Baseball bat-swinging bad guy Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) tormented Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) and his group of survivors face-to-face for the first time exactly four years ago today in The Walking Dead Season 6 finale, "Last Day on Earth." In the episode originally aired April 3, 2016, Rick, Carl (Chandler Riggs), Abraham (Michael Cudlitz), Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green), Aaron (Ross Marquand) and Eugene (Josh McDermitt) attempt to transport an ill and pregnant Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to Hilltop for treatment while encountering repeat roadblocks from Negan's right-hand man, Simon (Steven Ogg), and the Saviors at every turn. All roads lead to Negan, who "eeny, meeny, miny, moes" to pick his victim from a lineup including a captured Michonne (Danai Gurira), Rosita (Christian Serratos), Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Glenn (Steven Yeun).
The Greg Nicotero-directed episode ended with Negan selecting a victim whose identity was not revealed when Negan brought down his barbwire-wrapped baseball bat — lovingly named Lucille — towards the camera, imitating the victim's point of view. The killed off character would be revealed months later in the Season 7 premiere, "The Day Will Come When You Won't Be," where audiences learned it was Abraham who was the unfortunate "moe."
When Daryl took his own swing at Negan, the Savior leader punished the group by murdering Glenn, remixing an iconic scene taken from the milestone 100th issue of creator Robert Kirkman's comic book.
"I'm a fan of the show and I was a fan of the comic books. I got approached when Negan was introduced in the 100th issue of the comic book — fans of the comic book gave me a copy of it and said, 'When they ever get to this guy, you should be this guy,' and I was at Comic-Con, actually, and that was in like 2012 or 2013 or something, so I was very aware of the character," Morgan told Variety after his premiere episode in 2016. "I had read a couple of the comic books. I think the tone of Negan, that came in discussions with Scott [Gimple, then showrunner], but mostly it came from seeing the panels of the graphic novel — Negan's grin and attitude, that's the skeleton for my character, those pages. I just add meat to those bones and try to fill in the spots that aren't there."
"I think what was important is that this character was charismatic. People are like 'he's this psychotic guy,' I never looked at him like that," Morgan added. "I think there's a lot of similarities between him and Rick. If we were following Negan's story from day one on The Walking Dead, the audience would be rooting for him. It's a very parallel storyline, it's just now I'm going to butt heads with Rick and his group and he's gonna have to deal with me and the Saviors."
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