled off the plastic bag to look at his wife’s tortured face and snapping jaws. A portrait of a broken man, he couldn’t bring himself to put her down. Instead, he added barbed wire to his bat, set their house on fire with her in it and emerged from the flames the Negan we first met at the end of Season 6. Making a beeline for the biker bar, Negan shot, bashed and/or basically destroyed the leader’s henchman. Then, after giving Franklin the gun to go get Laura and scram, he sat down to have a little talk with the boss man, who’d previously said that he yakked too much. “This time,” Negan noted, “you best hope I never stop talking. When I do, something very terrible is gonna happen to you.”
‘IT’S LIKE I’M LOOKING AT THE WORLD THROUGH BLOOD’ | With that, Negan told the guy how he’d lost his job. He and Lucille had been at their favorite bar, playing her favorite song (you know the one) on the jukebox, and this d-bag was loud and rowdy through it. Lucille had asked him to keep it down. “He chose poorly,” said Negan, recalling that he’d finally understood what it had meant to get so angry that you saw red. He beat the guy to a pulp, took a dollar out of his wallet and played Cocker twice in a row. But his victim had a kid who went to the school at which Negan worked — that is, at the school for which he no longer worked. Then, seeing red had led to a whole lotta trouble for Negan. “Now when I see red,” he observed, “it’s just a question of what I am capable of… [and] I am starting to think that I am capable of damn near anything.” Finally, he brought down Lucille on the creep’s head. At that point, we returned to the present. Negan whacked a walker with Lucille… which cracked. In response, he took it back to the cabin and apologized — to his wife, not the bat — for a lotta things, not the least of which being naming a bat after her! From here on, he concluded, “I am gonna do your fighting for you.” Off that turning point, Negan returned to Alexandria, s–t-eating grin restored to his face, and told Carol his new digs weren’t going to work out. “If you stay here, she will kill you,” she said as Maggie shot looks that seemed designed to do exactly that. “I just didn’t want your death on my conscience, and now it’s not.” Unfazed, Negan moseyed right along, flashing a smile at Maggie as he did.
So, WTH was he playing at? And what did you think of Season 10’s ender? Grade “Here’s Negan” in the poll below, then read showrunner Angela Kang’s breakdown of the episode here.