Walking home after work this evening I was running over some ideas in my head about my upcoming Season 5 review. I’d expected Negan, a character from the comics to show up and sort of wondered about the new season and how he may yet show up soon. I thought about the story and what a horrible person Negan is and how I’m dreading his arrival. It was a real source of tension in the lead up to the finale. I wondered what it will be like when he finally does show up and what would be going through the actor and the character’s mind.
Does Negan see himself as a bad guy? Does he really see Rick as his enemy? And then it struck me.
Rick is the bad guy. And his whole group are some of the worst survivors ever seen.
The train of thought I followed was one stepping back from what we’ve seen on the show and just looking at a band of survivors as they encounter other groups of survivors. I’m not saying this is how it is, it’s just a thought.
Each season we see Rick and company coming up against or bumping into different groups of survivors. In each case it’s a different setting and set of circumstances: a boy and his dad hole up in a house, a camp outside Atlanta, a scientist in a government building, a family on a farm, prisoners trapped in a prison, a small town, a priest in his church, a group of cops in a hospital, the group of survivors at Terminus, a wandering band of biker types, and the people of Alexandria.
In encountering these different groups we get a sense of the larger world. Some people are doing this thing to get by, others are doing that. It makes sense from a writing stand point to create variety and reader / viewer interest. Imagine if the whole show just stayed at the farm? I think the fan base would have revolted if they’d stayed there another day. Or imagine if they never encountered other survivors.
We’ve seen a lot of bloodshed over the seasons and have heard the questions asked: How many walkers have you killed, how many people, and why?
But the questions are a bit loaded.They are the kind of questions anyone living under these conditions would ask. Just sort of common sense questions in that world. If someone gives answers that suggest their experience is different from Rick’s group’s they are immediately suspect. If they answer with answers that suggest they share similar experiences they are still suspect because Rick’s group have had to do a lot of bad things to get by. Everyone has at this point. Rick was my hero when he bit into Joe’s neck in order to save Carl. He became like the walkers in that he would really do ANYTHING to save his son.
So look at Rick’s group from the Negan point of view. And if you haven’t read the comics or don’t want any spoilers jump off here. But I promise kind of minor spoilers.
Megan seems like a real psycho, but he’s the leader of a large group that has absorbed other groups and made arrangements with yet other groups out there. In the beginning as they encountered others they killed some of them and absorbed the rest of their group. Hey if you’re in a group of twenty and 14 or so of your people get killed you know your best chance of survival is by joining the larger group whether you like it or not. And like Rick, everyone is doing everything they can to survive including things they don’t like.
So now Negan has this great big group and alliances or agreements with other groups and he figures that killing most of them isn’t a great idea, he wants to absorb most of them to make his group bigger and stronger. And if he isn’t absorbing them he’s making alliances with them. Alliances with groups large enough to pay fealty to him but not big enough to overthrow him.
SO what does he need? He needs moderately strong groups with enough people to work the land, build, and gather supplies. He can’t leave their groups gutted and falling apart because then there’s no fealty for him. SO in order to kill less and get more Negan decides to hurt people, not the leaders though. Not Rick. If Negan killed Rick then someone else would take his place and that would be someone else for him to deal with and it just gets too complicated dealing with all these shifting people in different groups.
No, he kills some people in the group just enough to make sure that they become his bitches in the prison sense of the word. He won’t kill Rick but someone close to Rick. Not as close as his son, because that would cause Rick to try ousting him. Glen is kind of the perfect choice. (Again this is all coming from the comics so how it plays out in the show has yet to be seen as of this writing.)
But what does Rick’s group do?
Rick’s group basically goes around destroying all the groups they encounter. Rick took over the camp, his group killed people from the farm and absorbed the rest once the farm was destroyed, Rick’s group had pretty negative encounters with the people at the prison and we all saw how Woodberry faired. The wandering biker types were all killed, as were the people at Terminus.
I know what you’re thinking. “Oh, but the bikers were bad guys. Oh but the people at Terminus were cannibals.” But the show specifically went out of its way through dialogue and flashbacks to show us that they didn’t want to be that way, they ended up that way because of all the destruction, killing and rape that was committed by people they came in contact with. They suffered just like Rick’s group. They became hardened and willing to kill others to get by.
So you’re Negan, the leader of a strong group who hears about other small groups out there getting wiped out or taken over by some wandering band lead by a former cop. Everyone they encounter seems to come to a bad end and now they are on your doorstep interfering with a group that pays you fealty. (In the comics, not yet seen on the show.) What do you do? As a character in this world you don’t have the perspective of journeying with them through five seasons of character development. ONLY the audience has that. And we don’t have all the back story for the people Rick’s group encounters which I’m sure is just as rich and heartbreaking as Rick’s groups.
But from Negan’s point of view, Rick’s group are the enemy, the villains. They kill, they absorb, they take over just like everyone else and Negan and his people aren’t going to let that happen to them. They don’t want to wipe Alexandria out, but they might have to hurt it just a bit to get it to fall in line.