SPOILER ALERT: This post contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 8, Episode 5 entitled “The Big Scary U.” Proceed with caution.
In Season 8, Episode 5 of The Walking Dead, we saw another side to Negan. In a kind of makeshift confessional with an armed Father Gabriel the other side of a closed door, we saw Negan tearing up as he recounted his past regrets. Namely, the way he cheated on his first wife, and his inability to put her down after she went through the change. Relax, folks, we’re talking about zombification, not the other kind of ‘change’. That would be hideously misogynistic. And Negan, of course, isn’t that… those other women he made his wives had a “choice,” right? (winky face).
Anyway, it’s just possible we saw a chink in the armour of The Walking Dead’s current big bad. Which could have ramifications as the series wears on, and be a major factor in the theory we are about to address. That is, of course, if he wasn’t putting it on – something Father Gabriel could also be doing at the close of the episode. Is that a genuine sickness, do you think? Or is he faking in order to put a plan into action that involves getting medicine to a pregnant Maggie via her former Hilltop doctor? We digress.
During the conversation between Negan and Father Gabriel while they’re trapped in the two-roomed shed surrounded by walkers, Negan says something very interesting about the Sanctuary not always being under his leadership. There’s a theory doing the rounds, discussed on after-show Talking Dead, that right-hand man Simon was the previous leader of the Saviors.
Let’s look at the evidence in the episode. As Simon is laying out his plans, Negan slams his baseball bat, named Lucille, down on the table and puts him in his place.
“Who the hell do you think you’re talking to? Are you confused about who we are? Are you confused about who is in charge? Are we backsliding, Simon? Please tell me we’re not backsliding,” says Negan aggressively.
Backsliding to the point when Simon headed up the Sanctuary? Could Negan have once used the methods he’s used with Dwight and Daryl on Simon to batter him into submission? To make him kneel and say: “I am Negan”? The same tactics he used to try and break Rick? Quite possibly. Simon jumps a mile in the air at the switch in Negan as he reasserts his leadership. Negan puts Simon back in his place with a short, sharp reminder of the reconditioning he may have been through. When we next see Simon, he’s banging on about “I am Negan” and chastising fellow Savior Regina for seeming to forget they are all Negan, which chimes with this theory.
The Last Guy
Later, we see Negan again talking to Gabriel about using your weaknesses to drive your strength.
“Obviously, I am strong as s–t,” he says. “I took this place. It was a damn free-for-all. A loose confederation of a–holes, an army made up of gangs of animals and I brought it all together. The last guy that was in charge? He wasn’t in charge of s–t. He allowed people to be weak. I don’t. I make them strong, which makes this world strong.”
He doesn’t name “the last guy” but it could well be Simon.
If the show is hinting at this, we’re looking forward to learning the complete history of the Saviors — it would add some depth to these underdeveloped villains and also introduce the idea that mutiny is a real possibility. Simon could feasibly turn against Negan, all the more likely now we’ve seen a glimpse at weakness in Negan. Particularly with turncoat Dwight and Eugene also in the ranks, and the opportunity this episode presents for these two to forge an alliance.
We’ll have to wait and see how things pan out as the rest of Season 8 unfolds.