The Walking Dead has returned from its traditional mid-season break, moving towards the conclusion of the cartoon "All Out War" and the end of the dispute between Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his archenemy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan ). But so far, the big bet of the series in Negan has been a little false, with grades that reached minimum staggered last year and Negan himself absent in about half of the episodes this season.
But a mid-season premiere is an opportunity to start over, and in the coming episodes, the villain who carries the bat is likely to play a more important role than ever. That's why week after week I will analyze the show through his presentation of Negan: how he acts, how he presents his jokes and threats, and most importantly, how his character develops in contrast to our supposedly virtuous heroes. We'll see all the areas where a villain is supposed to excel, including the traits we detest, and we'll reduce it to a single score in what we call the Negan-o-meter ™. A score of 10 means that he is the most complex villain we have ever seen in his life; a score of 0 means that it is more or less the same as Negan has always been. Hopefully, in this next series of episodes, The Walking Dead can turn Negan into the big bad crowd he has always wanted.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Warning: there will be spoilers.
It seems contradictory to start a seemingly action-packed television season with a painful and slow tragedy, but that's exactly what The Walking Dead did last week. Following the shocking end of episode 8, in which Carl Grimes revealed an inevitably fatal bite to the stomach, Rick's teenage son went out in style last week. Not only did he recruit a new potentially critical member for Alexandra named Siddiq and help Alexandria to have enough time to escape from the Savior's incendiary bombings, but he also imparted wisdom to his father that could change the course of the war with Negan. and the saviors. . Carl told Rick that he wanted him to find another way, find a solution without succumbing to the cycle of violence that apparently will not stop until everything is destroyed and there is nothing left to rebuild.
Upon entering the tenth episode, "The Lost and the Looters," the main problem was what Rick would decide to do after the loss of his son. The death of Carl is a big difference from the plot of writer Robert Kirkman's comics, so there is no guidance that can be had there, and since Rick has seen the world historically, it is difficult to understand why he would continue to fight for a better world knowing that it can save those who will inherit it. How will Carl's departure affect Judith, who is too young to defend against any of the post-apocalyptic threats? And what to do with the child's dying desire for peace, and how unreal is that dream, given the threat that Negan represents? These questions are analyzed in detail in "The Lost and the Looters", which makes it perhaps the best episode that The Walking Dead has delivered in a long time.
It's no coincidence that there's a lot of Negan this time.
Photo of Gene Page / AMC
Rick and Michonne say goodbye to Alexandria
Just moments after Rick and Michonne left Carl at rest in Alexandria, the horde of zombies proves too much for the duo to beat them, forcing them to leave home in the opening moments of the episode. It's a tragic scene We see Rick choke his anguish to help a self-destructive Michonne out, while the warrior who wields the sword attacks zombie after zombie in an attempt to save the gazebo that Carl loved as a meeting place. Unfortunately, the structure succumbs to fire, and Rick and Michonne are forced to hit the road. The message is clear: Alexandria is gone.
The message is clear: Alexandria is gone
It is easy to forget that the Alexandria of three seasons ago felt like a dream. It was a gated community, with running water and solar panels and fully furnished mansions. It was the kind of silly backdrop that The Walking Dead loves to use as a contrast to its wider, post-apocalyptic configuration. But Alexandria, even if it has been the scene of some of the series' most serpentine episodes and subplots, turned out to be important because it gave the main characters something that was worth fighting for. It reminded Rick and the rest of the group that normalcy is possible when you lay down your arms, stop fighting and try to rebuild.
In that sense, a subplot of "Los Perdidos y los Pilladores" has taken Enid and Aaron to Oceanside, where their crew of survivors has hidden. The two groups are not on good terms: Rick confiscated all of Oceanside's weapons when the community refused to fight Negan last season. But Aaron is convinced that there is a way to reconcile and unite both communities against a common enemy, while Enid remains unconvinced. Unaware of Carl's death, she returns to Hilltop, where she is ready to receive the tragic news along with everyone else.
Photo of Gene Page / AMC
The gap between Negan and Simon widens
"The Lost and the Plunderers" extracts a bit of somersaulting narration, which shows a sequence of misplaced events that begins with Rick and Negan establishing communication through walkie-talkies. The way that scene occurs involves a complex chain of cause and effect, beginning with Negan telling his lieutenant Simon to take care of the Jadis and the trash people for daring to try to cross them. While Simon's thirst for blood is evident – he wants to kill them all – Negan again establishes his authority, raising his voice to a roar and lecturing Simon on the philosophy of the Saviors, who treat people primarily as resources for be used, not wasted.
The dispute, similar to the one they had in the first half of the season about how to handle Rick, returns to Negan's worldview in front of that of a simpler bully like Simon. Given the first presence of a real conflict, Simon's response has always been to use violence, even if he has tended to be one of the most cunning and astute of the Saviors.
Negan, on the other hand, knows his way in psychological warfare. He tells Simon to perform a public execution and confiscate Jadis' firearms. Simon suggests cleaning them all and expanding the scope of the Saviors, to find more communications to "save", but Negan stops him, creating an interesting conflict between the alleged villain of the series and someone even more disgusting from the moral point of view. It's a revealing moment for the character of Negan, since it seems that the man is not interested in increasing his reach and governing more post-apocalypse, but rather seems to want to maintain and maintain the stability that saviors enjoyed before Rick.
Photo of Gene Page / AMC
The fate of Jadis and the garbage
The fragmented structure of the episode jumps out of Rick and Negan's walkie-talkie conversation to Rick and Michonne, after the flight from Alexandria, taking a detour to find Jadis. Instead, they discover that the entire pile of garbage has been invaded by walkers. Soon after, it is revealed that Simon massacred the entire community, in a small disagreement about how Jadis chose to apologize to him for making a secret bargain behind Negan's back. His blatant disregard for Negan's orders-in combination with his penchant for savage violence-seems to be establishing Simon as an independent villain that even Negan would find unpleasant. (That sense only reinforces when Simon lies to Negan's face about what he has done).
Eventually, Rick and Michonne meet Jadis, who according to them was alive by Simon's firing squad. She asks for help, putting aside her shortened and cultured syntax, and reveals that she used to be an artist who would use the trash heap to look for canvas material. Rich and Michonne refuse to give him any help, and Jadis is finally forced to set a trap for the senseless zombies that roam the garbage dump. One by one, it attracts walkers to the jaws of a giant trash compactor. It is a humanizing scene for one of the most idiosyncratic characters of The Walking Dead, which finally gives the audience a reason to empathize with someone who has always felt more appropriate to the world of Mad Max instead of the forests of Virginia.
Photo of Gene Page / AMC
The turning point for Rick
"The Lost and the Plunderers" culminates with the eventual conversation between Rick and Negan that was mocked in the opening segment of the episode. It turns out that the whole conversation was instigated by a letter that Carl had written to Negan, echoing the peace requests he had already made to his father. The exchange between Rick and Negan is the most direct communication the couple has had in quite some time, and it is an amazingly powerful moment. Rick sends the news of Carl's death to Negan, who in a jarring turn, takes it quite hard, looking devastated for a moment before expressing what appears to be genuine sadness and empathy. However, Rick does not allow himself to be influenced, and makes it clear that he still intends to kill Negan, no matter what Carl's wishes are.
It's weird that the living dead & # 39; recognize that Rick is a flawed character
Negan avoids fighting words, however, and instead reveals his own affection for Carl. "I'm sorry," he tells Rick. "I wanted him to be part of things." I had plans. That child was the future. "Clearly, Negan saw Carl as a substitute son of his own, someone with the kind of steel determination needed to inherit any twisted future society he's trying to build, then, with Rick feeling vulnerable, Negan changes He tells the bereaved father that his son is dead because "you were not there to prevent him from doing something stupid." It is here that Negan expresses a chilling condemnation of Rick's character. "How many more of your Fucking decisions cost you to lose someone else you love? "he asks.
It is rare that The Walking Dead recognizes that Rick is a defective character. Too often, the program flirts with the idea that Rick's judgment is poor and his arrogance too great, more directly in season 5, when Rick first arrived in Alexandria and almost by himself destroyed the idyllic life there. But here, in very simple terms that are impossible to ignore, Negan makes a good point. Rick has made decisions that again and again have proved fatal to several of his closest friends and relatives. He refuses to be subjugated, and it is in his nature to fight. But when faced with a threat that feels unstoppable, Rick's inability to outwit his opponents – or at least negotiate a favorable armistice – has almost always resulted in unnecessary bloodshed. Hershel's farm in season 2, in prison against the Governor in seasons 3 and 4; It is not just an error or accident at one time. It is a fundamental error in who Rick Grimes is as a man and as a leader.
So, while it is easy to despise Negan and the Saviors for the way they hurt other people, it is undeniable that in the post-apocalypse context, the strong exploitation of the weak can be a viable path to safety and prosperity. . At least, that is the dark message that the program sends both to Rick and viewers, since the episode closes with Negan saying the words: "Just surrender". It is not clear whether Rick has a rebuttal to Negan's pronouncement, and whether he will fight now for revenge, or for genuine and pure intentions remains unanswered.
Photo of Gene Page / AMC
Evaluate the villain:
Pragmatism: One of Negan's most strategically used skills is his ability to assess situations clearly and calmly and determine which outcome is most feasible and favorable. Only when you try to make an example of people, it seems that Negan acts by impulse or anger. Take, for example, the murder of Spencer at the pool table or when he threw a man into a live oven. While apparently seeming to live and act according to a set of theories and beliefs about humans in the post-apocalypse, in reality, Negan seems to handle each obstacle as a unique problem to be solved in his own way. We see this clearly in his Simon test, where he gives the man enough rope to finally hang himself, and in the handling of Rick by Negan, whom Negan speaks bluntly and without any distraction or aggression out of place. Knowing how to handle different people, understand what motivates them and what they really want is why Negan always seems to prevail.
Empathy: Negan's ability to empathize with the pain and suffering of others is what helps the villain adopt a more multidimensional reach than the previous TWD villains. It seems genuinely to feel the loss of Carl as a tragedy, and for a moment, it seemed as if he was really planning to comfort Rick, before Rick threatened his life, that is. This works in Negan's favor, since he prefers that his enemies bend the knee and serve the saviors instead of fighting bitterly until the end. And what better way to achieve it, and to convince everyone that you are not a sociopathic maniac, to show that you really care and value human life when you lose tragically?
Aggression: Negan would not be where he is if he were not able to instill fear. Simon, who seems to find pleasure in hurting others and exercising his authority, shows himself clinging to Negan alone. When he tries to challenge the leader of the Saviors […] the rare flash of anger of Negan stops Simon in an instant. This subplot, with Simon boldly undermining his boss by killing the people of Jadis, seems to culminate in severe punishment when, and not if, Negan discovers Simon's transgression.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Negan-o-meter ™: 8 out of 10
Moving the needle:
It is difficult to identify an episode that finally fulfilled the promise of the character of Negan as a philosophical leaf for Rick. But if there is any form of constructive criticism to be raised in AMC and TWD here, it is that they need to rely on this narrative approach as much as possible. It is, without a doubt, the beating heart of the show: the strong man of Negan, the totalitarian worldview is the distorted and oppressive version of Rick's more merciful and collaborative conception of leadership.
Both men understand mercy, and both men exercise violence. It is even easy to see how the Rick of two or three seasons ago became a version of Negan, if he had descended even further to the prisoner-less mentality, that he and Carol were helped to foil the cannibals in Terminus. But now the program has the golden opportunity to take these two ideas and put them to the test, both thematically and philosophically.