Negan may be a changed man in The Walking Dead, but Fear The Walking Dead exposes one villainous aspect the main series unjustly ignores. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan swaggered into The Walking Dead as quite literally the worst. Apparently, bludgeoning two beloved protagonists (Glenn & Abraham) to death while laughing gleefully is no way to endear yourself with new friends. Between The Walking Dead seasons 7 and 8, Negan behaved as badly as AMC’s content guidelines would allow, before finally losing to the noble Rick Grimes and spending a little over 7 years behind bars.
Post-timeskip, Negan’s The Walking Dead journey has been a slow crawl toward redemption. Saving Judith and Dog from a blizzard, killing Alpha, and choosing more appropriate moments to unleash cocky sarcasm have all strengthened Negan’s in-universe reputation. After much chipping away, even Maggie found a modicum of forgiveness for her husband’s killer in The Walking Dead season 11. Audiences are left in little doubt of Negan’s reformation.
Fear The Walking Dead, however, isn’t so sure. Though Jeffrey Dean Morgan doesn’t physically appear in the spinoff, his presence looms large thanks to the cast additions of Dwight (Austin Amelio) and Sherry (Christine Evangelista) – two former residents of Negan’s Sanctuary settlement. Their story reveals how Negan’s victims still live with deep emotional cuts, but Fear The Walking Dead season 7 also highlights an overall flaw in the villain’s redemption arc.
Fear The Walking Dead Proves The Trauma Of Negan’s “Wives”
Since Dwight and Sherry debuted in Fear The Walking Dead (the former during season 5, the latter early in season 6), the specter of Negan has barely left them alone. Both characters are now constantly attuned to the sound of tyranny – for example, entering Victor Strand’s Tower and immediately comparing his setup unfavorably to the Sanctuary’s. Dwight and Sherry also found renewed purpose by standing for everything their former master didn’t when they began operating as Black Rider vigilantes. Fear The Walking Dead‘s husband and wife duo both carry the scars of years spent under Negan’s sweaty thumb, but while Dwight’s are burned onto his face, Fear The Walking Dead has repeatedly proven Sherry’s trauma runs deeper.
Sherry surfaced in Fear The Walking Dead as a member of The Outcasts – a band of Pioneer rejects looking to shake Ginny like a Polaroid picture in revenge for dumping them. No Fear The Walking Dead protagonist was especially fond of Ginny, but Sherry’s trauma fueled a burning desire to kill the Pioneer chief at all costs, channeling every iota of her rage into deposing this Negan-esque figure. More recently, Fear The Walking Dead season 7′s “The Raft” found a pregnant Sherry so terrified Strand would have the same effect upon her husband that Negan once did, she plotted to send Dwight away on a flimsy inflatable.
Since switching to Fear The Walking Dead, Dwight has found a semblance of closure and moved past his harrowing experience with Negan, whereas Sherry has struggled gravely with the weight of her Sanctuary days. Here, Fear The Walking Dead proves the devastating, lasting emotional damage Negan caused his various “wives.” Sherry was one of several women chosen by Negan to receive special privileges in exchange for joining his harem of lovers. These chosen ladies would loiter in Negan’s quarters and were routinely objectified. There’s a sexual element to the bargain too, of course, and the Savior leader even allowed followers to “borrow” these women as a reward. Sherry’s constant fear of a “new Negan” in Fear The Walking Dead demonstrates the poisonous emotional impact Negan inflicted upon his “wives.”
Negan’s Walking Dead Season 11 Redemption Ignored The “Wives” Issue
Negan’s awfulness has steadily decreased since his The Walking Dead incarceration. A stint behind bars broke him down mentally, before a season 10 flashback episode revealed the leather-jacket-wearing, baseball-bat-swinging persona was a direct response to the death of actual wife, Lucille. Getting bested by Rick Grimes let Negan become the man he wanted to be. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s The Walking Dead‘s atonement story finally comes to a close in season 11’s second block of episodes when Negan promises Glenn’s fatherless son they’ll settle their business in the future, finally gets the thumbs-up from Maggie, and starts a family with new wife Annie. To seal the deal, Annie even reveals Negan told her everything about his murky Savior past.
Did he include the part about the wives, though? Negan’s The Walking Dead redemption has apologized exclusively for his violent style of leadership. We’ve heard ad nauseam about Glenn, the Sanctuary’s terrible conditions, the Saviors subjugating other communities, etc. Negan has, at times, maintained his methods kept people safe (“If I could do it all over again… I’d have killed every single one of you.”) Other times, the reformed villain has expressed deep regret about barbaric acts he committed. Negan’s recent Walking Dead turnaround has never once, however, properly grappled with how he sexually exploited Sanctuary women.
In a warped way, maybe the Sanctuary’s strict rules and take-no-prisoners attitude toward other communities did help keep Negan’s own people alive. That’s the excuse The Walking Dead seasons 10 & 11 lean toward when transforming Negan from zero to hero, at least. Needless to say, bribing women to sleep with him doesn’t quite fit that already-tenuous justification. The “wives” system simply meant Negan could force women into subservience, nothing else. The Walking Dead does its damnedest to overlook that uncomfortable truth, fading most wives into the background or forgetting them entirely after Negan’s defeat, but Sherry’s ongoing storyline in Fear The Walking Dead revives the issue by highlighting how a woman exploited and abused by Negan still fears those terrifying days will somehow return.
Can Isle Of The Dead Solve Negan’s Redemption Problem?
Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead comic books never faced this problem. The original incarnation of Negan only found partial redemption, never ascending to the dizzying protagonist heights Jeffrey Dean Morgan is currently enjoying. Comic-Negan certainly didn’t need to become wholesome enough for a spinoff alongside Maggie. Isle of the Dead is one of several The Walking Dead spinoffs currently in AMC’s pipeline, and sees the unlikely pairing heading for zombie-infested Manhattan.
On one hand, Isle of the Dead provides a perfect opportunity to address the vital missing “wives” chapter of Negan’s redemption story. Hours of lonely road time with Maggie might prompt some proper acknowledgement of how Negan forced women into his bed by wielding the power and influence his position afforded. On the other, is branding Negan a rapist something The Walking Dead will desperately want to avoid? Killing other survivors is a brutal truth of the zombie apocalypse – even if Negan was quicker and happier to pull the trigger than most. Offering food, medicine and other privileges in exchange for “wife” status moves toward a realm of pure, abject cruelty that might prove too great a sin for any character to overcome.
With Negan virtually a hero heading into season 11’s final episodes, and his Isle of the Dead spinoff already set in stone, The Walking Dead may continue to ignore Negan’s acts of sexual abuse by focusing squarely on Glenn, his brutal Sanctuary punishments, or other atrocities on his record. At least Fear The Walking Dead‘s Sherry storyline offers a semblance of justice to the “wives” exploited by Negan, showing how the emotional scars inflicted upon these women are not easily left in the past.