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The Walking Dead - Here's Negan - Review

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  Season 10 of The Walking Dead came to an end with one of its best episodes of the season: “Here’s Negan” written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick and directed by Laura Belsey. Of course, this was the season that wouldn’t die but was also so chopped up and spread over so long that I’ve lost sight of most of the earlier episodes. None of that overshadows the truly magnificent performances of Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) and his real life wife Hilarie Burton Morgan (Lucille). I was especially blown away by Hilarie Burton Morgan’s performance. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen her in anything other than Friday Night in With the Morgans, so this was my first time seeing her really act – and wow. She just might convince me to start watching Hallmark movies! 

This week’s voiceover was Negan, of course. He begins by saying he believes everyone is owed a shot at redemption. He reminds us that he had a deal with Carol and that he hoped to find redemption in Alexandria by helping to defeat the Whisperers. But nothing he did could change what he is to Maggie (Lauren Cohen) – Glenn’s killer. Negan knows somethings can’t be forgotten. 

There’s a sweet scene with Maggie and little Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller). They’re walking around Alexandria the way Maggie used to walk around the farm with her father. They sing the song that she used to sing with her father – “You Are My Sunshine.” But the cloud over Maggie’s day is Negan who she sees working on one of the buildings. Carol (Melissa McBride) watches from a window.

Carol takes Negan out – under cover of looking for food. Negan tells her that he’s trying to stay out of Maggie’s way, but there’s only so much he can do. He asks Carol to put in a good word for him. She owes him after all… They end up at a cabin – Leah’s cabin? She tells him that the Council has voted to banish him. But Negan wants to know if it was really the Council or a “Carol seizing the reins situation?” Carol just smiles… so likely not the Council.

Negan sits in front of the fire, drinking. Behind him, in his mind, is the Negan we remember – slicked back hair, leather jacket, red scarf, and Lucille. “Little pig, little pig. Let. Me. In.” Clearly, big bad wolf Negan is his alter ego. BBW-Negan tells him that it’s sad that he thought for a second that anyone would ever see him for anything other than BBW-Negan. I thought this was a really interesting way to explore what we do to protect ourselves. How we can have more than one iteration of ourselves to deal with the things life throws at us. How sometimes, it’s very much like simply playing a part – and sometimes that part becomes the reality. Played poorly, or poorly written, and this entire sequence could have made it seem like Negan was simply insane with multiple personality disorder/schizophrenia.

Negan calls the BBW version a clown and a culted personality with no cult. BBW points out that he always got a lot further with a kind word AND Lucille than just a kind word and he is nothing without her. Negan may be resisting it, but next morning, he’s digging under the tree where he lost the fight with Rick. He’s sure that they buried Lucille there – he proceeds to dig up a huge area, while a walker slowly approaches over the fields… When he does find the bat, he smiles.

We then jump back 12 years. Negan is beaten up and tied to a chair by a biker - Baxter (Rodney Rowland), who is clearly their leader. Negan has cancer medication and begs them to let him go to his wife who is sick. They are looking for the doctors who gave Negan the medicine. Negan apparently sent them to the wrong place and covers by saying that they move around. The biker threatens to pour the medicine down the toilet and make him watch. Negan is fiddling with the screws on the bottom of the chair. Morgan is impressive here as he looks like almost an entirely different character, yet it’s clear this is just Negan before his ultimate trauma. Negan admits that the doctors have a medical warehouse with drugs and equipment, but he doesn’t know where that is. He’d been tracking them for weeks. 

We flash back to 2 or 3 days ago. Negan is running up on a group of trailers with a gun. He tells them all to drop their guns – he doesn’t want to shoot them but he will. Really, not the most threatening threat ever… He seems disoriented. Franklin (Miles Mussenden) tells him to take it easy, and in a really nice surprise, Laura (Lindsley Register) hits Negan with a bat and knocks him out. Franklin tells her she didn’t have to do that, but she insists “better safe than sorry” – if she only knew!

Negan comes too handcuffed to an exam chair but being given an intravenous hydration. Franklin asks if he’s going to be trouble and uncuffs him, handing him food. He recognized that Negan was dehydrated and malnourished. And his gun was empty! Negan tells him his wife has cancer, and he’s been treating her. Franklin asks if he’s a doctor, and Negan confirms high school gym teacher. The doctor gave them a calendar of what she needed when. Negan tells him it’s not that complicated. Until something went wrong.

We flash back to six weeks ago. Negan is taking the chemo medicine out of the fridge. Lucille wants to watch a James Bond movie. There’s clearly a walker outside and she tells him they’re going to have to kill it. He tells her that he’ll just turn the generator off for a little while and it will lose interest. It’s hilarious to see Negan not want to kill a walker. 

Negan goes out and shuts off the generator, but before he does, he puts the medicine in the freezer with some ice and a thermometer. We see that Lucille has a collection of wigs as the camera pans back to Negan reading Pride and Prejudice as a substitute for James Bond. Negan tells her that the book sucks and he just can’t do it. She’s clearly torturing him! She’s the one who insists that they have to take care of the walker when they hear it now up by the house. 

Negan goes out to kill it, complete with goggles. He’s wrestling with it and finally gets a knife in it’s eye, but it still doesn’t die and keeps snapping at him. Suddenly, it’s shot in the head. Lucille is standing there, still hooked to her iv. She’s a good shot! She's also clearly a pragmatist. She matter of factly tells him to turn the generator back on so she can watch a movie. 

Negan is out scavenging – mainly for gas to keep the generator going. Like everyone else, he’s having to go further and further. He does manage to find someone’s stash. It will help with her nausea. Lucille is concerned that he has to go further and further, but Negan points out that the place being picked clean works in their favor. There’s nothing there that anyone wants. Lucille wants to move – they need other people. She’s clearly worried about what will happen to Negan if she doesn’t make it. Negan insists it’s too dangerous. She only has three more treatments. Then he’ll put her on the motorcycle and take her wherever she wants to go. He promises and she says ok.

We get a wonderful scene as Lucille shakes with chills and cold and Negan holds her and sings “You Are So Beautiful” to her. We get flashes of the two playing with her wigs – it’s not the Negan we think we know.

There’s another walker outside. Lucille tells him that it’s not like killing a person. It’s like killing an animal. He tells her that it doesn’t bother him, but he’s worried that he’s going to get used to it! Oh… the irony… She understands; she tells him to turn the generator off. The two have dinner by candlelight – it’s dog food! She jokes that if she’d known how good it tastes, she’d have been eating it all along! Negan laughs too. She then presents him with a present – his leather jacket! He asks where it was, and she tells him she was so angry that she couldn’t return it that she’d hidden it. She then apologizes, but if she’d known everything that was going to happen, she wouldn’t have cared about a credit card bill.

Negan tells her that he doesn’t deserve anything from her, and she shouldn’t be apologizing to him. He should be apologizing to her. He tells her that he lays awake at night – he regrets the man that he was. He’s lucky that she got stuck with him. She tells him that she stuck with him because she could always see the man he is right then – even when he wasn’t. She suggests that they both smoke the pot. She clearly wants to make love, and he asks if she feels ok, and she says good enough. Afterwards, both fall into a sound sleep – and the chemo medicine is ruined when it overheats.

A guy with a kid with leukemia came through and told them about the doctors who move around. Negan saw the guy’s map – he’s going after the doctors. Lucille points out that he doesn’t really know where they are and that he has nothing to barter with. Finally, she yells at him to just stop. She has something to tell him.

We flash back to seven months ago – the zombie apocalypse hadn’t happened yet. I loved the musical choice of “Back in Black.” For me, it evoked Morgan’s run as John Winchester on Supernatural. John too was pulled out of his normal life and thrust into one of violence by the death of his wife, but even more interestingly (and clearly a subject for an entire academic paper) is the way fans distorted the John they saw on the show into something quite different in fan fiction, painting him as a villain. Of course, here, Negan clearly was a dick! 

Lucille bursts into the basement (there home in the more recent flashbacks and clearly Negan’s man cave here), finding him playing video games with kids – and curing them out for being pussies! She’s found the leather jacket and is furious that it cost $600! He tells her that he’s got a lead on two jobs – one’s a lock but the other pays better… he’s just celebrating early… She wants details. We learn that he can’t go back to being a gym teacher because of a misdemeanor assault charge and he refuses to go back to school. I loved how much this revealed about Negan. It’s not assault with a deadly weapon – it’s about as innocuous as an assault charge can be. He’s clearly not very ambitious – and doesn’t want to learn new things. He’s a bit lazy and an underachiever – gym teachers are jocks, right? He’s a bit of a bully – he does like to bully those kids on the video game, and I’m betting that was what he was like as a coach too. Lucille tells him she’s returning the jacket, and he tells her he threw away the receipt.

Lucille is on the phone to her “friend” Janine, who is encouraging her to dump Negan. His behaviour was cute when he was younger… and then there’s the assault charge. But Lucille clearly feels differently when not talking to Negan. She tells Janine that Negan really loved his job and working with the kids – so maybe he wasn’t a bully with them? She also, even more tellingly, says that the asshole he beat up had it coming. She’s swigging a beer as she talks on the phone – she’s maybe a little rougher around the edges that it seems at first glance too – we know she gets over feeling badly about killing walkers a lot faster than Negan after all.  

We get another dinner scene to parallel the earlier one. He’s cooked and asks how the food is. She says it’s good and asks if he did something different. It’s hard to imaging Negan experimenting with a white wine reduction! She tells him her appointment is the next day at 2:15 and he’s forgotten all about it. She needs him to drive her home. He tells her he can’t because he has a meeting with his probation officer. I loved how this focused on Burton Morgan’s face. We see the disappointment and fear in Lucille’s face. Negan is just brushing it all off, assuming she will be fine. 

The scene shifts from the close up of Lucille at home to in the doctor’s office. He’s giving her the bad news – and then asks if she has someone to drive her home. She smiles and lies yes. She tries calling Negan and gets voicemail. She tries calling Janine – and also gets voicemail. She then tries the probation officer – but Negan isn’t scheduled to be there for another 2 weeks. And it suddenly dawns on her that Negan and Janine are together. No wonder Janine wanted her to kick Negan out…

There’s another wonderful shot as she’s trying to get the radio to play music and all she’s getting is reports about the dead eating the living. All you see reflected in the radio screen is her open mouth – just like a walker…

That night we’re back at the dinning table. She’s sitting there alone. The camera pans down to her hands beside her on the chair – a gun in one hand and cancer pamphlets in the other. Negan comes in with a big smile and immediately sees all is not right. He asks her what’s wrong, and she makes her decision. She throws the pamphlets on the table and says she has cancer.

We flash back to Negan being shocked that Lucille knew about Janine. He tells her that he broke it off as soon as they got the diagnosis – he never spoke to her or saw her again. And that too says something about Negan. Too many partners cut and run with such a diagnosis… She tells him that she wants him to know that he’s made up for it. She tells him that if she really wants to help her, he should just stay. Negan is convinced that the treatment will work, but Lucille knows it’s not. She tells him that it’s time for him to go on without her. She begs him to stay, but he won’t give up. He’s determined to save her. Both are just fantastic in this scene as they both try to save each other. 

And then we jump ahead six weeks to Negan telling all this to Franklin. Negan had thought to scavenge along the way. It was worth than he’d thought. Franklin had already sent Laura to fill his list, and she brings back what Negan needs from the warehouse. Negan is shocked that Franklin has given him everything he needed and wanted and asked for nothing in return. Franklin assures him that they’re good. What goes around, comes around. 

Laura tells him there’s a gang that owns the road at night and to be careful. She asks if his gun is his only weapon. He tells her that he broke his hammer on the way there. She gives him the bat – and it’s brand new…

We flash back to Baxter – and he’s still angry. He’s tired of hearing Negan talk. He holds the gun to his head and Negan caves. He asks for his map, circles a location, and tells him that security is light. It’s just the guy and his daughter, and they have no guns.

The next day, Baxter lets Negan out and gives him the drugs. Negan ties the cooler onto his bike. He can hear Laura being attacked – and likely raped – in the trailer that is now in the parking lot of the bar where he was being held. He clearly hesitates – but only for a moment. Every minute is precious and he has to get back to Lucille.

Negan comes back to a dark house. He calls out to Lucille, but there’s no answer. He goes down to the basement. On the door is a note: “Please don’t leave me like this.” He opens the door, knowing what he’s going to see – but it’s even more horrible. She’s tied one hand to the bed and put a bag over her head with a twist tie around her neck. She’s committed suicide. Negan takes out the bat – but he can’t kill her. She reaching out trying to grab him and he just sits down on the bed with her. “You Are So Beautiful” begins to play. He rips open the bag. There’s no silly wig and Lucille is completely gone. 

        Negan sits on the floor by the bed, drinking. He then goes out and gets the barbed wire to wrap around the bat. He sets the house on fire – he’s wearing the leather jacket now. There’s a great shot of him bursting out of the front door. He climbs on his bike, and knocks the mailbox off with the bat as he leaves and the final strains of the song fade out. This Negan was forged in loss and fire.

Back at the biker bar, Franklin is getting worked over. When Franklin won’t talk, they threaten to bring out Laura. Negan arrives, and Lucille tastes first blood taking out the lookouts. He takes the gun off the body just in time to shoot a second in the head – he’s not hesitating now. Franklin meanwhile, has found the loose screw and works to fee himself. Franklin gets loose and bashes Baxter over the head with the back of the chair just as Negan uses Lucile to bust in the glass door. 

Negan pops Baxter a quick one with Lucille while Franklin ties him up. Negan gives Franklin the gun and tells him to go and find his daughter – he’s pretty sure he’s taken care of all the rest of them. Negan is wearing a red hoodie under the coat – not quite the red scarf, but the same look. His hair is now slicked back too.

He props Baxter up on his knees, and conversationally begins. ‘Look at us. Here we are.’ He reminds Baxter that he didn’t like him talking, but he’s got some things to get off his chest – and when he stops talking something terrible is going to happen to Baxter. Negan confides that he’d never killed a man before that night. He tells him he came close once. We finally get the story of how he lost his job over the physical assault.

He tells Baxter that he and Lucille had been at their favorite bar – favorite because it had their favorite juke box with their favorite song: “You Are So Beautiful” by Joe Cocker. On this particular night, the song is playing and an obnoxious bar patron is talking and laughing so loudly that they can’t hear it. Lucille goes over and politely asks him to keep it down so she can hear her song. Negan tells Baxter that he chose poorly. Negan goes over and tells the guy he owes him 50 cents so he can play his wife’s song over. Negan then tells Baxter that this is the important part; he should pay attention: When people say that they see red when they are really angry is totally true. When the guy came at him, all he saw was red – like he was seeing the world through blood. He whaled on the guy until he didn’t get up. He took a dollar out of his wallet and played the song… twice. The guy has kids that go to the school where he teaches, and he loses his job. Then the guy sued him. Negan doesn’t have a job, and Lucille had to pay the guy’s medical bills. Negan’s point? Seeing red was a bad thing. But now? Nobody’s suing, getting fired – nobody’s even keeping score. Now, it’s just a matter of what he’s capable of. And he’s starting to think that he’s capable of damn near anything. We get the iconic shot of Negan looking down a blood-stained Lucille. He tells Baxter – so this is for not killing me. And he swings…

Back in the present, in the field, the walker is finally there. Negan swings, and Lucille finally breaks. Negan falls to his knees. It’s perfect that it’s almost exactly the same spot as where Rick defeated him. 

Back in the cabin, in front of the fire, Negan talks to his wife. He tells her that he’s sorry he left and that he was a coward who couldn’t face the pain of losing her. He confesses that he made himself not feel anything because he didn’t want to feel the shame, but shame is the one thing that he did still feel. He’s sorry that she died the way she did and he wasn’t there. He’s sorry that he named a stupid baseball bat after her. He apologizes for all the pain that he put her through. He says he hopes she found someone in the afterlife and is screwing her brains out – and then he walks that back, but fair is fair. He tells her that he misses her and that he “loved the shit outta” her. He promises to do her fighting for her. He covers up the bat with what looks like a shroud and then places it in the fire – burning it as he did the real Lucille.

Negan returns to Alexandria. Maggie, Daryl (Norman Reedus), Carol, and Hershel watch him come as they get ready to leave to look for food at an army base that Daryl has found. Carol goes to meet Negan. She tells him that she’ll bring some food by his cabin if they find anything. Negan tells her that it won’t be necessary. Negan isn’t Daryl. He’s never going to be ok on his own. He asks Carol to requisition a cart for him to bring back his stuff. Carol says she’ll ask Gabriel to approve it. She smiles as she tells Negan that if he stays, Maggie will kill him. She just didn’t want his death on her conscience. He tells her fair enough. His hair is slicked back again – but he’s not wearing the leather jacket and there’s no red scarf or hoodie... He looks Maggie straight in the eye as he walks off and smiles at her. It’s that impish grin, but is it a challenge, a threat, or something else? Maggie just stares at him…

This was a terrific episode. It was also a great finale to an incredibly long and convoluted season. It sets us up nicely for the final season. Will Negan win over Maggie? Is that his fight? Is that what Lucille would want? What about this army base? Shouldn’t it have been picked clean already? Clearly, this is what the significance of the two soldiers Daryl found was. Is this going to be related in some way to the storm trooper soldiers? At least we know that the show will be back relatively soon as they are already shooting. What did you think of the episode? The season? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

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