Caution: Possible spoilers ahead for The Walking Dead
The Walking Dead has finally set up one of Negan's biggest stories from the comic books. Ever since his incarceration at the hands of Rick Grimes, Negan has been living a very different lifestyle than the one he was accustomed to as leader of the Saviors. Initially, Alexandria's prisoner was understandably bitter at being locked up, but as the time skips grew in length, Negan's attitude softened. Understanding eventually turned into compliance, compliance soon evolved into agreement and agreement has now morphed into assimilation, and Negan finds his formerly evil soul corrupted by the spirit of community and cooperation Alexandria was founded upon. This growth peaked in The Walking Dead's season 9 finale, when Negan saved Judith (and Dog!) from a blizzard at the risk of his own life.
Negan's journey from despicable villain to lovable antagonist has continued apace in The Walking Dead season 10. The former Savior had a prime opportunity to kill Aaron during an excursion, or at least make a break for freedom while the one-handed Alexandrian was down. In reality, Negan did neither; merely watching over a prone Aaron before willingly returning to his cell. Negan has now also stepped in to save Lydia, and even though he killed a woman in the process, his heart was undoubtedly in the right place for once.
In "What It Always Is," Negan has somehow got out of his cell, although it's unclear whether he escaped or was freed. He's found by Brandon, a closet Saviors fan, and it's here that Negan's character development is highlighted in no uncertain terms. Negan rejects Brandon's violent nature, his self-serving attitude and his adulation of Savior values and practices. But while Negan has evidently changed for the better, this episode finally sees the (partial) return of "classic Negan." Brandon reunited his idol with a barbed wire baseball bat and his famous leather jacket - something Negan can't help but smile about. Moreover, Negan brutally bludgeons Brandon to death after discovering the youngster had murdered an innocent mother and child.
This not only begs the question of where Negan's mindset is at, but also what his plans are. After all, Negan has been presented with several opportunities to escape over the years, and ultimately elected not to do so. What about the landscape of The Walking Dead has changed to inspire Negan to finally leave Alexandria? What if Negan was able to escape his cell all this time and has only just decided to do so?
The final scene of The Walking Dead's latest episode sees Negan knowingly wander into Whisperer territory. While the man with The Walking Dead's most colorful vocabulary has never come face-to-face with the show's new villains, he has heard about the Whisperers from other characters and his encounter with them is certainly not by chance. This cliffhanger directly sets up one of Negan's biggest moments from the comic books, as Robert Kirkman's original story also sees Negan decide to meet with Alpha after being released from jail.
Instead of teaming up with her against Alexandria as most might expect him to, however, Negan actually takes matters into his own hands and kills Alpha himself, both as a way of protecting his new home and to prove how much he has changed to Rick and the others. The live-action version of The Walking Dead always has the potential to mix up the comic story, but Negan killing Alpha has arguably been telegraphed more heavily on TV than it was in the comics. While comic Negan did soften into a protagonist, he was still somewhat of a swine, killing Brandon for no real reason in the original story. On TV, Negan is essentially already a good guy, but just lacks the trust required to make that final leap to freedom.
As it did in the comics, killing Alpha would finally prove to Alexandria that Negan is on their team, and it'd be very harsh to lock the guy back up after he put his life on the line to rid them of a major enemy.
The Walking Dead season 10 continues with "Bonds" November 10th on AMC.