Jeffrey Dean Morgan explains his character Negan’s decision to leave the group in the midseason premiere of The Walking Dead season 11. Negan first arrived on the post-apocalyptic zombie drama on episode 16 of season 6, titled “Last Day on Earth.” He became the primary antagonist of the show for some time, killing off Glenn, one of the show’s longtime main characters, in a particularly brutal manner. Over time, after Daryl took over his group, the Saviors, and he was sent to prison, Negan formed a reluctant truce with the other survivors, even bonding with Judith Grimes, the daughter of Sheriff Rick Grimes, who is no longer on the series but will be reappearing in a trilogy of Walking Dead movies down the road.
During the midseason premiere “No Other Way,” which aired on February 20, 2022, Negan reached another major turning point in his character. He witnessed Maggie (Lauren Cohan) exact bloody revenge on a group of Reapers, showcasing how cold-blooded the character has truly become at this point in her journey. Seeing this, he quickly realized that, despite their truce, there is no way that – when push comes to shove – Maggie will forgive him for the murder of her husband. This leads him to part from the group of survivors he has been banded together with up until this point, telling Maggie that he won’t let her do to him what she did to the Reapers.
While speaking with Insider, Jeffrey Dean Morgan explained a bit more about Negan’s decision to leave. Morgan says that Negan and Maggie have “been on their journey this year and spent a lot of time together” so nothing can surprise him anymore. His decision to leave is purely one of self-preservation, but Morgan hints that this won’t be the last the Walking Dead crew sees of him. As revealed in the trailer for upcoming episodes, “when he reappears, he’s gonna have a mysterious friend with him. We will find out more then.” Read the full quote below:
It’s not ever gonna be over. And I think him leaving is sort of the only way that anyone’s gonna find peace.
I don’t know that anything that Maggie does is surprising Negan at this point. I think that they’ve kind of been on their journey this year and spent a lot of time together and I think he knows that there is a side to her that is pretty f**king dark.
I don’t know that he’s completely shocked at who this new Maggie is at all. He’s been dealing with her for a while on a one-on-one basis. So he knows kinda, I think, what to expect from her.
I don’t know [what’s next]. I didn’t see any notes on if I can talk about that or not. We’re always under the veil of secrecy here at The Walking Dead.
I can tell you that Negan’s gonna walk off and when he reappears, he’s gonna have a mysterious friend with him. We will find out more then.
Maggie is one of the longest-running characters still on the series at this point. She was first introduced in season 2, episode 2 and has remained on the show more or less consistently since then. It certainly makes sense that the trials and tribulation that she has gone through would impact her in such a way that it would shake even a toughened baddie like Negan.
Considering that Negan only has a half season of The Walking Dead in which to return, he will likely come back soon. This is doubly true considering that the mysterious stranger he brings – unless she is a grown-up character that the show has already introduced – is new to the series. They will have to devote some time to her development before airing the series finale, unless they merely intend to set her up for one of the show’s many impending spinoffs.