Robert Kirkman Explains How Negan Will Change ‘The Walking Dead’

The Walking Dead mid-season finale has finally aired, and the rumours circulating the popular AMC show, for the time being, have now settled. A few things were clear as the credits rolled on this week’s episode; the show is about to change dramatically, and if one word could sum this up in stark, bloodshed clarity, it’s this one: Negan.

Be warned, spoilers for Season 6 will feature below, so read with caution. It’s fair to say that The Walking Dead source material has many people divided over the show itself. The consistent urge to have a character from the comics appear on screen has given the show a lease on life and, in equal contrast, a hidden resentment from a small pocket of the fanbase. TV adaptations will always have an artistic license, and certain characters will be portrayed differently, but some characters can stand the test of this adaptation and some will always be portrayed correctly, despite the changes that are bound to occur.

Robert Kirkman Explains How Negan Will Change 'The Walking Dead'2 Dark times lie ahead for the survivors on The Walking Dead. [Image via AMC]The last character that had this treatment? The Governor. Ruthless, cunning, out for himself, a tyrant in the apocalypse, the character was hated and admired for bringing death to several of our beloved characters, but he made a massive impact on the show — one that has been sorely missed since. In fact, you could argue that this absence of a clear villain is the reason Negan is finally making his debut on The Walking Dead — a notion confirmed by Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s casting a few weeks ago. This week’s mid-season finale also confirmed this point. Yes, Negan was finally mentioned by name, a confirmation all fans have waited weeks for, and according to creator Robert Kirkman, all bets are now off for the surviving residents of Alexandria.

Talking to the New York Times, Robert Kirkman revealed what is in store for the second half of Season 6.

“We’re definitely going to have to wrap up this monumental attack on Alexandria. That’s going to be the focus when we come back. We’ll pick up moments after Sam is asking for his mother and we’ll see what the consequences are of that. The Saviors and Negan are on the horizon. While it is possible that there will be some rebuilding of Alexandria, there’s this huge threat that Daryl and Abraham and Sasha are dealing with that’s going to be a big part of the back half of this season. This character Negan, whose name was mentioned last night is a huge threat — he’s a huge part of the comic book and he’s going to be introduced into the show very soon.”

Making an appearance on AMC’s Talking Dead, Kirkman explained how Negan’s imminent arrival on the show is going to dramatically shift the series, and take it to a very dark place.

“The fact that we’re getting to that point in the show now where this catalyst is going to be thrown in at some point in the future, I can’t say which episode but clearly he’s been cast so you guys know he’s coming up, that’s just going to fundamentally change everything that we’re doing in a really interesting, drastic and very scary way.”

Negan’s arrival on The Walking Dead means that anything can happen — and he isn’t short of a victim or two, looking at the varied roster of Alexandria survivors. If you’ve read the comics, you know he is responsible for some of the most heart-wrenching, bloody deaths the book has ever scribed into animation. He made his mark very early on in the material, and many can expect the same to happen on the show. After this week’s episode, the name “Negan” is already striking fear into viewers hearts, and he hasn’t even made an appearance yet. With two subtle teasers of his dominant nature — portrayed through his loyal and suffering troops, The Saviours — you can expect Negan to equal or even surpass The Governor for uneasy, horror-baiting terror.

Negan has a foul mouth and a demented sense of justice and order — he hates sexual violence and enjoys punishing those he views as criminals with severe torture and dark forms of corporal punishment. He also “owns” the wives of his fellow survivors, a decision that regularly puts him in conflict with his fellow group. His sense of right (in his blood-coated eyes, anyway), makes him a little more dangerous and intimidating, something that is clear from the outset. His mindset isn’t black and white, much like Rick’s, and this lends his character the kind of post-apocalyptic mystery that The Walking Dead has turned into an perfect art form. The Saviours also lend an exaggerated menace to proceedings — the members are the soldiers to Negan’s The Don, acting like a kind of mafia who act on their leader’s every whim and request, protecting settlements in return for supplies. This relationship between settlements has been absent since Season 3, when Rick’s group protected the prison with their lives. With Alexandria fast becoming a safe haven for all involved, expect this to ramp up in the coming episodes.

Robert Kirkman Explains How Negan Will Change 'The Walking Dead'4 The Walking Dead returns on February 14, 2016. [Image via AMC]In the interview, Talking Dead host Chris Hardwick also remarked on the casting of Jeffrey Dean Morgan, and cited his portrayal of the enigmatic The Comedian from Watchmen as inspiration for the character. Where similarities between the characters is obvious — both have a disgusting charm and odd sensibility to the character, despite their ego, personality flaws, and tyrannical ways — Negan really is a wildcard; for all of his “fame” in the comics, it’s very difficult to label the character and compare him to anyone else. This is one reason that Season 6, if done correctly, can propel The Walking Dead into the stratosphere. The show is known for being unpredictable, violently aggressive, and gut-wrenching, so if the showrunners can utilise this and push it one step further, The Walking Dead could be about to wow the masses in ways not many shows can.

Some have complained that Season 6, for all its social media scrutiny and forum-breaking discussion, has been a little slow. Sure, Glenn’s fake-out death polarized audiences and brought the show some much-deserved attention, but the show hasn’t really done much in the first eight episodes. The walls of Alexandria broke down, some of the show’s best characters shone before being put into death-defying situations, we had an origin story, and the dark hints of Negan have propelled it along nicely — but the one thing that has been missing is the break-neck pace, the action. Is this the calm before the storm? Will the second half of Season 6 escalate on the arrival of the next big bad? Only time will tell, but with the nature of Negan’s character, speeding the show up for the final episodes will be a perfect way to introduce him. Many expect the death of a major character — it happens in the comics — so an assault on the senses is very predictable when the show returns come February 14, 2016.

So, Negan is coming. When and how? We will find out soon enough. The mere mention of his name is leaving some viewers quaking in their boots, so don’t expect this to change after the mid-season break. One thing is for sure: The Walking Dead is about to change dramatically, and we will start to feel this way before Negan’s much-anticipated arrival in the latter stages of Season 6.

The Walking Dead returns on February 14, 2016.

[Image via Robert Kirkman/Image Comics]