Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is back in black. Sunday’s The Walking Dead 10x05, “What It Always Is,” saw Negan reunited with his long-lost leather jacket — not seen since the Season 8 finale, “Wrath,” set roughly eight years earlier in-universe — as well as a replica Lucille, the barbwire-wrapped baseball bat said to be left rotting in the same field where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) defeated Negan when ending the Savior war. Lucille II was gifted to Negan by fanboy Brandon (Blaine Kern III), the son of an unidentified Savior, who grew to idolize Negan and his iron-fisted rule of the long defunct Sanctuary.
Initially reluctant to accept the handmade bat and his jacket, retrieved from a storage locker, Negan embraces these gifts only after he kills the psychopathic Brandon to avenge the murdered Amelia (Virginia Newcomb) and son Milo (Roman Spink). Negan planned to escort Amelia and Milo to the Hilltop colony, but they were killed by Brandon, who wrongfully believed he was being “tested” by Negan after being sent away.
Morgan’s co-star Cailey Fleming, who plays Negan’s friend Judith Grimes, previously predicted Negan “could take” Alpha (Samantha Morton) and the Whisperers if he were freed from jail and reunited with Lucille.
“I think he has changed,” Fleming said at Walker Stalker Con London earlier this year. “I think his relationship with Carl and Judith has changed him as a person. I think he changed because of us. I think he did change. I don’t know, the Whisperers, they’re real tough. But if he got Lucille, I think he could take them. I think he could.”
We’ll soon find out: “What It Always Is” ended with Negan using Lucille II to brain walkers just before encountering Beta (Ryan Hurst) and the Whisperers for the first time. Despite seemingly reverting to his old ways by embracing the look and weapon associated with his time as the villainous leader of the enemy Saviors, Negan may have a trick up his leather sleeve.
“I think it was good for the audience to see this guy who they mostly hated, and see a different side of him, to see him tortured, wanting to give up on life, ready to die at the hand of Maggie. Then there was a sort of redemption with Judith, who brought out a side of him that no one else has,” Morgan told The Hollywood Reporter. “Negan's suddenly turned into a three-dimensional character. Taking that into this year is really fun.”
He continued, “I'm thrilled with what the story has done for me this year. I think the buildup and the foundation from the last couple of years is great. We have this fleshed-out character now. This year is going to be a lot of fun for the audience, and for me. I'm having a blast. I think it’s the best stuff I’ve gotten to do on the show.”