'The Walking Dead': Negan Meets His Biggest and Most Annoying Fan (RECAP)
[WARNING: The following contains MAJOR spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 10 episode 5, "What It Always Is."]
It appears this former Savior might have grown out of being idolized… which is inconvenient, because a teenager who can perhaps most accurately be called a "Negan fanboy" is relentlessly pursuing him.
"What It Always Is" sees Negan trying to adjust to the world outside Alexandria while being followed, encouraged, and questioned by a teenager who serves as a constant reminder of who he used to be. Elsewhere, Kelly is missing, and Daryl helps Connie search for her sister. Ezekiel's also having some health trouble, and Gamma starts questioning her choices in adoptive mothers.
Kelly is injured at the beginning of the episode — she was running from walkers and falls, eventually falling unconscious with the dead all around her. When Daryl and Siddiq arrive at Hilltop, their paths diverge; Siddiq goes to the infirmary, and Daryl, after noticing Connie's concern about her sister, joins her in searching the woods.
As they look, Daryl and Connie continue to bond. Unbeknownst to them, a third party has joined their search. They're only alerted to Magna's presence when a twig snaps, but from there on out, she (somewhat reluctantly) becomes part of their team.
They find Kelly collapsed at the base of a tree. She's okay, but she won't make it back to Hilltop. "We need to get her somewhere closer," Daryl says. Magna knows just the place. She takes them to a covered wagon where she's hidden stolen supplies from Hilltop. Her treachery saves Kelly and, after treating her injures as best they can, they get her back to the community.
Comics readers will find Negan's storyline this episode familiar, albeit remixed. After escaping Alexandria, he's cornered by a teenager named Brandon. The child of a former Savior, Brandon has grown up hearing tales about Negan from a man who abhorred Rick Grimes. He idolizes Negan accordingly, but, surprisingly, he wasn't the person who let him out of his cell. (Carol? Aaron? Who completed the #freetheNegan challenge?)
Brandon came bearing gifts; he gives Negan his leather jacket, his scarf, and — most importantly — a new Lucille! They stumble upon a mom and her young son, whom Negan saves. When the mom and kid leave for a moment, Brandon asks Negan if they're going to follow them and take their stuff. Negan reminds the psychopathic human headache that people are a resource. "Yeah, but not them," Brandon responds.
Passing the Test
He just won't take the hint that Negan yearns for him to scram, so Negan's methods get increasingly harsh. "You can go wherever the hell you want," Negan says. "I don't give a s**t. Just as long as I don't have to see that pasty, creepy-a** face of yours ever again." Seemingly appalled at his idol's treatment of him, Brandon bails.
…or does he? After Brandon disappears Negan bonds with the kid, but that seems destined to end badly. When the former Savior goes out to get firewood, he returns to see Brandon standing in front of the corpses of the mom and son. "I realized this was a test," Brandon says, his eyes shining with malicious, malevolent glee. "What do you think? I passed, right?" Overcome with rage, Negan shoves Brandon to the ground and beats his brains out with a rock.
Back at Hilltop, Ezekiel's cough is getting worse. Siddiq tries to examine him, but Zeke knows the cause: Thyroid cancer runs in his family. The difference between him and his relatives is that now, without modern medicine, he might not beat it. "You can manage it," Siddiq says. "Acupuncture, hypnosis…" Zeke doesn't seem to buy into any of those ideas.
The Man With the Metal Arm
Things are getting interesting at the Whisperer camp. Gamma, who previously had appeared totally committed to the cause, now looks like she's having some doubts. After seeing Alpha kill a man for questioning her approach to sabotaging the communities (he thinks their strategy of damming the river pales in comparison to releasing their walker horde), Gamma has flashbacks of her sister's death. Alone and rage-stabbing that zombified man, she cuts her hand. Who appears to help? Aaron!
He throws her some gauze for her injury, which she accepts. Gamma returns to her camp and tells Alpha about her encounter with "the man with the metal arm," though she used the gauze on her hand, which goes against the Whisperer way. Instead of cutting her down, Alpha removes her mask and smiles, saying they evolve to wear different masks at different times. "The man with the metal arm could prove useful," she says.
Let's Do This
As the episode ends, several things of note happen. We finally find out what Magna did; she killed a man who hurt (rape is implied) her cousin. Yumiko thought she was innocent, and that, along with the other relationship issues they're having and the fact that Magna stole Hilltop supplies, spurs her to say her girlfriend "should find somewhere else to sleep." Things are significantly more cheerful for Daryl and Connie; the latter refers to the former as her "family," and he smiles at her before he rides away on his motorcycle, heading back to Alexandria with Siddiq.
The biggest development here is Negan's new whereabouts. Having put on his leather jacket and again brandished Lucille, he crosses the Whisperer boundary and plows his way through a ton of walkers while saying many of his old catchphrases, getting the Whisperers' attention. This ends with him being knocked to the ground by Beta. Negan gets up and regards him with amusement. "All right, you biga** freak," he says, smiling. "Let's do this."
- That development with Ezekiel was unexpected, to say the least. First he loses Henry, then the Kingdom, then his wife, and now he has cancer?! I have to wonder if all of this could tie into Maggie's return somehow, since The Commonwealth could treat Zeke.
- Negan's reactions to Brandon were totally hilarious. Since I had knowledge of the comics storyline before the episode aired, I wondered if Negan was going to snap on the bus and kill him. Waiting until later in the episode, and it happening the way it did, had more impact. The whole thing reminded me of Madison Clark killing Troy Otto on Fear The Walking Dead, which was a similarly structured, if not as well known, moment in the franchise.
- Negan vs. Beta is going to be all kinds of hilarious, and I'm very ready for it. The silent-but-deadly dude who never talks dealing with the irreverent, bat-wielding guy who never, ever shuts up. It was funny in the comics, and although AMC can't use the kind of colorful language Kirkman's Negan utters, I'm sure it'll be entertaining onscreen.
The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC