AMC on Thursday offered a new look at the upcoming second half of The Walking Dead Season Nine, featuring an escaped Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) roaming freely around Alexandria.
Negan ended a near eight-year prison term in the mid-season finale when he fled from his jail cell after taking advantage of a failure to properly secure his cell door.
“We’ll see what happens now that Negan is out of his cell,” showrunner Angela Kang previously told THR.
“Jeffrey Dean Morgan has been cooped up in a cell all season, and even though he’s doing an amazing job in there, we’re going to get to see him out and about in the world. We’ll see the start of a larger story for Negan as a result of that.”
The jailbreak comes as Negan’s jailers, namely Alexandrian leader Michonne (Danai Gurira), become embroiled in a conflict with a newly emerging threat: an enemy group known as the Whisperers, led by the vicious Alpha (Samantha Morton) and number-two Beta (Ryan Hurst).
Season Nine depicted Negan as a withering prisoner whose solitary confinement left him tearfully pleading for a reunion with Lucille — his beloved barbwire-wrapped baseball bat named after his late wife — and lashing out with anger and self-harm when that request was denied.
Later, when confronted by a vengeful Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who sought to avenge murdered husband Glenn (Steven Yeun), Negan begged for death. That wish was also denied by Maggie, who deemed his pitiful and lonely existence “already worse than dead.”
Now on the loose and unleashed in a story that has since seen the exits of both Maggie and former chief rival Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), the ousted Savior leader will revisit old stomping grounds before The Walking Dead carves out a new trajectory that looks to deviate from creator Robert Kirkman’s comic books.
“I am excited for fans to watch and see what happens, because I think Negan is a complicated character and we’ve seen that he’s a guy who will bash in people's heads to make a point,” Kang told ComicBook.com.
“We’ve also seen that he was at the lowest of the low point earlier in the season, was suicidal. We’ve also seen that he has a particular relationship with Judith Grimes (Cailey Fleming) that seems like pretty friendly and nice. And so, all of these things are kind of churning within Negan, and that’s part of his story going forward. So I think that there’s some interesting twists and turns to be had with Negan one way or the other.”
Could Negan undergo the same level of soul-searching and redemption found by his comic book counterpart, who has since made peace with his past of violence and villainy?
“I don’t know how we’ll follow that story and if we will, because we do switch it up from the comic book to keep people that are fans of the comic interested in the show,” Morgan said on The Rich Eisen Show in September.
“But it’s certainly been an interesting year playing the different sides and finding new shades of Negan, and I very much have enjoyed that.”
The Walking Dead Season Nine continues with new episodes Sunday, February 10.