We've known The Walking Dead's big bad Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) for over a year since he stepped out of an RV and bashed some people's skulls in, and we've been hearing about him for even longer than that. But we knew almost nothing of substance about him, like who he was before the apocalypse or what his internal life is really like. Until now. "The Big Scary U" revealed some of Negan's backstory and gave us a glimpse into what makes this creature, who's something of a living folk tale, really human.
In the episode, we finally returned to the RV where Negan and Father Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) were waiting out the zombie flood. We underestimated Father Gabriel, who isn't a betrayer at all; he's a brave man seeking purpose in life and redemption for the awful sin he committed. And in that RV he came to believe that part of his vocation is taking Negan's confession.
An early scene in the episode flashed back to the moment right before Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and the gang arrived at the Sanctuary in the premiere. Negan was having a meeting with his lieutenants and Gregory (Xander Berkeley) to discuss what to do about quashing a rebellion at the Hilltop. Negan explained his philosophy: if you kill the right people at the right time, you will save a lot of other lives. That's why they're the Saviors. They save people. That's why he got so mad a few minutes later when Simon (Steven Ogg) suggested massacring Hilltoppers.
"People are a resource!" Negan yelled. "Money on the table! People are the foundation of what we are building here!" Negan cares about people! And weirdly, he was being sincere. Negan honestly believes that what he does is good for people, and maybe he's right. The Sanctuary may not be a fun place to live, but up until now it was safe and there was plenty of food and a sense of order that came entirely from him. As he explained to Gabriel in the RV, he makes people strong. He keeps them alive.
But in that RV, he did mention to Gabriel that there is one way he's weak. Gabriel told Negan that he could offer him forgiveness for however he's been weak, and all he has to do is say the truth out loud. Negan resisted, so Gabriel pressed him about what makes him weak. Is it the people he's killed? The slaves he's taken? The women he's forced to be his "wives?" This last one made Negan uncomfortable, and in the moment he flinched, Gabriel grabbed his gun, fired off some wild shots and went and hid in the bathroom.
Negan told Gabriel that he doesn't want to kill Gabriel, he wants to work with him to get out of this RV. Gabriel answered by confessing his worst sin to Negan, the time he locked his congregation out of his church and left them to die. The priest telling the penitent his sins is not normally how confession works, but sometimes you have to say something egregious about yourself to get someone else to trust you. And it worked on getting Negan to open up.
Negan told Gabriel that his weakness was around his wife. His first wife. His "only real wife." Back then, he cheated on her and lied to her, even when she was sick. She died of her unspecified sickness when the apocalypse was in effect, and his moment of weakness came when he couldn't put her down.
Gabriel came out of the bathroom and said, "you're forgiven," and offered him his gun back. Negan punched him in the face, more out of obligation than anger. Negan has to stick to his sense of justice.
And that's really what this episode was about. Negan is a terrifying and brutal man, but he has a code. Previously it seemed like the moralizing was a justification for sadism, but it's starting to seem like the other way around. The sadism really is in service of what Negan thinks is right. Negan is a lot more reasonable than people give him credit for. Maybe Rick has been the unreasonable one, as the sheriff is starting to realize. He's lost his moral code entirely, and he's starting to get it back by being less nihilistically bloodthirsty. They're more alike than Rick realizes, and they're both changing. It's looking like they might be growing to a point where they'll be able to meet in the middle and recognize each other's humanity. Their mercy will prevail over their wrath.
(For more on Negan's backstory, check out the recently-compiled standalone issue of The Walking Dead comic series called "Here's Negan!" No spoilers, but it goes deep into Negan's tragic relationship with his wife, whose name you might be able to guess.)
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
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Definitively the Neville Longbottom of Outlander, Fergus proved himself the kind of man brave enough to stand up to his friends in tonight's episode.
With Claire (Caitriona Balfe) taken hostage to heal the British sailors taken ill with Typhoid, Jamie (Sam Heughan) predictably went into hero mode to try and save her. That included trying to start a mutiny to take over the ship to catch up to Claire's captors, even though they had been promised that she'd be returned safely once everyone arrived in Jamaica. Naturally, Jamie ended up in the brig and tried to recruit Fergus to start another mutiny for him in order to save Claire. Even though Fergus pointed out that the plan was a logistical nightmare, Jamie guilt tripped Fergus by saying if he really knew what love was he'd move heaven and Earth for Marsali (Lauren Lyle).
It would have been very easy for Fergus to fall into this trap, risked his life to free Jamie and take over the ship. That's what his surrogate father wanted him to do, but Fergus proved exactly the kind of man he was when defied Jamie's orders and found a better way to go after Claire and save Jamie from a potential hanging. He didn't pit pocket the captain for the brig keys or start a mutiny, but used his powers of persuasion to get the captain to free Jamie of his own volition -- preventing a mutiny and protecting Marsali from the sex-starved sailors that would have raped her if Jamie and Fergus were both thrown overboard.
Jamie has been Fergus' hero since the Scot saved the little boy from the brothel in France over 20 years ago. He has followed Jamie's example in almost every way, but in "Heaven and Earth," Fergus proved that he's his own man, capable of making his own decisions and thinking with a clear head when Jamie cannot. He luckily did not inherit Jamie's stubborn streak or else both of them would have been in grave danger. While Jamie preached of heroics and risking everything for the one you love, Fergus proved he was willing to do just that by risking Jamie's anger and ill favor in order to save Jamie's life. Fergus proved he understands that true love is doing what is best for someone, even if they don't agree on what that is.
Unbeknownst to Jamie or his maturing ward, Fergus' plan also saved Jamie from falling into the trap being set by the British sailors that want to turn him in for treason. If Jamie had successfully been able to take over the ship and catch up to Claire, he would have been arrested for the Jacobite pamphlets found in the print shop before it burned down. You can't move heaven and Earth for Claire if you're dead, bro. Thus, Fergus maturity and clear thinking actually saved Jamie twice, and thus he is the true hero for the week.
Outlander continues Sundays at 8/7c on Starz.
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Jeffrey Tambor will not be reprising his role as Maura Pfefferman on Season 5 of Amazon's Transparent, following several allegations of sexual harassment that have been lodged against the series lead.
Tambor announced that he'd walk away from the show, whose fifth season was expected to come along some time next year, in light of the complaints against him.
In a statement to Deadline, Tambor expressed regret for his behavior, but he vehemently denies that he is guilty of the harassment he's been accused of. "Playing Maura Pfefferman on Transparent has been one of the greatest privileges and creative experiences of my life. What has become clear over the past weeks, however, is that this is no longer the job I signed up for four years ago," he said. "I've already made clear my deep regret if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being aggressive, but the idea that I would deliberately harass anyone is simply and utterly untrue. Given the politicized atmosphere that seems to have afflicted our set, I don't see how I can return to Transparent."
Amazon had previously announced it was investigating Tambor after his former assistant Van Barnes accused the actor of inappropriate behavior to her, which Tambor vehemently denied, saying, "I adamantly and vehemently reject and deny any and all implication and allegation that I have ever engaged in any improper behavior toward this person or any other person I have ever worked with. I am appalled and distressed by this baseless allegation."
Then co-star Trace Lysette revealed that he'd been sexually aggressive to her on the set of the show's second season, including an incident when he'd pushed here into a corner and thrust his privates at her own body.
Tambor initially apologized for his behavior but again denied being a sexual predator to Lysette or others on the show, writing, "I am deeply sorry if any action of mine was ever misinterpreted by anyone as being sexually aggressive or if I ever offended or hurt anyone. But the fact is, for all my flaws, I am not a predator and the idea that someone might see me in that way is more distressing than I can express."
Following Van Barnes' initial revelation, Deadline revealed that the showrunners were already considering ways to write Tambor's character out of the show -- and writer-producer Our Lady J and series creator Jill Solloway certainly expressed their support for writing Tambor out amid the allegations.
Whether and how Transparent can proceed without Tambor remains to be seen, as Amazon hasn't officially announced a fifth season for the show yet, despite wide expectations that the awards season regular would return.
Tambor won two consecutive Emmy Awards and one Golden Globe for his performance in the series.