The Walking Dead is in a strange period at the moment, wrapping up six “season 10C” episodes that were crafted under pandemic filming restrictions, and meant to bridge the gap between season 10 and the extended, final season 11 that will debut in July.
These episodes have been a bit all over the place with some gems like One More and some misses like Diverged. But last night’s “finale,” an adaption of the comic prequel, Here’s Negan, may actually be the best episode of the series…ever?
That’s a matter of personal preference, and after 153 episodes I’m having a little trouble remembering them all, but Here’s Negan is absolutely in the conversation with No Sanctuary, No Way Out, The Calm Before and my personal favorite, Scars.
The episode is a trip back through time, showing us a Negan before he was the ruthless, apocalyptic leader he became, and we learn how and why he turned. Spoilers follow.
What follows is a master showcase from both Jeffrey Dean Morgan and his real-life wife Hilarie Burton, playing Negan’s wife, Lucille. Yes, like the bat. As you might expect the two have a tremendous amount of chemistry, and the show has interesting inversion where it shows their life pre-zombies was pretty volatile, with a recently fired Negan jobless and playing video games in between cheating on his wife, but then after, Negan transforms into loving caretaker, doing whatever he has to in order to secure cancer medicine for his wife, diagnosed shortly before the world collapses.
It’s a heartbreaking tale, with Negan doing everything possible to get her them medicine, only to be captured by bandits and forced to sell out two innocent doctors so they free him. But when he returns home, he discovers he’s too late and Lucille has killed herself and transformed. After a period of grief, Negan flips a switch, grabs jacket and bat and returns to destroy the gang members who delayed him. Ultimately, however, he knows it’s his own fault. He should have not left her in the first place and just spent her last moments with her instead.
Meanwhile, in present day, Negan has been banished from town by the council in an effort to separate him from Maggie, but by the end, he returns, with Carol warning him that if he stays, Maggie will kill him. He seems to accept that, and it’s unclear whether he almost wants that to happen as penance for his sins or not, given the recent journey he’s been on. From the comics, Negan’s role is pretty heavily reduced from this point on, but my guess is that changes in the final season here.
I think the show did a solid job of actually improving Here’s Negan from the original comic telling, especially by beefing up Lucille’s role which really allowed Burton to shine. I know Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been dying to do Here’s Negan since he took the role, and there was talk of a movie once upon a time, but even in a slightly extended episode, this is pretty much as good as this could have possibly went, and he and everyone involved should be proud. This is a tremendous, powerful episode and a must-watch for any fan of the series, even if you’ve been away for a few years at this point.
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