This Walking Dead feature contains spoilers.
With Maggie back, there’s no doubt that Negan’s time in Alexandria is going to get harder. After all, she is there with little Hershel, and every day she has to walk by the man who killed her husband. When you add in the fact that Negan was there as Alpha’s second in commend when she burned Hilltop to the ground, it’s clear that there’s no road to forgiveness in Maggie’s eyes.
Carol wisely steps in and attempts to defuse the situation by moving Negan and all of his stuff to a cabin nearby. Out of sight, out of mind. The only downside is being on his own gives Negan plenty of time to think. Negan looks back at the road that led him here. What turned him from a high school gym teacher into the leader of the Saviors? What terrible things did he do in an attempt to make sense of a senseless world?
The back half of season 10 went out of its way to avoid pushing the plot forward very far. “A Certain Doom” remains the season finale in truth, if not on paper, but the extra episodes have served as admirable attempts to push forward individual character arcs. Some have worked better than others, but none have worked quite as well as “Here’s Negan” did.
Here’s what the final episode of The Walking Dead season 10 revealed about Negan and where it leaves him going into season 11:
Finding Lucille the Bat
Exiled from Alexandria and stuck in Leah’s old cabin, Negan sits by the fire and confronts the worst possible version of himself. Negan, broken and attempting to rebuild himself, meets Negan at the top of his game. The leather clad, bat-swinging, shit-talking boss of the Saviors plops down in the chair and immediately starts dressing himself down. Negan as he is comes face to face with the Negan that the people of Alexandria cannot forget, no matter how many good deeds he’s done since the end of his war with Rick. Negan confronts this “cult of personality,” rejects the idea that he’s nothing without his past self, but he also comes to understand that he can’t just bury his past. Negan digs deep in this episode to figure out where he went wrong and why he’s ended up alone.
In fact, he does some literal digging. Negan goes back to the scene of his greatest failure and reunites with an old friend. Throughout his imprisonment, Negan wanted nothing more than to get Lucille back, to know she was safe and sound and somewhere in Alexandria. But she wasn’t. We learn in this episode that his bat was abandoned under the tree where he had his final battle with Rick Grimes.
After digging countless holes, Negan finally discovers Lucille’s resting place. Fingers around a maple handle. A big crinkly-eyed smile. Heroic lighting. And then the first flashback of the episode.
Saving the Real Lucille
A bag removed from a head. Negan tied to a chair, bloody, with two bikers giving him a once-over. He’s got medical supplies, and they want to know where he got them. Negan begs to be let go; his cooler is full of chemotherapy drugs for his wife, who is sick with cancer. He’s already led them on one wild goose chase, and if he does it again, all those rare drugs go down the toilet while Negan watches. With pain in his eyes, he relents.
Negan knows of a medical caravan with access to a warehouse full of life-saving drugs and supplies. He tells the bikers where they can find the doctors before they pack up and move to the next stop on their route. He knows these guys don’t have good intentions, and probably won’t keep their word, but he’s desperate. He’s desperate to get back to his wife before she succumbs to her cancer. He’s a man with everything to lose.
While the flashback is really meant to explore Negan’s relationship with his wife before he turned bad, it also reveals how he met Lucille the Bat. We learn that both Lucille’s are tied together by one specific event. Two or three days before being captured by the bikers, Negan, hungry, desperate, and exhausted, tries and fails to rob a doctor named Franklin and his daughter (who we learn is Laura, Negan’s future Savior lieutenant) with an unloaded gun. For his troubles, he gets a kiss from Lucille the Bat, and wakes up hours later being attended to by the very same doctor he tried to rob. They give him the chemo drugs he needs, and Negan is surprised that they expect nothing in return. They just want to help people, and what goes around comes around. It’s a philosophy that will eventually get you killed in the post-apocalypse.
Negan, of course, doesn’t make it home with his chemo drugs intact. After giving up the medical caravan’s location, the bikers head out to capture the doctor while Negan is locked in a storage room, agonizing over the drugs he needs to get to Lucille.
This time the information is good. The bikers get the doctor and Negan is let go with his chemotherapy drugs intact. No mention is made of what the bikers plan on doing to the Franklin and Laura, but the screaming of a girl suggests nothing good. Negan ignores that and rushes back to try to save his wife’s life.
Negan’s Change of Heart
It’s clear Negan loves his wife and will do anything for her, but their marriage wasn’t an easy one, especially before outbreak.
Negan, seven months prior to the end of the world, was nothing but a selfish jerk. He bought a $600 leather jacket. He was fired from his job as a high school gym teacher because he beat up a guy in a bar fight. He yelled at kids while playing video games.
Worst of all, he had an affair with one of his wife’s friends, even going so far as to leave her waiting in the doctor’s office parking lot the day she was diagnosed with cancer while he was off with Janine. She’s smart enough to figure it out, eventually, but she doesn’t tell him she knows about the affair. When she gets home, she just tells him that she has cancer. That’s a turning point for Negan, the moment he becomes the husband willing to do whatever it takes to save his wife’s life.
Months later, they are locked away in their boarded-up house, a generator running whenever it won’t draw walkers, and all the while Negan is catering to Lucille. He reads to her, they watch James Bond movies on DVD, he makes romantic dinners with dog food as the main course, and he makes sure she sticks to her scheduled chemotherapy regimen, no matter what he has to do to make sure it happens.
It’s a side of Negan the show has never really showed before. We knew his bat was named for his wife. We knew she died of cancer. But what hadn’t been established before now is just how hard he worked to keep her alive while she suffered through nausea and chills, losing her vitality and her hair in the process.
Just before Negan leaves to go find Lucille’s drugs, she tells him that she knew about Negan’s affair, but that he’s made up for all of his mistakes. It’s a beautiful scene between Hilarie Burton and Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
Lucille Dies, Negan Lives
By the time, Negan returns with the drugs, it’s too late. Lucille is dead and come back as a walker. It’s a moment that would break anyone, and it certainly changes Negan. With his wife gone and his home burning down in the background, Negan grabs the two things which are now most important to him. The leather jacket that was his wife’s final gift to him and the bat that will carry her name forward. Using barbed wire from the fence around their house, Lucille the Bat is born, and she’s thirsty for revenge. Negan backtracks to where the bikers have Franklin and Laura imprisoned, and while he has never killed any people (and was even hesitant about killing the dead), he has a natural talent for it.
Negan gets his revenge on the bikers who captured him and, for what might be the last time, does the right thing and frees Franklin. However, with the bat and with his leather on, it is clear that the Negan who cared for his doting wife is fading away, and he’s transforming into the loquacious murderer Negan. As he says to the lead biker tied to the chair, “This time you best hope I never stop talking because when I do, something very terrible is going to happen to you.”
Negan has cast off the old world, and with the Viking funeral he holds for his wife, he is getting rid of that last little bit of the old world that he carried around with him. It’s a new day, and he is a new guy. Seeing red is not a bad thing anymore, and neither is killing in the right situation and for the right reason.
The Death of Lucille the Bat
The real Lucille was sent off in a fire after overdosing. She was trying to free Negan of his responsibility to her and to give him the freedom to move on. Sadly, it took a while for him to get around to doing that. His last link to the old world died when she died.
His last link to Negan of the Saviors dies when Lucille the Bat breaks against the skull of a zombie. Negan might still be seen as the villain who killed Glenn and so many others all those years ago, but he’s not that guy anymore. As the remains of one Lucille hit the flames to join the remains of another Lucille, Negan shakes off the ghost of a different person, and a different life, to rejoin the community he has put himself at risk for. Maybe Maggie will kill him for it. Maybe that’s what he is counting on.
Either way, the Negan walking up to Carol and company is not the same man Carol left at the cabin. No more bat. No more swagger. No more shame. No more asking for forgiveness. No more expecting forgiveness for his past actions. New outlook, new Negan.
For the first time in forever, and perhaps the first time ever, Negan is at peace. He cannot change the past, no matter what good deeds he might do to try to re-balance the scales in his favor. Maybe he will never get a clean slate, but he can do good for the sake of doing good and hope that what goes around actually does come around in the end.