Negan and Lucille… Are They Breaking The Walking Dead Formula?
Excuse me for using the word “formula.” I do not mean this in an any less than awesome connotation. Instead, I mean more in the sense of a continuous stream of successful bad assery for the plot. As fans, we’ve become aware of this formula: The true monsters are never the walkers, but instead they are the humans– The humans band together and find a safe haven– soon their haven becomes threatened and overrun by a malicious characters– The group defeats the threat and moves onto the road stronger and in search for a more improved safe haven. Add those all together with slight variations here and there and you essentially have The Walking Dead seasons thus far. This serves for reliability; test the same formula again and again and you get the same successful results. But with the writers for the show catching onto this, some sort of convention-breaking needs to start happening.
Granted, the changes made in this season hasn’t made too many fans happy with the brutal killing of Glenn and Abraham, but here’s why their deaths were perceptive moves on the writers’ part.
The first is what the religious undertones are saying about Negan. The walking dead has many many biblical references, with the emergence of characters such as Jesus, Father Gabriel, the saviors, and the constant cognitive dissonance seen within characters as they waver between good and evil—between pacifism and activism.
Abraham according to the Hebrew/ Judeo-Christian/ Muslim texts was the prophet of God. He was told to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as a test to his faith. So what does this mean for The Walking Dead if Abraham himself is being “sacrificed”? By killing Abraham specifically, this calls attention to the Abrahamic story. In this scene, Negan turns to Rick and demands, “Sacrifice your son!” By doing this, Negan essentially places himself in the position of God. He makes the demand for Rick to sacrifice his son and calls for an omnipotent ambiance to the scene as well as a demand for fear and obedience from his onlookers.
Secondly, there is both Abraham and Glenn. The death of Glenn was the ultimate uproar for fans. After all, who could hate glen? The symbol of authenticity, perseverance, and selflessness is brutally maimed in front of our eyes. Glenn didn’t even die this gruesome death by Lucille in the comics! Why have the writers deviated here?
This is where The Walking Dead is making a statement. We thought we were all comfy in the suburban neighborhood of Alexandria with our walking dead family. We thought everything was finally transforming into some semblance of order. The entropy of life finally dissipated as families emerged and beauty began to exist in the midst of a collapsing world. And well… we thought wrong, very wrong. This killing of Abraham and Glenn are representative of an end to familial relations and the emergence of new life. Both Glenn and Abraham were soon to be fathers. Glenn had his baby on the way with Maggie (probably would have been one of the cutest babies, I was waiting to see that happen) and Abraham was seriously considering having a baby with his girlfriend, Sasha. And suddenly, BAM, Lucille destroyed any thought of that manifesting into reality. This is a reminder that we are in a post-apocalyptic world here, and the world of our walking dead family does not reflect that of ours as we sit on our comfy couches watching the events take place.
Now, to speculate as to whether or not Lucille and Negan are breaking The Walking Dead formula… (much like the breaking of many other things or… faces (rip Glenn and Abraham!!)) we must see how Negan deviates from former Walking Dead villains, and also how he mimics them. Let’s take for example, The Governor: the most notoriously hated villain thus far. He’s narcissistic, delusional, selfish and so many more wondrous traits. He mimics that of a sociopath, and just to refresh our knowledge of sociopathy, here are some of the traits: Superficial charm, a grandiose sense of self, skilled liars, lack of empathy, incapacity for love, manipulative, and need for constant stimulation. The governor falls under all of these categories minus the incapacity for love and constant stimulation. The governor fell for Andrea and truly trusted her. He also deeply mourned the loss of his daughter so much to the point that he kept her chained and locked away in hopes to one day cure her from the zombie infection and to care for her in the meantime.
This level of closeness is completely absent in Negan (except for maybe with his beloved Lucille). His character is unpredictable, mainly because he doesn’t abide by standard human interaction. He is quite emotionally intelligent, though he sometimes seems to lack it. Is he using this keen emotional intelligence as a tool for manipulation or is he reflecting an emotion he truly has or perhaps once had in his past pre-apocalyptic life of a school teacher and ping-pong coach?
Instead of a loving relationship, he has a group of “wives” available to him, and if any of the wives decide they want to cheat on him (usually with their true lover, or former lover) then Negan uses their lovers as examples. He maims one half of their face with an iron which permanently disfigures them as a reminder for the rest.
At the same time, he allows for a twisted form of “choice” for these women. The maiming of the face only happens if the wife decides she wants to stay under Negan’s protection in his community. The wife can also choose to leave the community and fend for herself beyond his gates while sparing the torment of her lover.
Glimpses of this twisted morality is seen repetitively in Negan. While Negan uses his power to subjugate those around him, he asks his wives if he’s ever made them do anything they wouldn’t want to. Also in the comics Negan originally was not going to kill Glenn because he didn’t want onlookers to think he was racist. Unfortunately, Glen was the victim by chance of Negan’s famed “eeny…meeny…miny, moe.” Moreover, in the show Negan has this idea of “fairness” as he takes half the supplies (and only half…no less no more) from the communities he’s conquered.
He is also drawn to Carl and seems to take him under his wing temporarily. Negan quickly recognizes that Carl is now lacking a strong father figure. Rick has been beaten down both mentally and physically. He has lost his sense of self and instead complies to Negan for fear of losing more of his people. Rick, the former police officer and symbol of justice, now stands by and allows the criminal to rule. Negan quickly recognizes this and swoops in to play dad. Is he looking for someone to teach and be his right hand man, to follow him in his absence, or is this a ploy to win the resistant Carl over? Is he channeling a Star Wars plot, urging for Carl to be like the deviant Kylo Ren, abandon the jedi and follow his uncle Lord Vader’s path instead?
These are the kinds of questions that lead me to wonder whether there is room for redemption for Negan. This father-like role is even shown with our most loved baby Judith as Negan literally sits at the head of the table in Rick’s absence and later cradles Judith in his arms.
According to the comics, Negan and Rick eventually develop a sort of Batman-Jokeresque relationship. There is room for mutual understanding as the lines between good and evil blur. There is a sort of comradery between two leaders as they are both aware of the work and strife that comes with being in a leadership position. So there is the question of sociopathy versus… dare I say, “normalcy” in Negan? Is he a maniac or is he just an ex-school teacher trying to make sense of the the world as it burns and crumbles around him?
So, I leave it up to you. Where do you think The Walking Dead will take us next? Will Negan continuously bash our most beloved faces in with his precious Lucille and or will he bash The Walking Dead in another way by breaking the formula? Is there room for redemption and will Negan eventually listen to reason?