On screen, The Walking Dead follows roughly the same path as laid out in Robert Kirkman’s comics that serve as the source material. There are differences to be sure, including a sizeable one from the most recent episode, but fans are generally able to look forward and know what big things lurk on the future. The comic is full of great villains, and because they know it drives fans nuts, the show keeps teasing the appearance of the nastiest of the bunch.
There are some SPOILERS beyond this point for those of you not caught up with the series or those of you who don’t read the comics.
The group of survivors, led by Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), just arrived at the Alexandria Safe Zone, which marks a huge turning point for them. A location that still plays a major role in the comics, it provides them with a place to settle and build something new rather than just move from place to place and survive. But this is The Walking Dead we’re talking about here, so you know that it’s not as easy as that, and one of the challenges they’ll have to face eventually is a man named Negan, the leader of a vicious gang of survivors called the Saviors. He makes the Governor look like play time and has a penchant for bashing in people’s skulls with a barbed wire covered baseball bat named Lucille.
This has been an introduction fans have been salivating over, and whenever something even slightly sinister comes about, like those armless walker torsos from a few episodes back, we all wonder, is it Negan? Talking to The Hollywood Reporter, Lincoln teased the character, saying:
There are astonishingly brilliant and thrilling characters that I am convinced we would be idiots not to meet in our journey; I would be very surprised if we don’t see Negan on the horizon in the not-too-distant future.
Does that mean we’ll see this new menace before the end of season 5? This run wraps up at the end of March, so there’s not a ton of time. They just arrived in Alexandria, and given their usual SOP and Rick’s temperament, you know it’s not going to go super smooth. So there will be some bumps in that road to deal with, and I’d rather the writers and producers let the story play out naturally than just insert another menace in right away. They have new people to meet and develop, new thematic threads to explore, and a lot for everyone to take in.
That said, I could easily see Negan pop up at the end of that extended season finale we heard about the other day. You can imagine a scenario similar to how Michonne (Danai Gurira) arrives right at the tale end of season 2. It was a moment where comic readers knew what was going on, but one that left viewers with a question that carried over into the next season. The Walking Dead is fond of cliffhangers like that.
Lincoln goes on to talk about the already approved season 6, talking about what it will look like, saying:
What struck me, that I’ve always been excited about, is we’re coming into the sixth season of this show … and it’s the medieval part of The Walking Dead comic, where you realize that there are these isolated communities but don’t really know other ones exist. But they’re all building and forming themselves with their own image. And then there’s a clash of those communities. That, to me, is really interesting and when it gets really exciting with all the action. It turns into this insane, near-apocalyptic landscape that we’ve never seen before.
Things definitely take a turn for the brutal when Negan and the Saviors arrive on the scene, and “near-apocalyptic” is one way to describe the chaos and carnage that follows. There have been bits and bobs that many fans have taken as signs of Negan’s impending arrival. Most recently, Glenn (Steven Yeun) almost getting cracked in the dome by a baseball bat, but there have been others, like the midseason poster that shows some smokestacks in the distance that look suspiciously like the factory where the Saviors lay their heads.
Whenever Negan gets here, and however he rides in, dark times are on the way for Rick and the rest of the survivors.