This week’s episode of The Walking Dead largely consisted of Negan beating a dead horse for 90 minutes (nearly one-third of which was commercials). It was an episode that could’ve easily fit into the normal hour-long runtime and might have been much better for it. It essentially repeated the themes of the first and third episode — that Negan is a bad, bad man — in a new location, here Alexandria, where most of its citizens got their first taste of the series’ latest villain. It was more of the same.
Negan Wears Out His Welcome
I think Jeffrey Dean Morgan is a good actor. However, we are quickly learning that — as is the case with a lot of scene-stealing characters — Negan is better in shorter doses. He’s cartoonish almost to the point of absurdity, and while that might work as a form of sadistic comic relief, it begins to feel grating for viewers at a certain point. It’s overkill. The overemphasis on every third word, the teeth sucking, and some of the cringeworthy lines (“Easy peasy lemon squeezy!”) have grown stale. How many idle threats can he make? How many times can Rick prevent himself from killing Negan? How many times can Negan humiliate Rick or Daryl or Olivia (we finally know the pantry lady’s name!) before viewers at home throw their hands up in the air. “We get it! He’s a really bad guy! Can we move on now?”
Ezekiel was a huge success in the second episode because he presented a larger-than-life character who was a lot of fun. But by episode’s end, we got to know him as a human being. We got to know the person underneath the facade. We’ve spent the better part of three episodes with Negan now, and we don’t know him any better than we did when he was introduced to the series at the end of last season. He’s a bad-guy caricature. We don’t know his backstory. We don’t understand his real motivations. We know that he likes to bully and intimidate people, and if pressed, he’s willing to kill. But we don’t understand why at all.
I sincerely hope that at some point soon we find out that there is a deeper layer to Negan. I know he has a heartbreaking backstory in the comics, but on the TV series, he increasingly feels like a stock villain. There is absolutely nothing human about him, and his one-dimensionality increasingly contrasts poorly with the more developed characters on the series who have more gears than Negan’s hoo-ra sadism.
A really good villain is someone we root for just a little bit because we understand their motivations. There’s nothing about Negan to root for, and if he died in next week’s episode, the only heartbreak I would feel would be for Jeffrey Dean Morgan being out of a job.