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Warning: Spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 7 premiere ahead.
Well, that was an eventful season premiere. We knew that Negan was going to be an intense addition to the show, but I don't think anyone was prepared for the pure and unrivaled mercilessness that Negan would bring.
We have never seen a character this menacing on the show and with the same kind of power Negan has. Only the Governor comes close, but even he pales in comparison to the same kind of relentless nature that Negan possesses. The fact that this is a man who wraps barbed wire around a bat just so he can beat the ever living crap out of his victims should say it all about how evil of a man we are dealing with.
But what if I told you that Negan is not truly as evil as were lead to believe? I'm not going to try and argue that Negan is not a ruthless killing machine, because he is, but I want to try and paint a different picture to shine some light on the true perspective of the world that The Walking Dead is based in.
I want to break down exactly what type of people live in this world and what human nature has evolved — or devolved — into. We're going to discuss why what Negan's doing is actually pretty normal, all things considered.
What makes him different from the other villains?
Negan and the Governor are both leaders of their separate communities, but the main difference between the two is while Negan has no problem killing someone who stands in his way or when he needs to set an example, the Governor seems to kill anyone that he comes across outside of his community.
In Season 3 we saw the Governor and his men run out to meet up with a National Guard unit that was attacked and badly injured. They convince the lone survivor to give up the location of the rest of his comrades, and then kill him. They then proceed to hunt down the rest of the National Guard team and kill all of them and take their supplies.
Now, I am sure most of you are thinking that is probably the same way that Negan would handle this business, and without actually seeing him in this situation we have no idea of what his actions would be, but we can take an educated guess. Negan is the type of person who does not wish to kill just for the sake of killing, he wants to make use of people, even says so in the Season 6 finale:
"I don't want to kill you people. Just want to make that clear from the get-go. I want you to work for me."
Negan more than likely would have at least given the soldiers a choice of either joining his regime or death. The Governor just kills without really thinking about the consequences or how the situation could be approached differently.
As far as other villains like Shane, the Wolves, or the Terminus crew, they all are on basically the same level as The Governor. While Shane could be considered a victim of the true insanity this world could cause, he still had developed into the type of character that would kill anyone that got in his way including his supposed best friend Rick. The Wolves and Terminus gang are both ruthless killers who look at death like sport.
Negan compared to all the other villains might be just as ruthless, but he is much more methodical and does not look at killing as the first means of handling a situation right away.
Is he truly a psychopath?
What is a psychopath? It is a type of disorder in which a human being has persistent antisocial behavior, impaired empathy and remorse, and bold, disinhibited, egotistical traits. Does that describe Negan? HELL YES IT DOES!
But what character have we come across that doesn't share this type of behavior? Just to list a few examples:
- Carol killed two innocents in Karen and David in Season 4.
- Daryl was originally planning to rob all the members of the original camp with his brother Merle.
- Morgan can be seen in the episode 'Clear' trying to murder an innocent man who is trying to help him.
- Rick loses it after Lori dies and goes on a war path to clear out the walkers from the prison. Putting himself in danger and leaving his son and new born behind.
The only characters that do not seem to have any psychopathic tendencies are Hershel and most of the community at Alexandria and this is more then likely due to them being secluded and away from the violence and harsh realities that the rest of the world had succumb to.
Almost every character on the show has blood on their hands. All of the members of the group have killed in the past, and while most will say it was for self defense, isn't killing still wrong? In the real world yes, but in The Walking Dead world killing is essentially a means of survival and precaution.
It's common for two strangers to meet and kill each other for little to no reason, because in this world the odds are that everyone is trying to take everything that you own, and many times that means that they are going to try and kill you to do it.
Negan lives in a dog-eat-dog world and while he may kill people for different reasons then Rick's gang, they are all still killing people. It's not because they want to kill people, but because they don't have a choice. Rick even says so in Season 5 when talking to Deanna at Alexandria:
Making it now… you really think you can do that without getting blood on your hands?
While Negan is and should be considered a psychopath, couldn't it be said that everyone in The Walking Dead is, they just have different means of showing it?
Rick and Negan aren't so different.
Rick and Negan have a very interesting dynamic. Negan is often referred to as the Joker to Rick's Batman. Rick is the Light and Negan is the Dark. Is it really so black and white, though?
Negan is obviously not afraid to kill and has no remorse when he does so. Rick is no saint either; when you look at his death count, he has has killed 39 living people as of the Season 6 finale.
You might say that Rick has killed for different reasons. Well, Negan killed both Abraham and Glenn in the Season 7 premiere to send a message to Rick's gang, and you might say that is pretty much what separates them, right? Nope.
If you look back in Season 3 when Rick, Daryl, and T-Dog were clearing the prison with a group of prisoners who were trapped inside a cafeteria; Rick killed the prisoner Tomas after he (seemed) to take a close swing with his machete at Rick. Rick quickly and without warning drove his machete into Tomas' skull in order to show the other prisoners that he and his crew were not to be messed with.
You might say that it was self defense or Tomas had it coming, but why did Negan kill Abe and Glenn to begin with? It was because Rick and his crew killed Negan's men on the road when they attempted to take all of Daryl, Abraham, and Sasha's belongings. As Negan states:
"...you killed my people, a whole damn lot of them. More than I'm comfortable with. And for that, for that you're gonna pay. So, now I'm gonna beat the holy hell outta one of you."
Negan killed Abe and Glenn to set an example and Rick killed Tomas for the same reason. You can say Rick was defending himself, but he gave no warning to Tomas before he killed him. Were Tomas and his crew really in the wrong? They were at the prison first and felt that meant it was theirs. Maybe they're wrong, maybe they're right: It's about perspective.
It's also worth noting that in Season 6 Rick was holding up the Alexandrian Pete at gunpoint and was going to kill him in order to show the Alexandrian's that you have to get your hands dirty to live in this new world. While he was stopped before he could do anything, it is safe to say he would have killed Pete based on his rage alone.
One other big part of Negan's reign of terror is that he uses other camps as a means of keeping his camp alive. He threatens these people's lives so that they will give him what he wants. Has Rick ever gone that far?
Considering that the first thing Rick did when he arrived in Alexandria was attempt to take it over, I'd say Rick is guilty of the same offense. Rick set up secret meetings with members of his crew to discuss a hostile take over of Alexandria. He also implied in his interview with Deanna that he was already thinking about taking the community over.
So is the difference between Rick and Negan really that distinct? In my opinion, no. Negan is obviously much more violent, but really what has Negan done that Rick hasn't? It almost could be said that Negan is essentially what could become of Rick if he continued to go down the dark path he was going on in Season 6.
It's all a matter of perspective.
I would say its fair to think that Rick and Negan are similar characters with comparable means of handling their business. Why do we view Negan as the bad guy though? If he is essentially just doing what any other leader of a community in this type of world would do, why is he viewed as the villain?
Well this TV show is obviously told from the point of view of Rick Grimes, he is our protagonist and our hero, so any person that comes along that stands in his way is going to be viewed as the bad guy.
Even though Rick is literally doing all of the same things that Negan does (on a smaller scale) he is viewed as the hero because from our point of view all these other antagonists are getting in his way. If we were told this story from the point of view of Negan then we would probably view Rick and his crew as the antagonists.
We would look at Negan as taking over smaller communities and killing people as a means of survival just the same as when we view it when Rick and anyone in his crew do the same. Hell, we would probably be viewing Negan's men like Simon or Dwayne as their versions of Daryl and Glenn. We would view Rick and his group as a threat that would need to be dealt with after they blew up Negan's men on the road and attacked their safe house.
Obviously Negan and his crew are far more extreme, vulgar, and violent then Rick and his gang, but in a world like this it seems that violence is the answer. Rick was starting to become just as violent in Season 6 until getting a revamp in his personality when he joined up with the secluded residents of Alexandria.
Negan is not someone who kills for sport. He only does so when he has a reason behind his actions, so he is more empathetic then any of the previous villains. He takes over communities as a means of survival, just as Rick does.
In the end it really does not seem like he is the a truly evil person. He is a man that has been turned into exactly what everyone else in this world either has or will eventually become. You could almost say that he is just ahead of the game.
All this being said, I am still going to root for Rick and his gang just like everyone else. I hope this at least gave a different point of view on Negan's character. I'm happy to get an antagonist like Negan with much more depth then just being a mindless killing machine.