The Walking Dead faithful are still pretty up in arms about the show’s season 6 send-off. The finale finally introduced the comic’s spike bat-wielding baddie Negan (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan) with an accurately brutal adaptation of his first encounter with the Alexandrian survivors – and apart from his dialed-down usage of a certain four-letter word, the character was pretty on-point. The problem was, though, his big scene closed on a maddening cliffhanger about who the recipient of his deathly Lucille swing was.
This was an added insult to injury for those viewers who were already miffed by the bait-and-switch maneuver pulled earlier in the season regarding the fate of Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun), who miraculously survived an insurmountable walker attack after appearing to succumb to it. The question mark looming over whose head was repeatedly bashed there in the last minutes of season 6, then, has been the grumbled story of the off-season, with fans speculating whether the victim of his vicious blows was Glenn, as in the comic version, or if they decided to off someone else instead in light of the fan outrage over his apparent death earlier in the season.
The good news is, it’s not going to be a secret for much longer. The first picture of Negan in The Walking Dead’s seventh season has emerged via EW, and it proves that no time will have passed at all by the time season 7 launches because the character is still shrouded in his leather jacket wear and smirking as he clenches his prized piece of weaponry.
While the image itself (see below) is hardly surprising, it does instill a smidge of confidence about what’s to come because it’s accompanied with an executive promise that the very first episode of the new season will indeed reveal what we’ve all been (im)patiently waiting to find out since April.
Executive producer Greg Nicotero told EW, “Yes, who was at the receiving end of Negan’s bat will be revealed in the first episode.” Nicotero, who directed both the Walking Dead season 6 finale and season 7 opener, has acknowledged the fan frustration surrounding the mystery man or woman bludgeoned to death by Negan, but defended the decision as something that “propels” the show because it leads into season 7’s prerogative – to show “that the world isn’t what everybody thinks it is.” Negan’s job, then, is to lay waste to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln)’s long-lived confidence that he and his people can keep the status quo intact through wit, might, and determination.
In his new chat with EW, Nicotero adds a preview of a few other character details fans can expect to see when Jeffrey Dean Morgan reprises his sinister role.
“Negan is that kind of guy … He’s the kind of guy who imagines himself on stage at a high school production and he loves every second of it. So, I don’t really see a lot of quiet contemplative moments with Negan. I feel like with Negan it’s really going to be about him gesticulating and him sort of relishing in the sound of his own voice while he commands the stage in front of whoever’s alive.”
So, a theatrical villain who cherishes the sound of his own voice? Sounds about right. Plus, there’ll be a lot more to him than just this one swing, which is a good thing because Morgan was recently bumped up to a series regular for the seventh season.
The Walking Dead returns to AMC on October 9th, 2016.