Warning: This article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead’s seventh season to date.
The Walking Dead has been, to put it lightly, divisive for some time. While a pretty consistent ratings giant prior to this season (with millions stay on AMC to watch aftershow The Talking Dead), fans have voiced their frustration in recent months. The season 6 finale ended on a cruel cliffhanger, testing the patience of fans who were already close to quitting the show. The murderous reveal more than six months later didn’t exactly make them feel like it was worth the wait.
Since the season premiere we’ve watched Negan’s reign of (mostly psychological) terror play out to the point where it became gratuitous even without him taking a single swing of his bat. Negan’s followers have bent the knee and Rick Grimes has given up for now, but some of the folks under Rick (and fans alike) are already tiring of Negan’s boorishness and sadism. Ratings have hit a four-year low, although they could rise for the season finale on Sunday. With one episode left until we get into mid-season hiatus, what what’s still at stake?
Negan is (probably) here to stay
Multiple members of the Group have attempted—or have planned—to murder Negan throughout the first seven episodes of the seventh season, and so far they’ve all failed.
Daryl’s attack after watching Abraham die resulted in Glenn’s death, and he’s been a prisoner ever since. Rick shot down Maggie’s call for revenge after she had to watch her husband die. Rosita is hellbent on getting revenge for Abraham, and she made Eugene make a bullet out of a casing Negan left in Alexandria. Carl snuck out to the Sanctuary to kill Negan, and while he did kill some of the Saviors he failed miserably to end Negan’s life. Negan pushed Carl’s buttons, even forcing him take off the bandage obscuring his missing eye. Michonne overpowered one of the Saviors and forced her to show her the Sanctuary’s location. And now Negan has discovered Judith, which is pretty bad for everyone.
So, will Negan finally bite the dust?
Prepare for disappointment, Negan haters. While we won’t spoil anything for you, Negan isn’t going to be your run-of-the-mill villain who comes in, wrecks havoc, and is disposed of by season’s end. Jeffrey Dean Morgan already confirmed that Negan is coming back for the eighth season, so buckle up. Plus, while it’s not always an indicator, Negan is still alive and well in the comics.
What about Judith?
As I wrote earlier this week, I don’t think that The Walking Dead is actually going to have Negan murder Judith as a way to keep Rick in his place. (Using her death as a motivator for Rick would be a problematic example of fridging anway.) Negan possibly abducting Judith and raise her as his own? Maybe! But not murder.
Negan has a twisted moral code and only kills, tortures, or harms someone in retaliation to something they’ve done. Abraham? That was for killing all of his men at the outpost. Glenn? That’s Daryl’s fault. Dwight, now one of Negan’s top men, got an iron to the face after he stole insulin for his sister-in-law Tina and escaped the Sanctuary with her and his wife Sherry. Mark, another Savior, received a similar fate for ignoring his duties to see his girlfriend Amber, who has become one of Negan’s wives. Only for their unshakeable loyalty does Negan let his people live like kings.
Judith hasn’t done anything to get on Negan’s bad side. (Because, well, she’s still a baby.) And even if she had, there’s another reason why she’s likely safe. Judith represents the one thing that Negan wants and doesn’t have: a family.
If The Walking Dead did decide to go there, it would destroy any shred of humanity Negan had left—yes, even in the zombie apocalypse. Negan’s already a hard pill to swallow for some fans, but having him kill an innocent child (even one we rarely see) would make him irredeemable. It’s hard to believe that Negan is still the hero of his own story if he kills a toddler just because. Later on? It’s anyone’s guess.
Could another major character die?
This season of The Walking Dead started with a bloodbath, and throughout the season we’ve seen plenty of threats and violence. But we haven’t seen a major character die since. Could that change?
Earlier in the season, fans started to speculate that Carl would end up Negan’s next victim after the actor who’s grown up playing him, Chandler Riggs, tweeted that he had been accepted to Auburn. While attending Auburn, which is a couple of hours from where The Walking Dead shoots, wouldn’t be completely out of the question, some fans wondered if that meant Carl would soon be a goner. On top of that, a since-deleted Facebook post from Riggs’ father about wrapping up season 7 sounded like a goodbye.
For what it’s worth—and The Walking Dead cast has been known to lie—Riggs’ co-star Tom Payne (Jesus) doesn’t think Carl won’t die anytime soon, calling the character “the future of the show.”
“At the end of the day, I think Carl is the guy at the end on the last page,” Payne said. “And I don’t know if they’ll go that way on the TV show, but I think it would be a logical place for them to go. Who knows?”
Carl has long been considered a “safe” character (as safe as you can be in a post-apocalyptic world), though he’s had many close calls. He even asked Negan flat-out why he didn’t just kill him and Rick.
What about the others?
With the Negan overload, The Walking Dead has struggled to tie its many storylines together. The show’s current structure—to split episodes between smaller groups of characters—has worked in the past, but its hard to see a cohesion point. Many of the episodes have extended past their 60-minute time slot, making them unnecessarily and overly long.
Some character episodes worked, such as introducing audiences to King Ezekiel and the Kingdom through Morgan and Carol’s eyes after the brutality of the premiere. Others, like watching Daryl slowly fall apart at the Sanctuary or an episode entirely devoted to tertiary characters Tara and Heath and bringing in yet another group of survivors, weren’t as successful. But many of those plotlines haven’t been picked back up so far: We haven’t seen Carol and Morgan since the second episode, we haven’t seen Maggie and Sasha in weeks, and The Walking Dead essentially glossed over Tara’s reaction to Denise’s death from last season after the show was accused of playing into the “Bury Your Gays” trope. But in the meantime, we spent more time with Negan. (Do you hear “Easy Street” yet?)
From the trailer, we know that we’ll definitely pick the Kingdom plot up and Tara is at least back in Alexandria. But some of the characters, such as those in Hilltop and Oceanside, the all-female community Tara discovered a couple weeks ago, might not show up.
As for what will happen? It’s anyone’s guess. As Negan puts it, we’re going to “pee-pee pants city” when we watch it.