Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "Warlords" episode of TWD. There's a new Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) on The Walking Dead. Nearly six months have passed since Negan walked away alone, leaving Maggie's (Lauren Cohan) group after her war with the Reapers in "No Other Way." Sunday's "Warlords" revealed Negan's return, and he's not alone: he's holed up with Annie's (Medina Senghore) people at the Riverbend apartment complex under fire from Toby Carlson (Jason Butler Harner) and an army of Commonwealth troopers. Explaining the new Negan on Talking Dead, showrunner Angela Kang said the former villain is seeking his fresh start with the Riverbenders:
"When we left Negan, and he walked off and he left Maggie, we really felt like that was finishing the arc of, 'I want to be a joiner now, I want to be part of this group, let me redeem myself, let me prove myself.' Everything really changed when Maggie came [back]," Kang said. "I think if you're Negan, why would you trust Maggie after what she did at Meridian? We felt like with that headspace, he really went into the world feeling like, 'I'm just going to start over,' whatever that looks like. But we know that Negan is a social animal, he really likes to have people to talk to, so it felt to us like he would fall in with a group."
In the episodes since we last saw Negan, about six months have passed since he came across Annie and the religious group of about 40 people living under warlord Ian (guest star Michael Biehn). The season will revisit the six-months-later time jump in the penultimate episode of Season 11B, airing April 3 on AMC.
"He would probably pretty quickly make himself invaluable to some people," Kang explained. "It felt like if he falls in with a completely different group and there's no baggage there, he really is in a different headspace where he realizes, 'If I can wipe the slate clean, can I make some choices that are different this time around? Can I? Have I changed? Can I change?'"
More about Negan's new life at Riverbend will be revealed in "The Rotten Core," premiering Sunday, March 27 on AMC. Read what Morgan's co-star Ross Marquand had to say when asked if Negan can be forgiven on The Walking Dead.