Warning: The following has many spoilers for The Walking Dead season seven, so read on with care if you aren't caught up.
This season on The Walking Dead has been heavy. Jeffrey Dean Morgan's character, Negan, has unleashed a flurry of deaths upon some of the series' most beloved character. While fans of the comic book have a general idea of what's coming for Negan, fans who've only seen the television show may be hoping that Negan's death comes swiftly. However, as Comicbook.com reports, he's not going anywhere any time soon. After an interview on The Howard Stern Show, Morgan said Negan is confirmed for season eight. While those hoping to get some swift and final justice over the brutal losses of Glenn and Abraham may be bummed, Negan's continued presence is actually a really great thing for the show.
Negan will be the longest running Big Bad we've had on the show, the second being The Governor. And while The Governor provided us with a lot of conflict and heartache by beheading Herschel and destroying the prison, most of his character development happened away from the group. When the two worlds collided, it often came in the form of conflict. The Governor was an obstacle to be overcome, and while we did get a few glimpses into who he was as a human, he mainly existed to create trouble for Rick's team.
Negan, however, is much more than that. Yes, he is certainly brutal, and his presence has given he series an even darker tone than it had prior. However, his presence has also upped the stakes on the show and created more significant conflict. Negan isn't a villain plotting his next evil move in front of his walker aquariums. No, he's in Alexandria, walking around and interacting with Rick and the group. What's more, his legion of followers also refer to themselves as Negan, making him not a single, far-off target, but an enormous nonstop shit storm for Rick's group. With Negan, it's not just Team Rick versus Baddie. It's now our group finding a permanent place in the world, and working to live in some semblance of peace with the rest of the living, which is the true sign humanity rebuilding.
It was mortifying to watch Rick broken to the point that he was nearly willing to chop off his own son's arm. It was tragic to lose Glenn and Abraham. It was infuriating to watch Negan force Rick to carry Lucille around Alexandria. And it's heartbreaking to watch the mental torture Daryl now endures week after week. However, with that darkness has come some very important additions to the show. It's brought back that real fear that truly anyone could be killed. For a while, it seemed that The Walking Dead was only killing off tertiary characters we were starting to like and characters that were easily identifiable as "red shirts" (who can forget Glenn and the Magic Dumpster?). However, that's not the case anymore. Steven Yeun was one of the remaining original cast members, and an undisputed fan-favorite. It was shocking to lose him, and reminded us that Robert Kirkman meant business when he said no one was safe.
Of course freely killing off major characters runs the risk of destroying everything an audience has to root for. However, Negan's looming, seemingly omnipresent status has forced a great deal of development in other characters on the show. Since Negan's arrival, we've gotten to see Rosita set up for a great deal of growth as one of the most obvious opponents to Negan's rule. The same could be said for Sasha. Though the show has developed her character more than Rosita's, she's proving to be another growing force against Negan. This is the first time we've seen Maggie without the support of her family or her husband, and it looks as though the show is setting her up for her comic book journey as the formidable leader of Hilltop.
Even Carl is getting to stretch his legs more as a character since Negan came on the scene. He's had it rough, growing up in the apocalypse, and has had to find his footing between being the kid who couldn't ever stay in the damn house and being a heartless and crazed killer. He's been in his dad's shadow for quite some time, and now with his father stepping out of the limelight as The Ricktatorship, we're getting to see more of Carl. He showed a ton of bravery when he thought Rick would have to cut off his arm, and it's been interesting seeing him interact romantically with Enid. Fans of the comic book know that Carl's post-apocalyptic upbringing causes him to not fear Negan in the way his adult counterparts do, and that spurs a very bizarre relationship between the two. And since we last left him in the back of a truck headed toward's Negan's camp, it looks like Carl's about to set out on his comic book destiny.
Negan has expanded the world of The Walking Dead by sticking around for so long. Yes, he absolutely is a monster, but by not getting offed after a season, his story and constant presence is allowing characters to grow and the Walking Dead universe to expand and feel more permanent. That permanent universe gives meaning to the group's fight for survival. Keeping him around into season eight (at least) is going to be painful at times, but it's ultimately going to help push the show to the next level.
What do you think? Do you want to see more Negan, or are you bummed that he won't be killed at the end of the season? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!