The Walking Dead has progressed and raised the stakes for our group of survivors, sending them on a collision course with a character many fans are anxious to see on screen: Negan.
Shows with revered source material offer people the luxury to see what might happen in the future (unless, of course, we're talking about Game of Thrones at this point), and fans of the Walking Dead comic book began buzzing at clues hinting at Negan’s introduction as early as last season. Then Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s casting announcement hit, and anticipation for the character’s onscreen debut has reached a fever pitch.
Here’s what you need to know about the leader of the Saviors known as Negan. Note: Spoilers aplenty to follow.
His BFF Is a Baseball Bat
The first and most important thing to know about Negan is that he has a lot of friends, but none that he treats with more dignity and respect than Lucille.
Yes, Lucille is a wooden baseball bat wrapped in barbed wire and adorned with the grey matter of once-brave foes. With a rep like that, does it really matter if she can’t talk?
Of course, this is to say that Negan is slightly sadistic. He enforces his will with brutal authority, and more often than not, it means bashing in heads with what he affectionately refers to as his “vampire bat,” because she’s always thirsty. See what we mean? Sadistic.
Lucille is never far away from Negan, and it’s safe to say she has just as big an impact in their debut as he does. In Issue 100 of the comic, Negan makes his first appearance in the series when he takes Lucille to the skull of a beloved series mainstay.
If the show sticks to the roadmap laid out by the comic — and it has been pretty faithful to the source material this season — you can expect to hate the baseball bat more than the person wielding her.
The Dude Abides (By His Own Code)
People committing murder with barbed wire-wrapped baseball bats might not seem like reasonable folk. Not to say Negan isn’t crazy, but you couldn't describe him as irrational. Everything he does abides by a certain code, and he’s nothing if not a man of his word.
His group of thugs, the Saviors, functionally operate as mob enforcers defending their turf. They bully the communities of the Hilltop, the Kingdom, and others into giving half their supplies in exchange for protection. The terms are not exactly lip service, as the Saviors truly do keep the territories safe for the most part.
But failure to fulfill the agreement — whether supplies are low or maybe someone realizes they’re getting a raw deal — is generally met with the same fatal resolution as all of Negan’s problems. There’s nothing like motivating a group of people like killing a few of their friends, apparently.
His code applies to his own cronies as well. In a scene where he catches one of the Saviors attempting to sexually assault a hostage, he grabs the man and violently reminds him that “we don’t rape” by jamming a knife in his neck. He then turns affectionately to the hostage to assure her, “We aren’t monsters.”
He's Kind of a Cult Leader
With this strange-yet-intact set of principles guiding him, Negan runs his own compound out of a repurposed factory known as the Sanctuary. He commands a Jim Jones-esque presence, demanding worship among the different sects of denizens — whether they're common citizens earning their keep with favors and labor, or the higher status in Negan’s court such as his guards and “wives.”
Those who break his rules and earn his ire are subject to being “marked,” where he takes a heated cloth-iron and burns the flesh off half the face. One such marked character, Dwight, recently made a reappearance on the TV show after running into Daryl earlier in the season. It's another clear indicator that Negan isn’t far away.
Dwight stays with Negan after receiving this punishment for a few reasons, the most notable being that his ex-wife Sherry has taken up with him. Negan offers a more secure lifestyle to the women who agree to be a part of his harem, and Sherry joins thinking life would be easier for her and Dwight. When the two get caught together, Negan puts Dwight under the iron.
An exclamation point on the statement of his brutality, Negan has zombies chained up and gored through spikes decorating the entrance to and perimeter of the Sanctuary. The zombies serve as both deterrent and alarm system, adding hazard to the obstruction as well as causing a commotion when intruders get near.
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He Takes Cursing to New Levels
For all of Negan's hideous qualities, and despite his being responsible for the deaths of more than a few fan-favorite characters, there's something about him that makes him one of the most electrifying, charismatic characters in the Walking Dead universe.
Both the show and comic have gone to great lengths to indicate that a person's life before the walkers doesn't mean much and that what really matters is how they've come to embrace the new world. Negan isn't an exception, but his barely-mentioned history as a car salesman is more than enough context for his foul motormouth.
It's not an over-exaggeration to say every other word from his mouth is a cuss word (well, it might be, but it doesn't seem like it). But the way he elegantly and descriptively talks about the physical ramifications of disobeying is not only threatening, but also hilarious.
Editor's note: This post has been updated from its original version, which first appeared in March 26.