Does Negan deserve redemption on 'The Walking Dead'? Showrunner and executive producer weigh in

Jackson Lee Davis/AMCAfter about eight episodes with very little of Negan, are you ready to see more of him on the ‘The Walking Dead’ again?

  • Warning: There are spoilers ahead for AMC’s “The Walking Dead.”
  • “TWD’s” season nine mid-season premiere showed Negan escape Alexandria and go on a journey back to his old home.
  • It appeared to be a journey of self-reflection as the character stopped by the same location where he killed both Abraham and Glenn on the show’s seventh season premiere before, ultimately, heading back to Alexandria.
  • Is Negan finally getting a redemption arc? And furthermore, does he deserve one? INSIDER spoke with showrunner Angela Kang and executive producer Greg Nicotero about Negan’s storyline on “TWD” and where he’s heading for the rest of the season.

The Walking Dead‘s” return to TV has shown us more of the Whisperers and their leader’s dark past, but viewers have also spent a lot of time with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan).

On the AMC show’s mid-season premiere, the character known best for bashing in the heads of beloved characters Glenn and Abraham and who questionably held a harem full of women while he was the leader of a community, escaped from his prison cell to go on, what appeared to be, a journey of self-reflection.

Gene Page/AMCNegan lines up Rick’s men and takes two of their lives on the season six finale and season seven premiere.

With Andrew Lincoln, Chandler Riggs, and Danai Gurira on the way out of the apocalyptic series, it appears “TWD” is starting to lay the seeds for a redemption storyline for the once leader of the Saviors. But does a guy like Negan deserve redemption?

“I think so,” executive producer and mid-season finale director Greg Nicotero told INSIDER. “To be honest, especially when we had the six-year time jump and we realised that Negan has been this prisoner and he’s been in this room, I do think so.”

Twd 909 neganJackson Lee Davis/AMCNegan escapes from his cell on the mid-season finale last November after his cell door isn’t locked properly. Father Gabriel was the last one to visit him.

It’s easy to forget, but only about a month passed between the time Negan was first introduced on the show during the season six finale to when he was tossed in a cell by Rick and Michonne at the end of season eight. Since then, we’ve seen two time jumps. The first one skipped ahead about a year and a half after the war with Negan. Showrunner Angela Kang previously told INSIDER six years passed after season nine’s second time jump.

In the comics, Negan escapes from his cell after being locked away for about two years. On the show, he has nearly eight years to reflect before he gets out. One big change Kang made after taking over the show in January 2018 was taking the show’s emphasis off of Negan and putting it back on its core cast of Rick, Michonne, Maggie, Carol, and Daryl. As a result, we barely saw Negan during the first half of season nine as he rotted in a cell. Instead, it gave viewers some time to breathe as fan favourites had more interaction with one another than they have had in seasons.

Certainly some of that was probably because of Andrew Lincoln’s impending departure from the series after the fifth episode of the season, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if that was also slightly in part due to some level of Negan fatigue from viewers. (That’s a real thing.) After six seasons with Rick, Carol, Maggie, Daryl and Carl, Negan became a main focal point for not one, but two years.

Negan walking deadGene Page/AMCThe show may have shifted its focus a little too much from Rick and the gang to Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character.

On February’s mid-season premiere, as Negan was brought more heavily back into the fold, Nicotero emphasised how important it was to return Negan to the clearing where he first met Rick’s extended group and killed off two fan favourites. He said it was a moment to bring Negan’s story back to the beginning. Nicotero also described it as “a reset button” for the character.

“For him to be able to be in that clearing and realise that that’s exactly where all of his problems started with the moment he met Rick and the moment that he made the mistake of killing Glenn and Abraham… I thought it was a really poignant and really great moment to put Negan, humanize Negan by putting him back into that place where we first met him at the monster,” said Nicotero.

Negan walking dead clearing 909AMCNegan revisits the moment that started it all.

So far, some fans are rejoicing over Negan’s reset and are thoroughly looking forward to seeing where Kang will take the character.

Others simply don’t find his character redeemable.

“He has thought about the things that he’s done. Whether or not he’s sorry for them is another question,” Kang told INSIDER on what we should take away from Negan revisiting that dark moment from his past. He’s not all of a sudden a different person.

“I think Negan, in his mind, believes he did the things that he needed to do to kind of keep his people going,” she continued. “It’s kind of what all of our characters think. ‘The way that we’re going about it is the right way,’ or sometimes they go, ‘We’re not sure if it’s the right way, but it’s the way that we’re choosing.'”

The walking dead twd 909 negan jeffrey dean morganJackson Lee Davis/AMCAngela Kang says you can’t forget the things that Negan has done on this show, but he wants to prove himself after about eight years of being locked up.

Unlike Nicotero, Kang didn’t give as clear cut an answer on whether or not Negan deserved to be redeemed for all of his misdeeds. She made it clear you can never forget what the character has done on the show and that’s not something the show will try and undo. Instead, the latter half of season nine will look at the next chapter of Negan’s character.

“I think for Negan it’s a long and winding journey,” said Kang. “He certainly has the desire to be something more than he has been. In the show, because we’ve jumped so much more time than they jumped in the comic book, we got to thinking, he’s had a lot of time by himself in prison. He’s had a lot of time to really think about things. Negan is a person who wants to be important. That’s part of his psychology. He’s used to being a leader, he’s used to being able to tell people, “Here’s the way to go about the world.'”

“Just being in prison, it depressed him. But now it’s like he thought, ‘If I go out there, if I find my group again, I can be the leader,'” explained Kang of Negan’s thought process on the mid-season premiere. However, when Negan reaches his old home of the Sanctuary, he finds it completely abandoned and trashed. There’s no one left to lead.”

“When that doesn’t turn out to be something that is going to work out, I think that it makes sense to us that what [Negan] would want then is, ‘If this isn’t what I can do, I can at least try to go back and maybe try to prove myself,'” Kang adds.

Twd 909 JDM neganJackson Lee Davis/AMCNegan finds that there’s nothing and no one left for him at the Sanctuary.

In the comics, that’s sort of what Negan does. When the Whisperers become a main threat to the communities, an escaped Negan infiltrates the group to take them down from the inside. Whether or not that’s something that happens on the show isn’t clear yet. The show has made so many more deviations from its source material in recent years. It doesn’t make things easier when Negan just turned in the towel on the TV show and returned to Alexandria willingly on the mid-season premiere. He may not be getting out of that jail cell again any time soon.

“That really becomes another turning point in an overall longer arc that we’re telling for him,” Kang said of Negan maybe wanting to prove himself to Alexandria. “I think given that where Negan started, it’s not easy. You can’t erase the things that he did, or the person that he’s been, but I think showing that kind of desire to have something more is definitely a version of a Negan redemption arc, but as with everything Negan, it’s a little complicated.” Are you happy with where Negan’s storyline is heading on “The Walking Dead”? You can follow along with our show coverage here.

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