The Walking Dead's penultimate season ends (again) with a sharp, moving look at Negan

Alex McLevy

Yesterday 9:00PM

It’s been almost exactly five years to the day that Jeffrey Dean Morgan made his first appearance as Negan on The Walking Dead. For all the criticism that those early episodes with Negan and the Saviors subsequently received, there was always something compelling about Morgan’s portrayal of the character. Even with all the cringeworthy “pants-shitting” talk they regularly saddled him with, the actor managed to take the malevolent villain and imbue him with charisma, charm, and menace in equal measure, making it all too easy to understand why he was the kind of person others would follow without question. He wasn’t relatable, but he made sense; the heightened camp elements of Morgan’s performance were part and parcel of the character, a way to cleverly depict the fact that everything Negan did back then was, in some sense, a performance. He knew he was putting on a show, and what helped make it magnetic was the fact that the viewer was never quite sure who Negan was under all that slippery bravado.

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