The Walking Dead made a chilling callback to Negan's (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) first appearance in Sunday's 1011, "Morning Star," where a masked Negan and Alpha (Samantha Morton) assaulted Hilltop in the first battle of the Whisperer War. Taking place more than eight years after Negan first menaced Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and a group of his survivors in the Season 6 finale, "Last Day on Earth," which premiered in April 2016, "Morning Star" saw Daryl (Norman Reedus) take charge as the Hilltop colony found itself targeted by Alpha and her walker army. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) urged the Hilltop to ready themselves for war against her mother, who was left with nothing to lose when her daughter fully defected from the Whisperers.
As Hilltop debated whether to run or stay and fight, with Hilltop residents Jerry (Cooper Andrews) and Earl (John Finn) urging the survivors to make a stand, Yumiko (Eleanor Matsuura) and Aaron (Ross Marquand) voted in favor of fleeing to fight another day. Making the call, Daryl made plans to evacuate the children — Aaron's daughter Gracie (Anabelle Holloway) and the Grimes children, Judith (Cailey Fleming) and RJ (Antony Azor), among them — instructing the community to regroup at Oceanside.
When Daryl, Lydia, and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) escorted the wagon full of children through the woods, they discovered two Hilltop guards hanged in nearby trees and the only path forward blocked by a fallen tree.
"All the roads are gonna be like this now. We ain't gettin' through," Daryl said. "It's Negan. He's with her now."
That instinct feeling calls back to "Last Day on Earth," where Negan employed similar tactics to block off the roads and trap Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) when they were transporting an ill and pregnant Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to Hilltop for desperately needed medical attention.
Rick and the group found themselves facing blockades made up of armed Saviors at every turn, with Negan's right-hand man Simon (Steven Ogg) ordering the group empty their RV and hand over their possessions. Continuing on to Hilltop, their new route found the survivors facing an even larger pack of Saviors, greatly outnumbering the Alexandrians.
Their efforts to reach Hilltop impeded at every turn, including roadblocks made up of logs and another of walkers chained together, the group was horrified when they discovered Daryl and Michonne (Danai Gurira) were captured — or worse. Realizing they were being routed in a specific direction, the group disembarked the RV and took to moving through the woods, where they came face-to-face with Negan for the first time.
It was in that clearing where Negan used a barbwire-wrapped baseball bat to execute Abraham and Glenn (Steven Yeun) before imposing his rule of law on Rick and his people. The group's subjugation would only end after Rick mounted a resistance that ended with Negan imprisoned for eight years.
"Negan is with them now," executive producer Denise Huth said of Negan's place among the Whisperers. "That could still go a lot of different ways. Added Morgan, "You just don't know where he sits with anything."
Audiences will find out where Negan really sits in 1012, "Walk With Us," premiering Sunday, March 15 at 9/8c on AMC.