Updated on November 30th: Jeffrey Dean Morgan confirmed, again, on The Howard Stern Show, that he will be around next season.
Readers of Robert Kirkman’s graphic novels know this, but I think it’s important that all of The Walking Dead fandom understands this: Negan is not going anywhere. Negan is not a one-season Big Bad, like the Governor. He’s not been brought onto The Walking Dead for a single arc. He’s in it for the long haul, or at least as much as anyone is on The Walking Dead is in it for the long haul.
Viewers of The Walking Dead have been split on the season premiere. I thought Negan’s brutality was consistent with what we’ve seen from the show over the course of 7 seasons, while others justifiably walked away from the show for their own valid reasons. Those who are sticking around hoping to see Negan get a quick comeuppance after the events of the season premiere, however, should not hold their breaths.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan even hinted at as much in an interview with Rich Eisen. Speaking about his character’s backstory, Morgan revealed that there will not be a flashback episode this season that reveals his origins (or the heartbreaking origins of Lucille), but that the flashback episode might come next season.
In other words, no: Rick Grimes is not going to quickly rally the troops, build an army, and exact deadly revenge on Negan for killing Abe and Glenn. Negan will not swiftly meet a similar fate, and while I don’t know what exactly will happen this season and into next, don’t be surprised to see — at some point — Alexandrians aligning with Negan. After all, if one’s major goal in a zombie apocalypse is to survive, who would you side with? A broken Rick who couldn’t lead a dog to a steak at this point, or Negan whose crew owns half of everything and clearly has the numbers to outmatch any other colony?
The moral choice might be Rick, but the safer one right now is Negan. That’s exactly why his stay on The Walking Dead will run multiple seasons.