(There will be spoilers for The Walking Dead below. I don't mean a couple and I don't mean minor. They're big time and there are oodles and bunches of them. They're unavoidable)
I am an aspiring writer. As of yet, I have not been published and seeing as I'm currently writing this while I should be working on a submission for an anthology, I guess I'm not getting a whole lot closer. That much being said, I do have several kind of goals. (I'm told it's not REALLY a goal unless it includes a date.) I want to be able to write a world spanning epic like Harry Turtledove. I want to write a space battle like David Weber. I want to write a character as complicated as Margaret Weis and Tracy Hickman's Raistlin Majere (Dragonlance Chronicles, Dragonlance Legends, The Lost Chronicles, The Raistlin Chronicles and probably some other stuff I'm forgetting. No, the Meetings Sextet doesn't count because it wasn't written by Weis and Hickman.) I want to be able to conceive a universe as optimistic as Star Trek and make it as believable. I want to write an epic as magnificent as the Lord of the Rings. I want to write a Hero's Journey as engaging as Luke Skywalker's. I've had most of these goals for years and I'm still progressing toward them. I may never make it, but there is honor in the pursuit. Today though, today I've adopted a new goal: I want to write a villain that is as entertainingly capricious and evil as Negan.
Negan is a slimy fuck but he's charismatic. He uses methods that can charitably be called questionable. I mean, he crushes skulls with a baseball bat as a method of teaching a lesson. He shows up and within a few minutes he's murdered both Abraham and Glenn. That was one of the most shocking moments I've ever seen on television. Seriously. I mean, I watched the series late (I just finished season seven about thirty minutes ago) and I knew Glenn was going to get it. I remember when the entire internet lost its shit over his death. But dude, I've never seen it done that way. The murder of Glenn and Abraham was as much about theater as it was about killing. Negan killed the two as an example to their friends and to excite his followers.
It's worth mention his other side though. Negan rewards those who support his rule. As big of an asshole as a guy like Eugene is, he's well taken care of. I mean, who else gets to have a video game system after the zombie apocalypse? Who else gets to hang out with the bosses wives? He provides his most important followers with anything they want that he can provide. All they have to do is ask for it.
Of course, his method of acquiring assets is not exactly polite. He forces others to work for him. They have to get what he wants somehow. Whether it's the Kingdom growing produce for him or Rick and the rest of the crew at Alexandria foraging for whatever they can find that he will like, they do it. I find this interesting because basically what Negan does is basically taxing a conquered population but the way it is presented is as the horrible thing that taxation really is. He seizes merely because his position as leader of a group of armed people allows him to do so. It makes us hate him more when he takes more than he should.
While his followers get anything they want, his enemies get hurt badly. He's so twisted that he doesn't even kill the person who wronged him. He kills someone else that the wrongdoer knows while they watch. He imprisons people. Negan tortures the families of those who won't follow orders. If you can think of something horrible Negan has probably done it. Well, except for one thing. Negan does not commit rape.
It's a weird thing. Negan won't hesitate to kill a woman if he feels it's necessary. He has a whole freaking harem of wives. Yet the women are all welcome to leave him if they wish to. He kills a man in cold blood once Negan realizes that said individual is about to rape a woman. Upon walking in on Mr. Rapey McShitface, Negan pulls a knife and runs it directly through his neck. He does it quickly but with no hesitation and no remorse. Negan then apologizes to Sasha, the potential victim who was in prison for trying to kill him.
The weird thing is that it almost makes him feel more slimy. Negan is not insane, at least not by the legal definition. He knows right and wrong. He is an enforcer of rules and talks about how they're all that are keeping his people alive. He has a twisted sense about of constitutes right and wrong but he definitely has one. And if he sometimes gets a little weird and talks about Lucille, his baseball bat, as if she is a real person, well maybe it's just an eccentricity.
All of this adds up to a leader that people will follow. His methods are harsh toward his enemies but his followers love him. In the climactic battle of Season 7, he is nearly eaten by Sasha, newly turned to a zombie after committing suicide as part of a plan to save her friends. One of Negan's followers gives his life to save him from Sasha. Another follower, Dwight runs out into gunfire to pull Negan to safety. As evil as the man is, he inspires incredible amounts of loyalty in his followers.
Negan calls his faction The Saviors. He believes that he is going to save the entire human race. How he is going to do so given his methodology is something only he seems to make sense to him yet he believes that it will work. It almost seems like he believes in himself as the savior of humanity all on his own. I'm wondering if the writers of the series didn't speak to a trained psychologist or psychiatrist to get an idea of the symptoms of megalomania. Negan genuinely seems to be afflicted with it.
The Negan character is so well written it's disgusting. It should not be humanly possible to write a villain this well. He's complicated. He's motivated. It makes sense that those who follow him do so. (If you disagree, think about it. Would you rather have a comfortable home and a good meal or a baseball bat upside the dome?) He has a semi-definable goal. He has a twisted code of honor. What a sick, twisted, disgust slimeball shit. Negan says things that should be shocking but coming from him it's just what's expected. He's freaking perfect.
Now listen, a WHOLE FREAKING LOT of the credit goes to actor Jeffery Dean Morgan. That guy can play a villain like a stinking champion. I don't watch awards shows. They're just not my thing. But seriously, if there is a single show that gives awards to American TV shows and hasn't at least nominated Morgan for an award they've lost all credibility. Tell them to shove their award up their ass and stop watching because they no longer matter. The fact remains that the character was conceived by the production team and without them, Morgan wouldn't even have a job.
So long live Negan! I mean, at least until Rick and Company finally hunt this POS down and take him out with extreme prejudice. On one hand, I can't wait to see it. On the other hand, I'll miss this guy when he's gone. He has added a lot to the show. A good hero gives us someone to root for. A good villain gives us someone to root against. Combine the two and you've got one hell of a story. Negan has made a terrific show even better. I can't think of a better compliment.
The Walking Dead
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