Rating: 4/5 stars
As I mentioned in a previous review, these six bonus episodes weren’t originally intended to be part of season ten. I can’t say definitively that they would’ve ever been written, let alone filmed and aired. And regardless of your opinions on these bonuses, I think it’s fair to say that Here’s Negan was the best of the bunch. The best by a long shot. The best in a long time.
My admiration for it comes from a personal place– a place of gratitude and infatuation but mostly yearning. After four years, I needed to know more about the character I’ve come to love and respect. A character who’s made me laugh more times than I can count. And a character who has grown exponentially, in ways I never could’ve foreseen when we first met him in the season six finale.
Here’s Negan was really impressive. Admittedly, the full hour wasn’t as substantial as I expected, but the performances given by Jeffrey Dean Morgan and real-life wife, Hillary Burton-Morgan, more than made up for it. Their portrayals were exquisite, and I was immediately mesmerized by the bittersweet narrative, as well as their natural chemistry. It looked and felt very realistic and authentic…because it was. There was no need to fake the adoration often seen in their eyes and their body language. One thing that gave their scenes that wholly believable ambiance were the imperfections of their fictional relationship, which was thankfully not romanticized. Negan’s and Lucille’s love for each other was honest, and an important part of that is taking the virtues and flaws, together, as one cohesive unit. Beholding all of that was an emotional experience, one rarely seen throughout the franchise’s history. It moved me in unpredictable and far reaching ways– frenetic, joyous, horrifying, tragic. Sheer ecstasy from start to finish.
Despite being familiar with some of his backstory, it was neat to finally have an adaptation. I appreciated the liberties they took with the source material (in the comic, for instance, Lucille was given only a couple hospital scenes and, as a result, wasn’t really given a solid presence,) while maintaining the essence of the story.
Directed by Laura Belsey and written by David Leslie Johnson-McGoldrick, Here’s Negan represents what I love most about TWD, and the quality of storytelling they’re capable of going forward. After all, if they can produce this quality of episodes with limited cast and crew, due to Covid concerns, what more can they do with season eleven?
Was I expecting *some* insight into how the Saviors came to fruition? I was. However, the episode did a great job showing the catalyst of the monster us fans have come to love and loathe, and it was executed gradually, as opposed to a sudden transformation. His evolution was downright brutal. What’s more, I don’t think it’s entirely necessary to see the specific choices which ultimately led to forming the Saviors. There was enough for the audience to make a lot of those connections. Overall, a deeply satisfying origin story and finale.
As a matter of fact, the lack of additional story piqued my interest in Negan that much more. It’s an insatiable appetite now. I want to know how he grew up, where he grew up, and how he and Lucille met. I want to know more about her. More to the point, I want to know specific details about the Saviors and how he eventually ascended as the group’s leader. I want a full-length film, staring the Morgan duo. That’s the only means of giving this huge story the justice it deserves.
Why not a resounding five stars instead of the solid four I’ve given it? Excellent question. It’s one I keep asking myself, and in complete transparency, I’m not exactly sure. I definitely want to give it the highest rating, but something keeps holding me back. I don’t know what that is.
The highest recommendation for an episode that actually works well as a standalone.
Showrunner Angela Kang gives a fascinating interview, which runs the gamut in regards to the content of the finale: