Warning! SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 10 & comics ahead!
The leather jacket-wearing, Lucille bat-swinging Negan returns in The Walking Dead season 10, but the former Savior may not have truly reverted to his old ways. When Negan was first introduced in the season 6 finale, he was unquestionably a villain, killing off two major characters (though, controversially, not until the season 7 premiere). Since then, however, Negan has been developed beyond a one-note villain into an increasingly nuanced and interesting character.
Following the war with the Saviors, Negan became a prisoner, held in a basement cell in Alexandria. Recently, though, he's been given some privileges in return for good behavior. Negan has also genuinely shown a desire to be a better person, repeatedly proving he's not that bad of guy by rescuing first Judith and, most recently, Aaron. Still, the people of Alexandria are wary of Negan, and when he accidentally kills a resident when protecting Lydia, he's quickly jailed again on murder charges. Then Negan escapes, seemingly confirming his guilt by fleeing rather than facing justice. The preview suggested it was Brandon, Negan's guard who releases him, but that turns out not to be the case, keeping the culprit's identity a mystery a little longer. Still, Brandon is revealed as someone who totally would have released Negan if given the chance.
In The Walking Dead season 10, episode 5, "What It Always Is", Brandon catches up with Negan, bringing him a bag of supplies that includes a bat (later wrapped in barbed wire) and his leather jacket. He fawns all over the former Savior leader, but Negan is having none of it. He finds Brandon's psycho-fanboy attitude annoying and eventually tells him to get lost. This happens not long after Negan and Brandon come across a mother and son and rescue them from walkers. Negan quickly strikes up a rapport with the son, and promises to lead him and his mother to Hilltop where they'll be safe. But while Negan is away gathering wood, Brandon returns and murders them, believing Negan had just been putting on a long con. Furious, Negan murders Brandon, and afterwards, dons the leather jacket and picks up the new Lucille.
When next Negan appears in "What It Always Is", he's purposefully crossing the border into Whisperer territory and making a ruckus as only Negan could. As walkers approach, Negan kills them one by one until he draws the attention of the Whisperers. Beta throws him to the ground, but Negan just looks back up at him, eager for a fight. The impression this and the previous scene give is that Negan has given up on redemption, realizing that no matter how hard he tries to change, death and misery continue to follow him. By putting on his leather jacket and again taking up Lucille, Negan appears resigned to his fate of being, well, Negan.
This apparent change of heart certainly does make sense in respect to The Walking Dead comics, which do see a far more villainous Negan escapes Alexandria and seek out the Whisperers, hoping to join them and use their forces to get revenge on Rick. It doesn't exactly pan out that way, and in fact, Negan's time spent with the Whisperers winds up playing a part in his redemption arc in the comics. However, just because Negan is finally meeting the Whisperers on AMC's The Walking Dead, it's unlikely he's planning to join them and lead them in an attack on Alexandria.
Instead, Negan seemingly accepting his role as a villain feels more like a tragic fall than a triumphant return. On The Walking Dead, Negan has made great strides at reforming and has begun creating real relationships with others, particularly Judith, Gabriel, and Lydia. Him putting the leather jacket back on and swinging that bat is Negan choosing to believe he isn't worthy of being anything better, having had yet another chance at a fresh start violently ripped away by a man claiming inspiration from Negan's own actions. It's a tragic turn of events, but it may still lead to Negan getting the chance to prove he isn't all that bad of a guy anymore.
The Walking Dead season 10 continues Sunday, November 10th with "Bonds" at 9pm/8c on AMC.