WARNING: This article contains spoilers for the Season 8 premiere of The Walking Dead, "Mercy," which as of publication has not yet aired on the west coast, and for The Walking Dead comic series.
Jeffrey Dean Morgan's interpretation of The Walking Dead's most iconic villain gave us all a lot of confusing feelings last season. While easily the most sadistic and terrifying of Rick's nemeses, he's also the most charming, intelligent and, dare we say it, likable. Also, at the end of the day, there are worse leaders in this world than him.
That's what makes Negan so compelling -- he's extremes in every direction, and when he's control, he doesn't need to let out his dark side all that often. But all that's just changed.
Tonight, in TWD's 100th episode and Season 8 premiere, the tables, they are turned. Negan's supremacy is now totally in question -- the Sanctuary, the seat of his power, has fallen, three of his communities are in open rebellion and on their way to take out his satellite facilities and he ends the episode alone, trapped in a construction trailer surrounded by a swarm of walkers. Well, not alone for long -- soon he has Father Gabriel to keep him company, but that's not necessarily a positive.
So what can we expect from Negan in Season 8? Probably a whole, helluva lot of rage. And it was a happy-go-lucky, safe and secure Negan who committed every atrocity we credit him with so far (except maybe killing Olivia), so when it comes to this season, we should probably all be very, very afraid of what an angry, threatened Negan is capable of.
In less speculative news, however, we do have somewhat of a concrete idea of what Negan will get up to this season, or at least what we'll learn about him. The showrunners and Jeffrey Dean Morgan have all made it very clear that the audience will finally get a glimpse into Negan's backstory this season. It's excellent timing considering "Here's Negan," the standalone story by Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard serialized in Image+ magazine that detail Negan's life pre-Apocalypse, and up until his meeting with Rick. It's possible the show will completely ignore the contents of that volume, but that's pretty unlikely. For the most part, TWD remains decently faithful to its source material, so why should Negan's backstory be any different? Read on only if you're interested in potential TV spoilers.
According to "Here's Negan," he was a high school gym coach who's wife was diagnosed with cancer just prior to the apocalypse. Like Rick, he remains unaware of what's happening around him, remaining in a fog of grief as his wife wastes away. After her death, he finally leaves to discover the world has ended, and begins his own journey of survival. For the most part, the comics don't sit in conflict with the show, until a lone Negan meets a nice guy name Dwight. Dwight has his own group, and Negan befriends them before slowly asserting his own leadership.
Obviously the show won't be able adapt that part of the story since their Dwight meets Negan well after he's formed the Saviors. So, much like the rest of the television adaptation, they'll most likely take bits and pieces of the comic source material and interweave it into a new story.
So what can we expect from Negan? Probably someone even more terrifying than last season, all the while tempered by a backstory that promises to humanize him -- at least a little. Does everyone have their you-know-whatin' pants on?
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.