“#’The Walking Dead’ Season Finale Delivers a Powerful Origin Story for Negan (RECAP)”
Inextricably intertwined with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is Lucille; it’s impossible to imagine him without his favorite weapon slung over his shoulder. That barbed-wire baseball bat has become one of The Walking Dead’s most easily recognized symbols. It’s as engrained into the show (and its merchandise) as Michonne’s (Danai Gurira) katana, Rick’s (Andrew Lincoln) Colt Python and Daryl’s (Norman Reedus) crossbow.
The April 4 Season 10 finale, “Here’s Negan,” goes beyond the bat to explore the character after which it was named, with real-life married couple Jeffrey Dean Morgan and Hilarie Burton bringing the doomed love of Negan and Lucille to life. The episode shines a light on Negan’s past through exploring his complicated relationship with, and undying love for, his wife — and how her loss pushed him to do horrific things.
Digging Up the Past
The episode is divided into the present, the past, and the past pre-apocalypse. In the present, Negan winds up exiled from Alexandria by Carol (Melissa McBride), who has moved Negan’s stuff into a cabin so he can live away from Maggie (Lauren Cohan), who keeps giving him murderous glares. Negan spends a lonely evening being tormented by visions of himself as the leader of the Saviors and, the next morning, he returns to the field where Rick (Andrew Lincoln) slit his throat in the Season 8 finale. He’s looking for Lucille…and he finds her, still wrapped in barbed wire, buried in the dirt.
In the pre-apocalypse past, we learn Negan wasn’t a great guy. After beating a man so badly he had to be hospitalized, he loses his job as a high school gym teacher and counts on Lucille (his wife, not the bat) to pay the bills. He sits around at home playing video games and can’t be bothered to remember her doctor appointments, or bring her home from the hospital after she has an MRI. Neither of them is happy. In fact, there’s a tense scene where Lucille, after learning Negan is cheating on her with her best friend — oh, yeah, he’s also cheating on her with her best friend — appears to contemplate shooting her husband. But once she delivers the news that she has cancer, Negan starts to put some effort into their relationship.
Fighting for Them Both
After the world ends, it’d be fair to say the duo are actually the happiest they’ve been in a while. Negan is administering her treatment himself with a stockpile of medicine from before the world ended, and after she gets a few more doses, he’s convinced she’ll be healed. They laugh and smile and are very much in love. Despite the circumstances, they’re hopeful. So, something has to go wrong, right?
Right. The refrigerator where Negan had been keeping his wife’s medicine fails overnight, leaving her with no route to healing. He wants to set out to find her more, and does, even after Lucille asks him to stay, maintaining that eventually he’ll have to “do the fighting for both of us.” Negan won’t hear of it and leaves.
Six weeks later, he finds a doctor and his daughter who have plenty of medical supplies, and to get them he threatens both of them, but is so malnourished he goes down with a single thunk of a baseball bat to the head. If the daughter looks familiar, it’s because she’s Laura (Lindsley Register), one of Negan’s Saviors! Anyway, the end up giving him the medicine Lucille needs, and he heads home with the treatment, a pistol, and a baseball bat, courtesy of Laura.
A Tragic Ending
Except he doesn’t make it home. A biker gang intercepts him and ties him to a chair, demanding he tell them where to find the doctor he had just met (the implication here is that they’re after drugs). Negan, left with no choice, caves and shows them where to find the duo on a map. Negan’s soon free to leave — and as he goes, he hears Laura screaming.
If you’ve watched this show for any length of time, you’ve guessed what becomes of Lucille. While Negan is gone, she dies and turns; he finds a message on the door to their bedroom that reads, “Please don’t leave me like this.” She’d tied herself to the bed to keep herself from hurting him, and he sits by her walker for a long time and then he burns the house down, with her inside it.
Without Lucille, darkness overtakes Negan. While he was worried about even killing walkers before — “I just don’t want to get used to it,” he say earlier — now, he wraps Laura’s bat in barbed wire (the birth of bat-Lucille!) and sets off to the biker gang’s headquarters. He kills their men, then waltzes in to confront their leader. He ties him up and tells him a story about the man he beat before the world ended; the guy was at his and Lucille’s favorite bar and wouldn’t be quiet so they could listen to their favorite song, and after he charged at Negan, Negan, seeing red, fought back. The guy was the father of one of the kids Negan taught, Negan got fired from his job, the dad sued him, and the rest was history.
“Back then, there were consequences for seeing red,” Negan says, taunting the biker. “Now, nobody’s suing anybody. Nobody’s getting fired. Nobody’s keeping score. Now, when I see red, it’s just a question of what I am capable of. And I’m starting to think I’m capable of damn near anything.” He bashes the guy’s head in with Lucille, then he checks on the doctor and Laura, who are, presumably, the first Saviors.
Goodbye Lucille, Hello Alexandria
In the present, Negan tries to use Lucille to kill a walker…and it splits down the middle. Heartbroken, Negan takes his shattered bat back to the cabin and tosses it into the fire, talking to his late wife as he does. “I miss you,” he says, “I love the s**t out of you, and I am going to do your fighting for you.”
The next day, Negan heads back to Alexandria. He tells a surprised Carol that the “whole situation” with the cabin isn’t going to work out. “If you stay here, she will kill you,” Carol responds, referring to Maggie. “I just didn’t want your death on my conscience, and now it’s not.” Telling Carol that’s fair, he walks back into Alexandria…and Maggie watches, fury in her gaze.
- This is easily the best of the TWD “Bonus Episodes.” To be honest, this would’ve felt at home in the regular season; there were enough characters interacting with each other that it didn’t feel like it was filmed during the pandemic, and having real-life husband and wife Dean Morgan and Burton play the central married couple was both brilliant and practical.
- The depth of the love story told here, in less than an hour, was incredible and believable — it makes sense why Negan named his bat “Lucille.” Morgan and Burton did a phenomenal job.
- The scene at the end with Negan and the leader of the biker gang was lit and framed the same as the lineup scene from Season 7, which was an excellent way to show Negan’s transformation.
- I’m assuming that “army base,” where Carol says a team went out looking for food at the end of the episode, has something to do with the Reapers.
The Walking Dead, Returns Summer 2021, AMC
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