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On ‘The Walking Dead,’ Maggie Is Right About Negan Not Deserving Redemption

By News Creatives Authors , in Business , at September 6, 2021

The Walking Dead thankfully avoided the Commonwealth storyline entirely last night, instead focusing on the more interesting “Reaper” plot that was not pulled from the comics, but has created an entirely new faction of enemies to stalk the other half of the group.

This has resulted in Maggie’s expedition force being decimated (we already lost a bunch of her “redshirts” from her old camp), but it’s also causing us to have an interesting reckoning with Negan, one that the comics never really did in the same way.

Maggie has returned to find that Negan is A) still alive and B) out of jail and C) more or less accepted as a member of the community, despite his past war crimes which include not just the brutal executions of Glenn and Abraham, but a literal war he waged on Alexandria.

This has resulted in Maggie acting like the world has lost its mind to think that Negan has changed, and he’s already starting to prove her suspicions correct, like a recent moment where he chose not to save Maggie from walkers, which easily could have resulted in her death, but she fought them off. His justification was that not saving someone wasn’t the same as killing them, but the message is clear, Negan is out for himself, and he would not mind if Maggie did not make it back from this trip alive, given that she’s a clear and present danger to him.

Maggie frequently says that Negan has “everyone fooled” except her, and I think we’re supposed to be saying “No Maggie, Negan has changed! He’s a complex character that has grown and evolved and helped the community now!”

But I don’t buy it, I never have, and I have always felt that Robert Kirkman’s Negan redemption arc was extremely weird, and I am happy to see it kind of being deconstructed here at last. Sure, it’s the murders and the war, in part, but for some reason, the thing that grossed me out the most was always Negan’s “harem” of wives that he has wear little cute outfits and have sex with him on demand, even if they, like Sherry, have husbands in his crew (this also seems like a terrible way to breed loyalty among your lieutenants, as certainly was the case with Dwight).

Negan’s justification was always that the women agreed to become his wives and he was never forcing anyone to do anything, and yet in practice, he was blackmailing them with supplies and better treatment, and it was explicitly clear they all hated him, as evidenced by the one episode where they tried to get Eugene help them murder him. It was, in effect, a rape harem. And that is very hard to get past.

I simply don’t think Negan has changed as much as anyone wants to believe. I think he’s been humbled certainly, but everything he does is more or less for his own self-interest. I believe he’s human and capable for forming connections with other people, often kids like Judith or Lydia (and no, I don’t think he’s creeping on them), but his actions? He helped Carol assassinate Alpha as a way to get out of prison and earn at least some measure of trust with the community. But that was a purely self-interested ploy. He could have fully defected to the Whisperers when he had the chance, and yet I think he would have rather lived in Alexandria than with a bunch of weird psychopaths in walker masks, so he chose Rick’s old group not out of genuine concern for them, but because it would be a better set-up for him.

Negan is a cockroach, he’s just trying to survive. This season he tried to let Maggie die because there is significantly less of a chance of him being murdered by the vengeful wife of one of his victims if he does. Keep an eye on him, and you’ll see almost everything he does is in fact for his own benefit, and his altruism is circumstantial, at best.

In the comics, which I believe is no roadmap forward, Negan eventually just sort of disappears from the story, and we don’t know what happens to him. Kirkman has a sort of weird fascination with Negan in my opinion, allowing him this redemption arc, writing him a big origin story and even theorizing about returning to the character in the future. But the show? I think the show needs to kill Negan before it ends, though I worry instead we’re seeing him set up for his own spin-off series, and this arc will continue forever.

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