The Walking Dead returns and advances towards the conclusion of the saga "All Out War". That means the end of the dispute between Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his archenemy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), and maybe that's a good thing. In general, the big bet of the series in Negan has been a little false, with grades that reached minimum staggered last year, and Negan largely absent from the first half of the eighth season of the series.
But a climax that ends the season is an opportunity to put all the threads together. I will be analyzing the final episode of the season 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 traits a villain is supposed to excel at, including those we detest, and we'll reduce it to a single grade 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. With luck, in these final episodes, The Walking Dead can turn Negan into the great evil that the public has always wanted.
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge
Finally, The Walking Dead has come to the conclusion of the Negan saga. In recent weeks, the program has shown a level of unpredictability that seemed impossible at the premiere of season 7. It was then that Glenn was killed and the program began to feel chained by the source material of his comic. Now, almost two seasons later, the deaths of cheap characters and sudden suspense have disappeared, as the most important constructions in the world, narrative closure and explorations of characters have occupied a central place. It is perhaps not surprising that the program's ratings have responded accordingly.
But the end of the previous season's season, "Wrath", is not based on that creative impulse. The episode may be, ultimately, a satisfying episode of television, but apart from a few curved balls, it makes things safe, and takes almost all its clues from the comic book story of writer Robert Kirkman. In that sense, the television program version of the Negan saga ends in the same way it began: resigning to mediocrity by focusing on telling someone else's story.
Image of Gene Page / AMC
Setting the stage for the battle
After the last minute surprise last week, in which Dwight's blackmail tactics came to light and Negan planned an ambush against Rick, it seemed that viewers could come to a radically different conclusion from the story of "All the war "than that of the comic delivered. But "Wrath" throws all of Dwight's secondary plot overboard in the first 15 minutes of the episode, squandering the immense emotional investment that the program has encouraged viewers to do in his character.
While Rick and the others felt they were going to be able to hit Negan, they quickly discovered that they were being armed when they pulled out a group of rescuers who simply carried a map of Negan's real location. Thinking that they have retained the advantage, they arm themselves and go out to shoot him down. But first, the program takes a breather with an emotional moment. Rick finally asks Siddiq to tell him how Carl got infected.
Meanwhile, the program cuts to the Saviors, where a conversation between Negan and Gabriel reveals that the map that Rick has just found is also false, a decoy lure just in case the original plan to use Dwight to spread the misinformation was not correct . He completely leaves Dwight aside for what seems to be a completely unnecessary (and complicated) reason, just when the program had the opportunity to do something unique and original. Instead, it pivots directly to comics.
Image of Gene Page / AMC
The redemption of Eugene
Rick, Maggie, Daryl and almost all the high-level characters in the show walk into a giant field, thinking they are about to turn the tables on the Saviors when they suddenly hear Negan's voice on a loudspeaker. Thanks to Eugene's bullet-making operation, the Saviors are ready to erase each of them. Negan holds Gabriel hostage and announces his intentions, echoing the moment when Negan first introduced himself and beat Glenn to death.
But this time, things go a little differently. When the Saviors fire, each and every one of their weapons are counterproductive, throwing themselves out of their hands or seriously injuring every member of Negan's army. It is clear that the bullets fired are at fault, and in one fell swoop, Eugene has apparently come to the rescue of all. Rick and the others take the opportunity to charge. Gabriel and Dwight, who were dead men who walked a few minutes before, try to knock Negan down, but he escapes with Lucille and Rick behind.
After all the going and coming, the turn of events seems too easy, especially with the saviors hurt, but not dead, from the trick, letting Eugene claim the moral advantage. I suppose it's good that his role is worth a lot, unlike what happened to Dwight. But Eugene has become so unpleasant in the course of the story that it became irritating every time he appeared on the screen. It is about punishing the audience, all at the service of a cheap trick.
Image of Gene Page / AMC
The fundamental choice of Rick
The final confrontation between Rick and Negan begins in a place we've seen before: the tree with strange glass arrangements hanging from its branches, which first appeared in a mysterious flash-forward at the premiere of season 8. Rick receives a shot, shattering a hole in the glass, but he simply misses Negan's head. Then, despite having a gun in operation, Rick enters a melee with Negan, and almost immediately disarms when Negan pushes him to the ground.
This is where Rick evokes Carl's words to try to reason with his nemesis. Rick asks 10 seconds before receiving a death blow from Lucille in the head, and uses that precious time to psychologically hit Negan, where he knows it hurts. He explains that Carl wanted to find a peaceful way forward and that things do not need to end in violence. Negan almost seems convinced, tears sprout in his eyes. But Rick, it turns out he has the upper hand – psychologically and physically. He cuts Negan's throat with a piece of broken glass from the floor.
The defeat of Rick de Negan is almost identical in the comics
While contemplating killing Negan, Rick turns to see that the rest of his forces come out victorious, and the saviors surrender. He has won, and struggles against the urge to celebrate with Negan's life, despite Maggie's strong protest, who shouts that they have to kill Negan to end the war. Rick refuses and tells the Saviors that any of them can join their community whenever they denounce Negan's worldview and subscribe to a philosophy of peace and equity. Rick then instructs his people to bandage Negan.
It should be noted that this is exactly what happens in comics, and although he probably would have been asking too much for the program to kill Negan or Rick, the end result is still painfully predictable. The theme of mercy and forgiveness has been the genuine emotional thread that the program has devoted to development this season, and it makes perfect sense to end up with Rick respecting Negan's life. But, at least, the writers of the program could have put their own stamp on it. Instead, the ending refers to Kirkman with an almost religious allegiance, and as a result, the episode feels rancid when it should be exciting.
Image of Gene Page / AMC
Closing, but at a cost
The fourth final of "Wrath" configures the future by explaining the whereabouts of all the many characters in the series. Morgan, still an emotional disaster, is going on his own. (It will become a regular series on Fear the Walking Dead, which had its premiere of season 4 last night.) But before that, he makes a pit stop to see Jadis, who reveals to him that his real name is Anna. He informs her that she can join Hilltop if she so wishes, but it is not clear what plans the program has for her, or if the inexplicable amount of helicopters will influence the new season.
Dwight tries to make peace with Daryl by apologizing for killing Tara's mate, and for all the damage he has caused since then. Daryl lets Dwight live, but makes it clear that he has not forgiven the man. Dwight is effectively banished, but seeing Negan fall, his bow is clean. They showed him a new letter that his ex-wife Sherry wrote to him before he fled the Sanctuary, which opened the possibility of going to look for her.
It almost feels like a series finale, except for a last-minute turn
Negan, meanwhile, will spend the rest of his life in a jail cell. He will act as a witness to the greatness that everyone will achieve with him out of the picture, says Rick. And as Carl would have wanted, Rick will use the fact that they forgave Negan as an objective lesson, an example of the kind of civility and justice they are trying to re-establish.
It almost feels like a series finale, except for a last-minute turn. Inside the Hilltop mansion, Maggie plot with two others to secretly kill Negan to avenge Glenn, and possibly overthrow Rick if necessary. Then it is revealed that his co-conspirators are not other than Jesus and Daryl, which frankly does not make much sense. Jesus spent most of his time on the show trying to convince others that nonviolence is the answer, but the audience is now supposed to believe that personal loyalty to Maggie triumphs over that worldview.
The revelation is shocking, and certainly creates a complicated dynamic for incoming executive Angela Kang, but it also seems that The Walking Dead is just looking for motivations to give to its growing cast of characters, many of whom have survived their ability to grow and adapt to changing stories.
It could also be a way to prepare a reduced role or a quick exit for actress Lauren Cohen, who is now ready to star in the ABC dramatic drama pilot, Whiskey Cavalier. Cohen has also been involved in an ongoing contract dispute with AMC, and currently has no agreement to return to the ninth season of The Walking Dead, so there are many reasons why the program might have decided to release this thread from the history in particular. But dragging Daryl to him, especially after he seemed to respect Rick's new worldview, does not feel like winning. Theoretically it could lead to a complex representation of the more nuanced character, but given how underdeveloped it has been in recent seasons at the time, it simply appears when the writers of the program choose the most convenient characters to group in a shocking scene.
Image of Gene Page / AMC
Evaluate the villain:
Cunning: Negan had the upper hand in "Cholera", there is no doubt about it. He was able to outsmart Rick and the others twice, lead them directly to an ambush, and was in a position to erase his enemies once and for all. What he could not explain, of course, was Eugene's betrayal. But Negan played an incredibly strong hand until then.
Perseverance: Negan never seems to give up, even when it is clear that the tides have turned against him, as was clear at the end of the previous night. Even when facing an imminent death, as he did when fleeing Rick, he always seems to be ready for a fight, especially if he has Lucille by his side.
Brutality: Negan's decision to eliminate Rick and Hilltop with a mass firing squad was probably one of the most vicious moves he has traced in his two seasons on the show. (The death of Glenn and Abraham and his favorite exercise of burning faces come out just ahead.) It did not go as planned, but that does not take away the fact that Negan is always willing to go beyond almost any of his enemies.
After the slow and steady evolution of Negan's character, and the significant time that the show put in to humanize him, it turns out that his big downfall was trusting other people to stay loyal. While it still felt like Negan was a puppet of his comic book history for too many of the past two seasons, it felt quite appropriate that his ego was what finally made him enter, even when it was clear that there were many people in it. . his own ranks that wanted him dead. Negan did not even contemplate what it might mean to lose, falling in line with his huge saving complex.
Negan still feels like a missed opportunity
But it still seems that Negan was a missed opportunity. The comic version of the character was a true enigma, someone as sociopathic as capable, empathetic and pleasant. On the other hand, Negan, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan, almost always felt disconnected. He was on the verge of achieving the combination of qualities in flashes of his counterpart, but never had enough opportunity to truly become a great admirer of himself. Now, presumably it will become one of the pillars of the cast of the series, and the effectiveness with which it can be integrated into the plot lines to advance will determine how relevant it will be.
Maybe The Walking Dead would have been better if the whole series had ended up with Negan in a hospital bed, resigned to living his days in prison, and knowing that his way of life wavered before the future Carl wanted. That would have been a much more appropriate ending for the most nefarious villain of the series, whose biggest victim seems to be actually the show itself. Instead, The Walking Dead will continue to shuffle along with its diminished ratings. Undoubtedly there will be a shortage of conflicts next season, and the show will do what it does best: make new villains from nothing when the series comes to light in its endless series of recycled stories.
But ending Negan's defeat could have sent a message that there is hope in this world and that Carl's vision was something that should not only be aspired and hoped for, but could actually be created by people with sufficient will. Instead, The Walking Dead will continue to be a zombie in itself, advancing slowly as long as the ratings allow it, without death, but without many purposes, either.
Negan-o-meter ™ in general: 6 out of 10