The Walking Dead seems to have finally cracked Negan in a way that fans across the board are enjoying the once-divisive character portrayed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. While Negan was not intended to be a fan-favorite early on when his introduction called for slaughtering two beloved characters, the debut was met with criticism and controversy. Now, as the character marches on a potentially redemptive arc, he appears to be aligning himself with the Whisperers (which comes with a major twist, according to the comics) in one of the most intriguing stories of the show's tenth season.
The Walking Dead Episode 10x06 (Bonds) introduced the Negan and the Whisperers story fully, offering up some funny moments, most of which were at Beta's expense. "Our inspiration came from the comic book way that Negan and Beta interacted where Negan was just constantly poking fun at Beta," The Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang told EW. "And so I thought that was just a fun dynamic and the room really latched onto that. So we were like, 'Well what would be a fun way to do this?' And just in thinking about those characters, they’re both these big, strong, formidable guys, and I think Beta would immediately see this guy come in and go like, 'Yeah, he’s trouble. I don’t like him. I don’t trust him. F— this guy.'"
According to Kang, Negan might see Beta as a challenge, as the goal is simple: "He wants to cut him down."
Rather than follow the traditional intense, slower tone of The Walking Dead, Kang elected to spice things up while carrying out a story from issue #156 of The Walking Dead comics. "There’s a way that that could play that’s all just entirely intense, but we thought that there’s something a little bit ridiculous about it, and it was just a fun and fresh way to go at it," Kang said. "It’s dealing with both of their respective insecurities, but also the ways that they jockey. It’s a pissing contest in the apocalypse. Jeffrey [Dean Morgan] and Ryan [Hurst] really had a fun time playing it. They just thought it was such a hoot."
Still, Negan's presence among the Whisperers will likely have a bigger meaning than simply being entertaining for the audience. "That’s part of the story we’re trying to tell for the season, is those two have this very close and yet complex relationship, and the introduction of first Gamma into that trio, and then Negan, definitely shakes things up," Kang goes on. "Part of the way that we’re tracking the story of the Whisperers is what is happening in that core relationship between Alpha and Beta, and certainly I think the fact that Alpha feels some doubt coming from Beta is also changing her tactics. That’s partly why she brings Gamma into her fold and why she’s interested in the presence of Negan, and all of that has a lot of implications for what happens with the Whisperers as the season goes on."
By the end of the episode, it appeared Negan had been accepted into the Whisperer tribe with a hush from Alpha. The story in the comics does not end up in her favor but Kang isn't ready to give away too much just yet. "I think it’s certainly the fact that he came back and impressed her, and so there’s more to come between Alpha and Negan, for sure," Kang promised. "He has that swagger and he’s been suppressing that for a while, but you put them out in the wild and this is how he knows how to survive, is with this sense of confidence and badassery, and certainly it makes an impression. But she also thinks he talks too much."
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC.