Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) may have picked a side in the Whisperer War playing out in The Walking Dead 1011, "Morning Star," where pack leader Alpha (Samantha Morton) marched an army of walkers and Whisperers onto a cornered Hilltop. The Alexandria fugitive joined the Whisperers when he was set loose by an unidentified accomplice, proving his worth to a suspicious Beta (Ryan Hurst) before pledging his loyalty to Alpha. Now a full-fledged Whisperer after becoming the first of her followers to be intimate with Alpha, Negan has completed his initiation by whispering the pack's mantra — "We are the end of the world" — from beneath his own mask made from walker flesh.
In "Morning Star," Negan gets "kinky" with Alpha when he whips her with a switch, the same tactic used to re-indoctrinate former acolyte Gamma (Thora Birch) when she considered straying from the pack. Swearing she's "stronger than ever," Alpha completely severed ties with daughter Lydia (Cassady McClincy) when the girl refused to kill her mother and take her place as leader of the Whisperers.
Left with nothing to lose, Alpha will aim her walker horde at Hilltop to "butcher and consume" Lydia, Daryl (Norman Reedus), and the many innocent survivors who call the colony home before wiping out the Alexandria and Oceanside communities. Before she can, Negan approaches Alpha with "a little unsolicited advice."
"I respect a well-deserved massacre. Some people, they just have it coming," Negan says. "I get why you want to take out Hilltop and Alexandria. It would just — it would feel good. But you know what might feel goddamn fantastic? Getting those assholes to surrender. Bend a knee. Alpha, we can get them to join us."
Considering it, she replies, "Explain."
Outside Hilltop, Daryl, Lydia, and Dianne (Kerry Cahill) attempt to evacuate a wagon filled with children when their path is blocked by a felled tree. Recognizing this tactic from years earlier, Daryl says, "We ain't gettin' through. It's Negan. He's with her now."
That night, Beta commands a pack of Whisperers who fling sap-filled "cannonballs" onto Hilltop, a makeshift gasoline ignited by the Whisperers' flaming arrows. Watching the Hilltop go up in flames, Negan asks Alpha, "I thought you wanted them to join us?"
She slithers in closer. "They will," she hisses. "As part of my horde." From beneath his fleshy mask, a smiley Negan is impressed. "Holy shit. You are a badass."
As the militia retreats under fire from the Whisperer army, Alpha watches as her followers send more fiery arrows into the sky. Negan fires one off, and the episode ends with the Hilltop fighters caught between a wall of flame and Alpha's walker horde.
While it would seem Negan is slipping into his old ways — wanting the survivors to "bend a knee" as they did when his Saviors forced the communities into servitude — advising Alpha to subjugate the survivors instead of wiping them out could be the actions of a Negan trying to spare the allied communities from Alpha's wrath. It would mean Negan is getting close to Alpha for his own purposes.
"I think we want [whether Negan is back to being a bad guy] to be a bit up to the audience. That jacket and that bat is so strongly associated with the worst things that Negan has done," showrunner Angela Kang previously told EW after Negan was gifted his leather jacket and a replica of baseball bat Lucille. "It's so iconic to his look, and that Negan look — that was the Negan that we saw when he strolled into our world and killed two beloved characters — that impact still ripples into the current day, many years later. But we also just saw that he killed this guy [Brandon] because he killed two innocents, right?"0comments
Kang continued, "So Negan has a lot going on. Negan's also a guy who plays things close to the vest, and there's all kinds of thoughts swirling through his head, and we'll learn more about it as it goes on. Certainly, we're seeing him embrace a certain side of himself that perhaps he was forced to leave behind, but it opens up that question of, is the old Negan completely back? Was he never really gone? And those are all things that we'll be dealing with this season."