It has been two weeks since the season 7 premiere of AMC’s The Walking Dead, and the shock of what happened to Negan’s victims still hasn’t entirely worn off for many fans. As Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) promised in the season 6 finale, he and trademark weapon Lucille indeed “beat the holy hell” out of one member of Rick’s group, that being the defiant to the bitter end Abraham (Michael Cudlitz). As savage and brutal as the clearly monstrous Negan can be, he does seem to keep his word, so by all rights, Abraham should have the only casualty to befall Rick’s group at that particular point in time.
That was until fan favorite character Daryl (Norman Reedus) grew so angry about both what Negan had done and the taunting he continued to inflict that the crossbow-wielding biker decided that enough was enough, and attempted to floor Negan with a punch. Unfortunately, this action only succeeded in angering Negan, who — true to his proclamation that he would not tolerate any resistance — proceeded to punish Daryl and Rick’s group as a whole by bashing Glenn’s brains in with Lucille, right in front of the latter’s pregnant wife Maggie.
Understandably, this has led some fans to place the blame for Glenn’s demise squarely on Daryl, and it is indeed a fair argument to make. Had Daryl kept his cool, he may very well have left that clearing along with his remaining friends, then figured out how to handle Negan from back in the relative safety of Alexandria. Instead, Daryl became Negan’s hostage, and Glenn’s head was turned into paste. In a recent interview with EW, Walking Dead producer Greg Nicotero was asked about why Daryl did what he did, and offered the following explanation:
“Yeah, I don’t think there’s any way around that. There’s that shot in the episode of Daryl looking at him in utter and complete shock and anguish on his face, and we know who Daryl is. Daryl is the guy that would take a bullet for anybody. The reason he leapt out of that line was because Negan was bullying Rosita. The way he was standing in front of her screaming at her and shoving that bloody baseball bat in her face, he wasn’t going to take it. He wasn’t going to let Negan get away with it in front of anybody. I think he probably would have rather been the victim himself than have seen anyone else go.”
From a character standpoint, Nicotero’s view of the situation certainly makes sense. Despite his rough-edged exterior, Daryl has routinely shown himself to be one of the most caring and compassionate people in Rick’s group, and clearly does not take too kindly to bullies or those who would take advantage of others. Negan is most definitely a bully of the highest order, and his taunting of Rosita was a heinous act, so one can see why Daryl would want to leap to her defense.
At the same time, though, just because his anger was understandable, doesn’t mean that he made the right call in the heat of the moment. Negan may be evil, but he’s not stupid, and he was likely well aware that a hero like Daryl would have gladly sacrificed his own life to stop the torment of his makeshift family. Thus, Negan opted to punish Glenn for Daryl’s actions, cursing Daryl with the eternal guilt of causing his friend’s death. Reedus has suggested in prior interviews that Daryl is headed down a very dark path, so it’ll be interesting to see how much of his heroic nature survives the horrors to come.
The Walking Dead season 7 airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.