crazy / Pop Culture

We Need to Talk About Negan (with apologies to Lionel Shriver)

WARNING: Spoilers for AMC’s The Walking Dead, especially for Season 7, episode one, “The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be”…and possible spoilers for episodes beyond, so tread lightly, yeah?

ricksashalucille

Oh, Negan, you leering, psychopathic Grease audition reject. You’ve caused quite a stir, haven’t you with your wire-wrapped baseball bat you’ve named Lucille (insert phallic symbol jokes right here)? Negan, you now have everyone’s attention, so good on you…but will everyone stick by you, ever devoted, ever loyal, ever submissive…or will some of us high tail it on out of here?

Late for the party once more. Oh, well…Papers to grade and all that.

You know, I don’t think I’ve seen quite the amount of outrage about a television drama series as I have with The Walking Dead, especially within the past several days post-season 7’s brutal premiere. It’s an interesting show, a post-apocalyptic zombie series based on the comics by Robert Kirkman. For one, it’s arguably the most successful horror television drama on cable. It’s also allowed horror — a genre that is often treated as the red-haired stepchild — to sneakily slide into the pop culture mainstream and has effectively introduced the genre to TV viewers who’d probably otherwise avoid it. It’s the human element of the show, of course, that has viewers coming back. It IS dramatic, it is thrilling, but it’s drama laced with an addictive, acidic burn. That burn we get when we know perfectly well something’s terribly amiss, something wretchedly awful is coming, but we stay the course and wait…wait…wait…for that moment, as horrifying as it is, to beat us senseless…and I mean SENSEless.

Such is the case for our introduction to the newest villain of the show, Negan (played with hammy, teeth-sucking gusto by the charismatic Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

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Our protagonist group, led by former policeman Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), has already been through 6 seasons of sheer hell trying to form a community someplace safe and secure. We’ve followed them in this new, dangerous world where everyone is infected, so everyone eventually comes back as a “walker,” “biter,” “roamer,” or “lurker” (zombies, in other words).  While the undead are an ever-present threat, the protagonists have since gotten quite used to their ordeal, and now, the zombies are merely lethal pests. The real danger, as we’ve known from the start of their journey, is in the human characters themselves, antagonists like the Governor, the fascist leader of Woodbury; the devious cannibals of Terminus (we’ll never hear the words “tainted meat” the same way again); the quid-pro-quo, abusive, rape-y police who’d taken over Grady Memorial Hospital…and now, Negan, the thug-in-charge of a giant army of…well, thugs…who call themselves the “Saviors.”

Now before I get into the controversy, the spittle-frothy hysteria that’s been happening about the season premiere, I need to get something out of the way. Just a little bit of info. for clarification. For the last few episodes of season 6, our protagonists have since settled into the walled-off Alexandria Safe-Zone, a pretty decent community where there’s a prime bit of real estate for anyone trying to escape the zombies and the crazies. It’s a self-sustaining, green community with all the essentials courtesy of solar power, cistern water system and eco-based sewage filtration. Now the community itself had a bit of internal and external trouble ever since our protags came to stay, but that’s par for the course in The Walking Dead. I mean, wherever Rick and Co. go, trouble’s sure to follow; otherwise, there would be no conflict at all, and that would be just damned boring, wouldn’t it?

Anyway, our group currently finds itself in a bit of a pickle, as ever, as they’ve been in demand for some assistance. Another community, the Hilltop Colony, not too far off from Alexandria, is having a dickens of a time dealing with extortionists, namely Negan’s Saviors, who take half of the Hilltop Colony’s supplies in exchange for “protection.” The Hilltop’s leader, Gregory (Xander Berkeley, who’s so good at playing characters who may need bitchslapping), strikes a deal with Rick and Co. for them to rid the Hilltop, once and for all, of the Saviors, and that is where and when the trouble begins…

…and then the interwebz promptly explodes bloody chunks all over itself.

Negan and his Savior-brutes trap and surround our heroes who are then forced on their knees, and then Negan, demanding blood for the loss of his own men, randomly selects a victim for he (and “Lucille”) to promptly bludgeon to death. Well, two actually. And it’s one of the most gory-awful, tragic moments on regular cable I’ve ever seen (I am not including HBO, by the way, so don’t bother bringing up the Starks’ suffering in Game of Thrones).

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(You. Are. It.)

We fans of the show were left with a big cheat of a moment, a season cliffhanger in which we saw through the eyes of the person getting his head smashed in. Not wanting to disappoint the fans, the showrunners made certain we’d see everything…and I mean, everything times two, in the season opener, and we knew damned well what we were getting into. It was going to be wrenching. It was going to be awful.

And this…this is my issue with the outrage machine on hyperdrive. So many who are walking away from the show, never turning back, claiming it’s now become a show that glorifies human suffering and despair rather than survival and hope in a post-apocalyptic world.

I beg to differ.

Negan’s a character — a horror series villain — who makes violent examples out of anyone who kills any of his people. He’s no different than any number of hardened, bloodthirsty thugs in any other violent drama series. Frankly, he’s only just been introduced, so he hasn’t been given his due; he hasn’t been given a chance to redeem himself just yet. He may or may not. If the showrunners, the execs, whoever is in charge, follow the comic origins, what happens to Negan is the very reason why fans should continue watching as it represents exactly the kind of redemption and humanity they seem to think the show now lacks. Hell, I’ll spoil it further and add that it is an act of a civilized society rather than a primal, vengeful one. Our protagonists are at the point now where they are starting to realize that their world doesn’t have to be one of madness and blood, and that’s why villains of the show — the conflict — ought to represent everything our protagonists are fighting against.

And…well…hell…

Wait until they get a load of who’s to come.

alpha-walking-dead

That’s all, she wrote.

 

 

For a fantastic recap and commentary of the season premiere, one that is much more optimistic about the show than the doom-and-gloom lot, try The Telethon Runner’s take on the episode.

 

 

Also inspired in part by the Daily Prompt Banned

 

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23 thoughts on “We Need to Talk About Negan (with apologies to Lionel Shriver)

  1. I seriously don’t get why anyone cared. Like, the violence was only more extreme because it was the people we loved. We’ve seen the same level of violence in The Walking Dead before – plenty of times. It’s just Glenn had been with us since the beginning (in particular) and Abraham was a quick fan-favourite (I loved him). It wasn’t, realistically, any more gruesome than so many of the other deaths … the only real difference was that we really, really cared this time. I’m not pissy about the gore … I’m pissy that I lost TWO of my favourites. That sucked. Big time.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Oh, I know! I know! So sad! That moment of losing two beloved characters…just achingly terrible. My natural inclination was to immediately defend the show to the death, so to speak (except for season 2…I hated season 2). I’d read a number of lengthy responses by horror authors and pop culture writers about the season opener, and most of them proclaimed that a sense of empty nihilism towards humanity had permeated the show, so — by golly — they were going to stop watching altogether. The show had turned into something bleak and worn, grim and unrelenting, yadda yadda. I totally disagree. Hell, the next episode introduces a bunch of good people doing good things to restart humanity.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hey You!
    My only response to the lobbed criticism is that the horror genre was built on violence and nihilism – – – some of the better things are permeated with a sense of despair. I think the series has problems, no doubt, however, the zombie subgenre is violent … at times nastily so. I’ve seen Fulci films sicker than anything The Walking Dead did last Sunday. And I love Geoffery Dean Morgan…depending on your point- of- view there’s a lot of humor in his performance, a grin and a wink at the audience. Sure his Negan is the baddest of the bad but he exudes quite a bit of humor too. Lol nobody should get so loony over fictional people killing fictional people.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Heeeeyyyy! Oh, I know! It’s like these people aren’t familiar with horror post-apocalyptic themes, let alone the human violence that is often present in such settings. It’s horror…HORROR, for shit’s sake.

      Also, as you’ve noted, it’s a work of fiction; it’s nothing to get in a state over. Although, okay, art imitates life imitates art and so on, as the anti-argument will undoubtedly go. I’ve a friend who simply remarked while viewing the premiere, “Negan’s probably a Trump supporter,” and while silly, there’s some dark truth behind it, what with the violent suggestions/asides and reactionary happening from Trump and his fringe right followers. I just saw another friend had posted a photo of a yard with Trump signs out front and a life-sized Hillary doll strapped to a homemade electric chair. That’s the sort of thing that makes horror what it is though. Horror is, arguably, an artistic reactionary to the darker side of humanity. (In the case of Negan, it’s like holding up a mirror to these lunatics.)

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  3. Thanks (again) for the shout-out!
    I’m in complete agreement with you, as usual. And I think CarlaLouise89 hit the nail on the head; everyone’s up in arms because we lost two favorite characters this time around. The violence on this show has always been brutal and over-the-top and even though it’s not what keeps viewers coming back, it’s an integral part of TWD.
    Scott M. Gimple promised a *funny* episode 2, so hopefully the Kingdom story is a bit of a lighthearted respite from all the gore and heartbreak of the premiere.
    Btw I’m still cracking up over your “leering, psychopathic Grease audition reject” line!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey there! Funny you and Carla Louise have mentioned the loss of the characters and how everyone’s upset about it — I’ve heard from others who’ve stated that that particular episode was TWD’s Red Wedding…and that it was inevitably going to happen at some point. I like to think that shows just how effective a television series (or film, novel, etc) is, when we’ve fully become invested in the characters’ livelihoods and overall well-being.

      Yeah, here’s hoping episode 2 is a fun time for a change. It looks like it will be since the Kingdom is refreshingly different from the norm, and its leader…quirky.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yep, I read about the Red Wedding comparison too. I just don’t get why actual fans of either show would be so freaking upset over character deaths that they knew were coming! Oh well, the more they rant all over the internet the more buzz for the show I guess. Btw, have you watched the New Rockstars’ reviews on YouTube? I mentioned their GoT analyses of episodes before, but their TWD ones aren’t bad either. This week’s recap pretty much echoed my own thoughts on the episode: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YZ4021B-K0I
        I really hope Ezekiel and the tiger live up to expectations – we definitely need some comic relief after last week’s episode!

        Liked by 1 person

    • I enjoyed that video from the New Rockstars and also thought that mention of the title of the episode was the same as the line from the CDC scientist, impressive (I would’ve never made the connection because I barely remember that season). Totally agreed with the whole defiance-to-submission point about Negan and Rick. The dog-training parallel was so dead-on, everything from Negan’s lines in the caravan to his dragging Rick to and from the caravan. Brilliant.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I hate that they drug out the reveal with a “filler’ that was blah, a filler much like a pesky gnat that I kept wishing would get the hell out of the way. I contemplated dropping out because quite frankly, you may hate Trump, but I hate both choices and right now my feelings are that we can choose between evil and eviler, which leaves me feeling hopeless. I wonder if our fav’s in TWD are beginning to feel that too? Are the bad guys going to continue to dominate this apocalyptic world? Is there no hope of goodness prevailing? Instead of killing one another, wouldn’t it be nice if we could see them working together for a better tomorrow? Is Ezequiel going to prove to be any better? Or is this a front for a sinister evil hiding? It leaves me feeling that everyone sees goodness as boring. Perhaps it’s symbolic of our world and/or a reflection of our own inner demons we must constantly battle. I don’t know. I’m thinking this controversial season’s premiere is a setup for the theme of this season. Just think, we now have three very pissed TWD females seething with vengeance for the killing of their men. Add our other two women, Michonne, who just saw her man broken and Carol, they could very well rise up and become a formidable force in their own right and who would ever suspect them? They are women after all.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think you’ve hit on something powerful about this season, that it’s a damned fine moment to have it centered on the women of TWD for a change and their own sense of redemption (I think revenge is fine, but it would be even better if they come out of this as heroes with a sense of grace and authority as well).

      Ezekiel is going to be awesome. Wait and see.

      Liked by 1 person

      • I agree 100%. I immediately saw a connection between Ezequiel and Carol after he called her out and then when he shows up in that white tee looking burning hot? What a sizzle. Oh, and the pigs. Weren’t tainted pigs what caused everyone at the prison to get sick and start turning? Now who all is missing, that we’ve yet to get an update on? Our original group is getting Maggie help, Carol & Morgan are at the Kingdom. Tara. Where’s Tara and who’s with her and what about Gabriel, Judith and the others in Alexandria? So we still have a few loose ends out there.

        Liked by 1 person

      • We’ve not established/returned to Alexandria yet. I’m assuming Gabriel and Judith, etc. are still there. Tara and Heath — aren’t they out scouting for supplies? There’s going to be an episode solely on them and a strange batch of walkers they encounter (there’s more to it than that, but I can’t say what here — it’s in the comics). Maggie and Sasha are on their way to the Hilltop, I’m presuming, where Maggie can get help. Rick and the others (Eugene, Carl, Aaron, Rosita) are probably heading for Alexandria. I am also curious as to what’s going to be happening with Daryl as he is a hostage now. It looks like the next episode will focus on that and the Saviors’ compound.

        Oh, and tainted meat — haha, running joke courtesy of Bob, remember? — certainly caused a number of people to be sick, so that will be interesting to see, what with some of the Saviors getting ill from infected hogs.

        Liked by 1 person

      • He would fare badly then. In any case, it looks like we’ll be on a roller coaster ride this season. I’ll be out of town for awhile, do it’s not as easy to respond for some reason. My phone doesn’t take my password or save it, so go figure.

        Liked by 1 person

    • You’re not in the minority around here. He’s an interesting actor who can pull off sexy wolf and repulsive pitbull all in one go (I call it the “Guy Pearce phenomenon”). He has such fun as Negan that I can’t help but see him as anything but.

      Like

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