**Spoilers for 'What It Always Is' lie ahead**
Carol’s observation in last week’s ‘Silence The Whisperers’ — “everybody’s talking about Negan again… It’s like time never moves” — was always going to be more than just a throwaway quip about how the leather jacket-wearing villain once dominated The Walking Dead.
Three years on from bashing in Abraham and Glenn’s skulls in ‘The Day Will Come When You Won’t Be’, Negan is once again the talk of the town in TWD world — and, judging by the events in ‘What It Always Is’, we’re going to have to like or lump his return to top billing.
Negan, meet Brandon
After successfully staging a jailbreak last week, Negan is evidently enjoying his time on the outside. Trouble is, he’s not quite alone in the wilderness: he’s got the impressionable Brandon for company. It turns out that the teenager, who’s had nothing more than a pair of cameos in The Walking Dead season 10 so far, followed Negan into the woods in an awed state of rebellion. His dad used to be part of the goodie-turned-baddie’s old gang The Saviors, and would regale his son with tales of how everything worked under the watchful eye and murderous grin of its leader.
Later, Brandon even brings up the rumours about how Negan dealt with both Rick and Carl: the latter coming as something of an affront to Negan, who spits: “I would never kill a kid.” An unperturbed Brandon, showing his colours now as a bit of a doofus, pledges his loyalty to the ousted Savior King: “I’m with you, obviously. We’re both Negan.” Time never moves indeed…
Brandon’s idolisation isn’t done there, though: he managed to steal Negan’s old leather jacket from Alexandria and, rather worryingly, has also created an imitation Lucille — you remember, Negan’s barbed wire-covered weapon of choice that he so creepily named after his late wife. Negan turns down the offer initially (“I don’t wanna be recognised… does pig shit stink?”), but the grin which spreads across his face is equal parts ecstatic and devious.
Negan, meet Milo
Brandon then leads Negan to an old building which he proposes could be the site of the new Sanctuary (the Saviors’ old lair). There’s not much time for the two to dwell on that prospect, though, as they’re called into action to save a woman and young boy who are hiding from walkers on a school bus. Negan comes to the rescue, smashing one zombie’s brains into smithereens with the help of the bus door (“Damn! Classic Negan,” quips Brandoofus).
Introduced as Amelia and Milo, Brandon suggests that, actually, the two of them should rob their new friends and leave them for dead. Negan isn’t too hot on that idea, though, and realises that now is the time to cut Brandoofus loose for good. Negan, it turns out, has quickly developed something of a soft spot for Milo, with the two lads later seen bonding over, er, the practice of hitting your mates in the balls for LOLs.
And just as things were starting to look up: enter Brandoofus. Mistakenly believing that he’d been set a grim Saviors-esque test of loyalty by Negan, it’s revealed that Brandon has actually gone ahead and murdered Amelia and Milo in an effort to please his new best friend. Exit Brandoofus: Negan is furious, picking up a rock and smashing Brandon’s head to bits. RIP, you poor, sweet fool.
Negan, with murderous rage pumping through his veins, picks up both the leather jacket and the new Lucille and struts off. Just like old times, eh?
Negan, meet Beta
Beloved baseball bat in hand, Negan has a spring in his step – and he’s in the mood for a fight. Breaking through the Whisperers’ barbed wire border, he deliberately calls out to walkers and Whisperers alike to come and get him. He only manages to see off a few members of the undead before he’s thrown to the ground by Beta. “Alright, you big-ass freak. Let’s do this,” Negan says with a smile.
A tête-à-tête between Negan and Alpha is now inevitable: and it’s a delicious prospect. But how will Negan play it: will he fall in with the Whisperers? Might he stage an insurrection after developing Stockholm Syndrome with his captors at Alexandria? Or will he decide to go it alone in an effort to take down as many people as possible? It’s going to get rather messy whichever way it goes…
It’s a bad week for Kelly, Ezekiel and Gamma
Let’s be honest: Kelly was never going to meet her end during that elongated sequence where she knocked herself out after being chased by walkers, so we’ll skip over that — with the exception of noting that, much like her sister Connie, Kelly’s hearing is now rapidly disappearing. That’s unlikely to stop her and her trusty slingshot from wreaking havoc, though.
Ezekiel’s health isn’t going too well, either. “I know what it is,” he tells Siddiq after showing the doctor a gigantic lump on his neck. It’s thyroid cancer: both his grandmother and father died from it – and the zombie apocalypse means that all the advanced treatments that might’ve at least alleviated his suffering have now gone. The King Is Dead? Watch this space…
Finally this week, we also check in with Gamma: she’s been tasked with poisonin’ the water hole (or, as Alpha puts it, “damming up the creek”) by slicing up dead walkers to presumably contaminate the water. Metal-handed Aaron is watching her like a hawk, though, and he later throws her a bandage after she cuts her hand.
This act of kindness looks set to only work against the survivors, though. Alpha — who also reveals that it was the Whisperers who cut down the tree at Hilltop and have been sending walker waves to blight our heroes’ communities — wants Gamma to earn Aaron’s trust by “wearing a new mask”. It’s all part of the Whisperers’ “shift in strategy” that Alpha reckons will eventually “crush” their foes. But she hasn’t factored the arrival of Negan into her plans, has she?
‘The Walking Dead’ airs on FX every Monday at 9pm