The Negan Redemption: From The Walking Dead’s Big Bad to Sympathetic Hero

Kim Taylor-Foster
TV Horror
TV Horror The Walking Dead

For fans of the comic books, the arrival of evil piece-of-work Negan to the live-action series was eagerly anticipated. For viewers, Negan was a looming presence in the series throughout Season 6 – sometime before his first appearance in the season finale. The show’s creators knew the benefits of building up the character’s monstrous persona through both the eyes of others and hearsay. They deftly seeded an idea that Negan is a formidable, omnipresent, all-powerful foe by creating a mythology and a far-reaching fear around him, before finally revealing him to both Rick’s group and us. But would he live up to his reputation? In a word, yes.

Negan entered the fray as exaggeratedly fearsome, loathsome, and sadistic as we had simultaneously hoped and feared. A facsimile of his comic-book counterpart, Negan was embodied by Jeffrey Dean Morgan who employed the villain’s over-the-top mannerisms and turns of phrase straight from the page. He swung brutally away with his already-iconic barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, taking out key players on his debut and proving himself the most savage and invincible opponent Rick Grimes had ever come across. And one that it would take two full seasons to break down.

Here, we look at how Morgan’s seemingly irredeemable bad guy was transformed into one of the show’s best-loved antiheroes, step by step, from his first appearance.

A Glimmer of Compassion Amid a Brutal Introduction

The Season 6 finale, “Last Day on Earth”, consolidates all we have so far learned about the leader of the Saviors – that he’s merciless, cruel, and powerful. The episode ended controversially, refusing to reveal who of the assembled members of Rick’s gang Negan had bludgeoned to death, leaving us all speculating for months before the show’s return. The show memorably forced us to confront the brutal moment again when Season 7 picked up, showing us the full eye-popping horror of Negan’s barbaric acts and ensuring the message was received loud and clear: Negan is not a man to be trifled with.

Negan’s insistence on pouring humiliation on top of horror renders him all the more hideous. We watch him laugh and joke in the wake of his contemptible actions as Rick’s helpless allies look on, and see him intent on breaking Rick himself. However, even as early in Negan’s introduction to The Walking Dead as this, the show drops a sign that there’s a better person underneath the hard exterior. When he stops Rick from carrying out his order to chop off Carl’s arm with his axe, there’s a suggestion of a glimmer of humanity within him. Of course, this doesn’t stop him from taking Daryl prisoner and proceeding to torture him into submission.

TWD Negan-wives
Negan's 'wives'.

There’s also the small matter, as we discover in Episode 2, “The Cell”, that Negan is, for all intents and purposes, an abuser and a rapist, giving the women of the Sanctuary who take his fancy the opportunity to have a ‘better existence’ by taking them as ‘wives’. It’s a part of his character that’s extremely problematic when it comes to calibrating his redemption, though he justifies his actions by insisting that the women have a choice. It’s certainly difficult to see it that way when you look at the situation between him, Sherry, and Dwight. Negan will enjoy reminding Dwight that he’s “screwing” his wife later in the series. In Episode 4, he also insinuates that he would rape Maggie.

Fast forward two episodes, and in “Swear” we also learn that Negan is responsible for the indiscriminate slaughter of all the men and boys over 10 years old that were part of the Oceanside community, simply because they resisted subjugation by the Saviors. It’s difficult to imagine at this point in the story that this is a man that will ultimately be vindicated, the audience on his side.

The Seeds of a Blossoming Relationship

In Episode 7, “Sing Me a Song”, we see Carl head to the Sanctuary, where he is captured by Negan. The interaction between them throughout this episode will set the scene for a connection between the two that will play a big part in Negan’s rehabilitation. While Negan begins by teasing and humiliating Carl about his missing eye and what happened with his dad, who was prepared to cut his arm off, he backtracks when Carl becomes visibly distressed. It’s the first inkling that he likes Carl, and kids in general, and that he has a capacity for both regret and empathy.

“Holy hell, kid,” he says. “It’s easy to forget you’re just a kid. I didn’t mean to hurt your feelings or anything. I was just screwing around.”

He tells Carl instead that he’s a “badass”, that he likes him, and that he looks “rad as hell” while trying to build him back up. He starts to treat him almost like a protégé, which is simultaneously horrifying and endearing. He teaches Carl about “breaking balls”, and it looks like there’s a chink in his armour. But is it genuine fondness or manipulation? Soon after, he forces Carl to watch him burn a guy’s face with a hot iron.

After he takes Carl back home to Alexandria, he has a confrontation with Olivia before apologising to her for being rude. He seems to mean it, giving us another glimpse of an empathetic side – even if he all but undoes it moments later by proposing that they “screw”. Olivia slaps him – and it’s quite telling that she feels able to do so, and he takes it.

His interaction with young Judith is also interesting here. It’s an early look at his fondness for children but at this point it also comes with a hefty dose of menace as we are uncertain of his intentions. It’s certainly his aim to cultivate an air of threat, and to perpetuate his reputation, but knowing Negan as we do now, it’s hard to believe that at this point he could ever actually have harmed her.

Slaying Spencer

Negan kills Spencer.

His slaying of Spencer is an interesting development. Spencer has turned against Rick, and is proving himself to be a snake, sidling up to Negan to try to get onside and align himself with Rick’s enemy. Negan kills Spencer by slicing him across the belly and spilling his guts – a despicable move, sure, but one which the audience supports because of Spencer’s betrayal of Rick. Spencer got what he deserved, and Negan dealt the punishment. While the act itself is heinous, the viewer sees it in part as a justifiable act and Negan consequently scores audience points.

Taking Eugene captive, and having right-hand woman Arat kill somebody – Olivia – tears him right back down again, of course. That’s alongside the persistent crude language he uses at this point in his arc, which intimidates, humiliates, and makes people feel uncomfortable.

Episode 11, titled “Hostiles and Calamities”, comes with a stark reminder of Negan’s cruel streak. He not only punishes Dwight for Daryl’s escape by ordering a beating then having him locked in a cell, but he also sends girls to Eugene’s quarters as if they are sex slaves. Amber, Negan’s blonde ‘wife’, is so unhappy with the situation she finds herself in that she persuades Eugene to manufacture suicide pills – though the plan is actually to slip them to Negan. At the end of the episode, Negan underlines his sadistic side by tossing Dr Carson into the furnace and watching him burn.

In Episode 15, “Something They Need”, Negan turns on his decency when he interrupts and stops the imprisoned Sasha from being raped by one of his men. It’s questionable at this point whether it is more a moralistic act or a matter of control, but he’s not having it either way, telling his minion, David, that rape is strictly against the rules before plunging a knife through his neck.

Negan tells Sasha: “All of us together following the rules, working on the same side of things… that’s all this was ever about. And it still can be for you. I know it’s hard to picture considering what I did. But, Sasha, we all got s— to get over.”

While this is somewhat hypocritical – he rules undemocratically as a despot and what’s okay for him isn’t for others – it suggests he has a reasonable side and also hints at something pitiable in his own backstory. He first floats the idea that the Saviors “are not monsters.”

In the season finale, he speaks to Sasha as she’s about to travel in the coffin tenderly; authentically. He also displays more evidence that he feels for Carl, though his comment that he’d want his son to be like Carl is perhaps designed to manipulate and antagonize.

Preying on/Praying for Negan

The Walking Dead
Rick pursues Negan relentlessly in Season 8.

In the Season 8 premiere, Rick is so dogged in his quest for revenge that we start to turn a little against him for ‘hunting’ Negan. Negan is hurt and unarmed, yet Rick continues to shoot and this provokes sympathy for the Savior leader. It takes Gabriel to get Rick to stop.

Episode 3, “Monsters”, continues to arouse our sympathy for Negan by turning us further against Rick and his allies. Grimes’s face-to-face with Morales attempts to paint Rick as just as bad as Negan in his approach (it’s not accidental that his name is like ‘morals’), and we see Daryl, Morgan, and Tara all show no mercy too.

Negan reveals a little more of himself in Episode 5, “The Big Scary U”, when he’s trapped alone with Gabriel. There’s still plenty that’s objectionable in what he says, but ultimately here, when alone in a makeshift confessional with a man of the cloth, he is able to explain himself a little more for the audience. He talks about his weaknesses driving his strength, and says he knocked the Sanctuary into shape – by not allowing weakness, he made his people strong.

“No one’s a slave, no one’s going hungry…” he says, and the audience feels he makes a good point. He also asserts that his ‘wives’ made a choice. Gabriel offers him absolution, forgiveness, just for saying the truth out loud. Gabriel then touches a nerve asking about Negan’s wife before the apocalypse – just before trying to kill him.

Separated now by a wall simulating an actual confessional, Negan opens up about his wife and even cries. He says he regrets screwing around on her, and shares that she died of an illness during the apocalypse. “I couldn’t put her down,” he says. “That is how I was weak.”

As a character, the audience now sees his motivations and feels strong empathy for him. Gabriel forgives him, before Negan punches him in the eye, and they work together to get out of the trailer. This episode can be seen as the moment that Negan’s slate is wiped clean – he has literally been forgiven by God for his sins.

Contrasting Behaviour and Carl’s Words

Episode 6 makes sure to extend the rehabilitation of the enemy to include the workers within the Sanctuary and the group of prisoners that Jesus and Maggie take. The enemy isn’t some controlled mass of evil minions – they are people, and the show sees fit to humanize them alongside Negan. Crucial, if Negan’s redemption is to ultimately take hold.

Meanwhile, Daryl and Tara’s morals are undermined when they plot to kill Dwight purely out of a thirst for revenge. In the subsequent episode, we see Negan shake Eugene’s hand, displaying manners and a civilised way of interacting that is in direct opposition to this desire for vengeance, while he also demonstrates that he is concerned for everyone dying in the zombie onslaught.

During the midseason finale, we are privy to another telling exchange between Negan and Carl. Though Negan continues to dole out his crass brand of teasing and nastiness, he lowers his microphone and changes tone to talk to Carl one on one. He shows empathy again here – and it seems genuine as we get a glimpse of humanity and affection. The mask is dropping. Carl towers over Negan here, positioned as he is on the wall, and it serves to elevate his importance in this moment. He has a profound effect on Negan here, as he questions the Savior leader and tells him to kill him. He wants to sacrifice himself to save others.

“Was this the plan? Was it supposed to be this way? Is this who you wanted to be?” asks Carl. At this point, Carl knows he is dying, and after his death these words will stay with Negan as he starts to reevaluate. Here, we see Negan look up at him with no answer before the camera cuts. When the shot cuts back, Carl has vanished.

“I thought we were having a moment, you little a—hole,” says Negan. Carl clearly got to him and revealed his vulnerability – something we’ll see again when Rick picks up Lucille later in the episode and hits him with it.

Carl’s Vision

Season 8’s midseason premiere utilizes Carl as the series’ moral centre, and peacemaker; a mouthpiece for and symbol of the virtues of reason, forgiveness, and mercy (prevailing over wrath). This episode shows us Carl’s vision of the future, in which he envisages Negan working the land in harmony with them all. Ezekiel underlines the messaging of the episode, teaching: “It is not too late to turn back from something decided.”

Carl’s belief that “there’s got to be something after” is meant as much for Rick as it is Negan, as he reminds his father that he made friends of the Woodbury enemies to show Carl the “right” way. He says stopping fighting is still the right way; that Rick can be like that again. These are his dying wishes for both his father and Negan and we will ultimately see that both take them to heart.

Positioning Simon as a worse villain helps to exonerate Negan.

In Episode 10, the show uses another method to soften our attitude towards Negan by positioning some characters – in particular, second-in-command, Simon – as having a far lower bar in terms of morals than their leader. Simon wants to eliminate all of Jadis’s Junkyard people – and ends up doing just that – while Negan orders him to only take one out so that the others fall in line. Here, the show is continuing to undo its initial portrait of Negan as a brute by undercutting any psychopathic or sadistic leanings.

When Rick radios Negan after reading Carl’s letter, Negan is visibly upset to hear the news that Carl has died. He ignores Rick’s continued pledges to kill him to instead ask how Carl passed. Focusing on Carl here shows a genuine concern, and where Negan’s priorities lie. He tears up, and says he’s sorry: “That kid was the future.” Did Negan already see Carl as a way to a more peaceful co-existence? Rick promises again to kill Negan, and this flagrant disregard for Carl’s wishes at this moment contrasts with Negan’s reaction, elevating Negan above Rick here morally.

Rick’s Murky Morals

The show’s positioning of Rick as a bloodthirsty vengeance seeker continues into Episode 12, where we see him relentlessly pursue Negan. Rick rams Negan’s car, fires his gun at him, and chases him through a building without hesitating. It’s an unfair fight and it’s easy to forget all that’s gone before when we witness and judge Rick for being blinded by rage and hatred.

That said, Negan does reveal himself to be a gaslighter, trying to put the blame for everything on Rick. He does a great job, because he also has the audience believing it too, or at least seeing things from his point of view. He keeps saying that he “saves” people: “Why didn’t you let me save you? You failed your boy and your people.”

Negan is cornered, but he tries to make a deal to forgive Rick if he gets the communities back onside. This paints Negan as the reasonable one. This, despite reason being the only weapon left for him to use. We know he’s manipulative but we believe him when he says this and Rick’s refusal to increases our sympathy for Negan.

When Rick sets fire to Lucille, Negan admits it’s the only thing he cares about and his reaction is extraordinary. Negan is laid bare. Rick has found his Achilles heel, while the burning bat is symbolic of Negan’s weakened position and the destruction of what he stood for. When Jadis takes Negan prisoner at the end of the episode, it breaks him down even further.

Encounter with Jadis

With Jadis capturing Negan, tying him up, and essentially having him over a barrel, the formerly untouchable antagonist is shown to be completely fallible. Not only that, but he steps up to take responsibility for Simon’s massacre of her people and apologises (he is, of course, attempting to negotiate for his freedom at the same time).

Jadis is at her lowest point, and though we have seen her betray Rick, we feel sorry for all that she has lost. When Negan threatens to destroy her photos, she tells him not to – they’re all she has left. At this point the two characters are aligned, and Negan feels empathy with Jadis. It wasn’t long ago that Rick set fire to his beloved baseball bat, a memento of his wife and the only thing he too has left: “She got me through life. Just regular life… the bat got me through this.” Negan opens up to Jadis about his wife, Lucille.

His horror at Jadis’s apparent predilection for killing people slowly using walkers is designed to get the audience onside, and encourages us to ignore the fact that he favours arguably more brutal methods of torture and death – bludgeoning people with a barbed wire-wrapped baseball bat, and throwing them into the furnace to name two.

Negan pleads with Jadis to not punish him for Simon’s mistake – “I didn’t do it” – though of course this is hypocritical since he has frequently punished people for Rick’s “mistakes”. However, in this episode, we see Morgan and Rick execute the Saviors who took them and tied them up, with Rick declaring proudly that he lied to them before he metes out payback. There are murky morals across the board, with the show saying that most of the characters struggle with doing ‘the right thing’ in extreme circumstances. This is critical to Negan’s rehabilitation.

Creating a Worse Villain

The Walking Dead
Steven Ogg as Simon with Xander Berkeley as Gregory.

Episode 15 continues to position Simon as a worse human being than Negan, elevating him to evil antagonist number one. Gregory too has regularly been held up as a worse human being than Negan, giving us permission to reassess our feelings towards the Savior leader. Both Simon and Gregory have egos that are out of control, and no visible propensity for empathy. Simon assumes control of the Saviors in Negan’s absence, and ups the speed on Eugene’s bullet production, expecting Eugene and the team to work unfair, unreasonable hours.

Negan will later call Simon psychotic, a “demented, broken, goddamn ghoul”. He kills Simon savagely in hand-to-hand combat but by this point, the audience feels that Simon deserves it and we are firmly rooting for Negan.

Finally, when Michonne reads Carl’s letter to Negan over the walkie-talkie, Negan exhibits genuine emotion. He is visibly shaken at his words, bowing his head and biting his lip. The season finale shows Negan explaining to Rick that the only reason he killed Abraham in the ‘Eeny Meeny Miny Mo’ game is because he hadn’t wanted to kill a child’s father in front of him, offering a more sympathetic explanation for doing what he did.

We are reminded that the rules of the old world have been jettisoned in this lawless age and that Negan isn’t necessarily wrong for operating the way he has. When Rick tells him just before he slits his throat that Carl had said it doesn’t have to be a fight any longer, Negan is moved to tears; his face contorts. We see Negan perhaps at his most vulnerable, and it is at this moment that Rick strikes, maximizing the sympathy we feel for him.

Negan Behind Bars

The Walking Dead Negan
A broken Negan in prison.

Season 9 begins by dealing with the fallout from the Sanctuary losing its leader and structure. There is dissent in the ranks, with a faction feeling things were better under Negan’s rule. Crops are failing and they’re turning against Rick’s new world order.

Negan is now behind bars, and this provides a perfect opportunity for full redemption for the former bad guy, and ultimately suggests that reformation through incarceration is a method that works. Negan has time to think about his life and actions. In Episode 4, “The Obliged”, he bargains with Michonne to stay and talk with him, which leads to him opening up about his wife dying of cancer and the fact that they would have wanted a child like Carl.

In turn, Michonne tells him about her son, Andre. He suggests that they’re the same; that they’re both thankful that their loved one is gone because they’re not weak like they would have been had they still been alive. After Michonne leaves, Negan becomes tearful and bangs his head on the wall. We can’t help but feel sorry for him.

Episode 5 sees Negan pleading with Maggie to kill him, and he taunts her about Glenn so she’ll be fired up enough to do it. She decides that the anguish he is suffering is worse than death and though she had come to end his life, she leaves him alive. We see Maggie as the heartless one in spite of all that she’s suffered because, well, two wrongs don’t make a right. Forgiveness and kindness are important and Maggie allows her wrath to prevail over her mercy.

Time Jump

Episode 6, entitled “Who Are You Now?”, jumps forward several years and shows us a Negan who has befriended Judith, a relationship Judith gains much from, not least help with her maths homework. Negan looks to be in a far better place. Having had a haircut and a beard trim, he’s together in both appearance and mind.

The Negan we see now contrasts with the likes of Carol, who is committing the kind of acts we would once have associated with Negan – she burns former Saviors Jed and his Marauders alive. With the introduction of the Whisperers at the end, we now have a new threat to contend with, relegating the menace of Negan (almost) to history. This underscores the end of Negan’s reign of terror and neutralizes his power.

Negan makes his escape.

Negan isn’t all good yet. He continues to enjoy antagonising Gabriel, pushing him to the brink in their weekly one-to-one sessions. However, when Gabriel confides that he is torn and resentful because he wants to go to Rosita at the Hilltop because she is hurt but can’t because he’s responsible for Negan, Negan says he’s sorry. The end of the episode tees up Negan’s biggest test, when he escapes from the unlocked cell.

In order for both the audience and Rick’s people to buy into Negan’s rehabilitation, we must see him tested. Judith – who, despite her age, we trust as a good judge of character – lets him go when she catches him leaving. Heading to the now-abandoned Sanctuary, Negan is given the opportunity to reassess his old ways. The place is decayed, broken down; where there were once people there are now walkers. He gets himself a new makeshift bat and leather jacket – though crucially it’s a softer look than before. The intimation is that the old Negan is back. But is he? After picking up a bike, he heads back to Alexandria, telling Judith that she was right: there’s nothing for him out there any longer and he returns to his cell.

Judith’s Influence

Believing he has proven himself a changed man, he tells Michonne he can be more than just a symbol of Rick’s mercy and can actually help, having identified areas in which failing: “You have a really good thing going, but it is slipping through your fingers,” he says.

A conversation between Judith and Michonne leads Judith to tell her mom that Negan isn’t a monster, “he’s a human being”. When Michonne insists that people don’t change, Judith points out that Michonne herself changed. Finally, Negan’s fatherly instincts on display in this episode contrast starkly with Alpha’s monstrous mother, further distancing him from the role of villain.

More of Negan’s fatherly side is on show in the season finale when cold weather conditions see him let out. His relationship with Judith is playful. He calls her “Kiddo”, and she chastises him for cursing. As a group of them walk roped together through blizzard conditions, Judith runs off after Dog who has bolted. Worried, Negan instinctively runs after her. After his leg is injured by flying debris, he eventually finds her (and Dog) and tosses her over his shoulder. Back home, Negan is in the infirmary and Michonne thanks him for saving Judith. His eyes are kinder; his face soft and gentle.

Switching Perspective

Something that has been frequently discussed during the All Out War arc of the series is how the audience would feel about Negan if the main focus of the show had been on him all along. If we had followed Negan instead of Rick; the Saviors instead of the communities Rick has aligned. Aaron directly addresses this in the opener of Season 10.

Speaking to Michonne, Aaron wonders if they’re the good guys, suggesting that they’re the villains in somebody else’s story. If we hadn’t already been questioning exactly this, here we are directly challenged to look at Negan from a different angle. As if to underline that, come this episode, Negan is now free – albeit supervised — and doing his bit farming the vegetables just like in Carl’s vision.

Negan still has much to prove, however, and Aaron isn’t letting him do it. Aaron is still mistrustful of him and also presumably angry at him for his past actions. Gabriel insists that Negan help in the fight against the Whisperers. He’s reluctant but goes with Aaron, though Aaron won’t allow him to carry a weapon despite Negan’s protestations that he isn’t that guy anymore.

Aaron presses Negan to explain his actions. Negan says that it’s the rule of America, and the whole world, that if you don’t protect what’s yours, sooner or later it will be somebody else’s. Negan does manage to slip away when the two fail to iron out their differences – but he sees Aaron in trouble after being blinded by hogweed and returns to save him, thus proving himself, if not fully to Aaron, then all but definitively to us.

He’ll have one more test to pass before full redemption, and after a setback when he steps in and accidentally kills Margo after she and some others attack Lydia, the council convenes to discuss whether he can be redeemed. Aaron suggests there’s something broken inside, and the group agrees to sleep on it before they decide his fate. In the morning, Negan is gone.

Aligning with Alpha

This is the start of the ‘is-he-or-isn’t-he’ game the series plays with the audience, which throws a big question mark over Negan’s true nature. First up, Negan meets a young man called Brandon from Alexandria who idolises Negan. When Brandon shares that he heard that Negan shot Carl, Negan quickly puts him straight, disgusted that the rumour exists.

The Negan superfan presents his hero with his leather jacket – which he found at Alexandria – and a baseball bat, but tellingly, Negan refuses them. When Brandon ends up killing a boy and his mother that Negan had saved and bonded with, Negan kills him with a rock. He then takes the jacket and bat, as if to say “Negan’s back”.

Negan engineers an encounter with Beta by noisily killing walkers to attract the attention of Alpha‘s number two. His sense of humour here contrasts with the Whisperers’ lack of it, and it endears Negan to the audience. An upbeat song on the soundtrack as he’s digging and flaying skin with Beta, along with the fact that he stands up to and shows no fear of Beta, serve to strengthen his likeability. Though he swears his allegiance to Alpha, we are unsure if he’s for real – and while we are never sure until the season reaches its end, there are constant moments throughout in their relationship that build in likeability and help to keep us onside.

The Walking Dead Negan
Negan and Alpha kiss.

For instance, in Episode 9, Alpha continues to show herself to be extremely unhinged. The effect of this is to make us see her in a worse light than Negan at his worst. She also renders Negan vulnerable at times – particularly when she threatens to cut off his testicles for sowing paranoia among the Whisperers. When he falls in the latrine, it’s a boost to the idea that he is a comedic, and therefore sympathetic, character. And when he’s stripped naked, he is at first scared for his life before the situation takes a bizarre turn with Alpha stripping off too and offering him a surprising reward for identifying Gamma as the spy in camp.

When he speaks to Alpha in his characteristically irreverent way, it has the effect of lessening the sense of power that the Whisperers have cultivated. In this episode, there is a moment when the camera looks up at him and down at Alpha, symbolically giving him the power in their relationship.

In Episode 12, Negan once again discusses his wife – this time with Alpha — and it gives us another insight into why he is the way he is. We see him cry again, humanizing him further as he works through his grief. When he slashes Alpha’s throat, his motives become clear and we learn that he had made a pact with Carol to deliver Alpha’s head – all but fully redeeming him in the eyes of the audience.

Winning Over Daryl

The Walking Dead Negan
Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.

There’s another person for Negan to win over before he can achieve redemption – Daryl. After Carol leaves him high and dry by refusing to return to the group leaving no one to corroborate Negan’s story, Daryl has a hard time believing his version of events. Only when they meet Whisperers who kneel to Negan as their new Alpha does Daryl start to soften — when Negan tricks them into thinking he’s about to kill Daryl, he kills them instead. Negan has a long-needed heart-to-heart with Daryl.

As the season heads into its final two episodes, Episode 15 shows us Negan making amends with Lydia, who is angry and upset over the death of her mother. As she works through her complex feelings, she has a meltdown. Negan hugs her and tells her it’s okay. He’s tearful, and she keeps hitting him, but eventually, she submits to his paternal actions and dissolves emotionally into his arms.

Episode 16 – the season’s makeshift finale — sees Daryl confronting Negan, calling him selfish for not wanting to join in the plan to help finish Beta and the Whisperers. Negan is finally redeemed when he works together with Daryl in the final battle to take down Beta, with each saving the other.

Now that Negan is definitively a good guy, and Beta and the Whisperers have been undone, it will be interesting to see what the additional six episodes of Season 10 will mean for his character development. With the show’s creators announcing an end to the main series after Season 11, he’ll most likely become a trusted member of the community in some way, shape, or form as they inevitably do battle with their most formidable opponents yet before a historic grand finale. They’ll likely continue to build on Negan’s rehab so far, with confirmed flashbacks of his wife (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s real-life wife, Hilarie Burton) telling more of his story. But, of course, there’s still Maggie to win over yet…

The Walking Dead returns on February 28, 2021.

Kim Taylor-Foster
Kim Taylor-Foster is Entertainment Editor for Fandom in the UK. She was raised on an unsteady diet of video nasties and violent action flicks.