The Walking Dead’s Negan hasn’t always made the right decisions; for instance, there was the time he ruled as a bloodthirsty, post-apocalyptic tyrant and murdered dozens of people. Since then, though, he’s been trying to become a better person… emphasis on the word trying, as last night’s season 11 premiere showed. Still, actor Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t think you should have been surprised.
Here’s the set-up: Maggie leads a group of people through the DC Metro subway system in hopes of reaching her old, abandoned settlement Meridian and its stores of food. Surprisingly, she brings Negan, the detested killer of her husband Glenn, on the trip. Negan’s been trying to reform himself since then, successfully for the most part, but Maggie will never forgive or forget. So tensions run high until Negan forces a confrontation, where he accuses her of bringing him on this mission to die (even if she has to kill him herself), while she rebuts that’s she’s always thinking about killing Negan and is a hair away from shooting him at any point but manages to stop herself.
Eventually, a horde of zombies chase the group on top of a subway car, but they grab Maggie while she’s trying to climb the ladder to the roof. Negan, safely on top of the train, looks down on her — then chooses to turn away rather than help her.
It’s a dick move for a guy who the show has been trying to redeem for a while, and a significant step back for the character. Still, Morgan doesn’t think people should be surprised Negan refuses to help the woman who’s made it abundantly clear how much she hates him. As the actor told TV Line when asked if this means Negan’s a villain again:
“The audience will take it as they will. There are Negan fans who will understand that move, and there are people who hate Negan who will see it and say, ‘He’s the same old guy.’ For me, it’s about survival. This is a person that wants him dead. But he’s not going to go out and bash her head in, because he’s also in a precarious place with everyone else. So this was kind of an opportunity that arises, and he makes a decision.”
To be fair, it’s a very human decision, and a very Walking Dead decision. Morgan also thinks Negan weighed the scales and made a very conscious decision: “If she makes it, she makes it; if she doesn’t, she doesn’t. He knows there’s going to be repercussions if she makes her way out of it. He’s prepared to deal with them.”
Understandable or not, it’s still a bit frustrating on a narrative level since this would have helped the characters’ long-running conflict simmer down a little. Instead, Maggie will inevitably survive, and everyone in the group will hate and mistrust Negan even more than they all still do. It’s just getting repetitive to watch.
Honestly, I wouldn’t put it past the show to have Morgan lie for the sake of the twist, and for this coming episode to begin with Negan immediately returning to Maggie with something to help knock away the zombies holding her or pull her up. Again, the show that did this would lie about anything. Like Maggie, I never forgive or forget.