Time to let Negan out of his cage for a bit…
Issue #152: “United in Fear” is a good read. It picks up right where we left off with Eugene making contact, but doesn’t spend much time there. I get that. I wouldn’t expect the bulk of this issue devoted to Eugene’s conversation over the radio, but it’s still a big deal.
For one, this is something that Eugene has been working on for a long time. Even before Alexandria, he still tried to contact people via radio. Granted, in that instance, he was a liar, but here, all the work he’s put into connecting with the greater world has paid off. To what extent, we don’t know and we aren’t told much about this person on the other line.
I’m fine with that. Eugene has no idea who he’s speaking with and I like that he’s taking his time to establish trust. Even then, the other person could be lying or bluffing about how many people are with him. I don’t think there’s a solid way to establish trust here. They can’t see each other, so there’s no way for either of them to verify who is being honest.
That the two decided to keep the conversation to themselves is just opening the door for something to go wrong. Someone else on either side could turn on the radio and hear a voice at the wrong time, someone wonders why Eugene always goes indoor to work on the radio at a certain time, and other potential scenarios could arise. I don’t see anything good coming of this.
Now onto Father Gabriel. It’s good that he’s becoming active in Rick’s military. Since the time jump, he’s had minimal panel time and usage, but now he volunteers his time and it’s clear here that he’s already a good shot. While he’s proving his worth, I appreciate that he’s still a man of God and feels conflicted about killing.
It’d be too fast of a shift if he suddenly abandoned his faith and accepted the fact that he’s being trained to kill. But, as Dwight mentioned, it’s one thing to kill the dead. How will Gabriel feel when he learns that he’ll have to kill the living?
Rick knows all about that, despite seeming to always get his ass handed to him. Between the Governor cutting off his hand and Negan breaking his leg, Rick Grimes is not the same man he was at the start. Still, you’d think this little shit, Brandon, would know than try to cross Rick. While a calmer Rick is more diplomatic, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t miss the harsher Grimes.
Kirkman should let us see more of that Rick Grimes. And between the 12 murders, being betrayed and almost killed, having to listen to people complain and give him the cold shoulder for not taking immediate action against the Whisperers, Rick should blow off some steam. It is convenient that Michonne arrived when she did. I’m confident that if she hadn’t shown up when she did, Rick probably would have killed Brandon. And he would have deserved it.
Though, at the same time, I’m reminded of when Maggie rebuked Carl for striking back when he and Sophia were attacked. The kids who went after them were assholes, but if Carl had killed them, he would go against Rick’s new principles. I am not saying Rick should be 100 percent pacifist because he isn’t. But in the heat of the moment, don’t let rage blind you.
So while Maggie and company minus Jesus leave the Hilltop, you’ve got Brandon freeing Negan. I didn’t expect Negan to willingly go along with the half-assed scheme, and luckily, he didn’t. Negan has been trying so hard to get Rick to trust him and he even gave Rick advice on how to be a leader.
I think back to when Negan killed Spencer for trying to get Negan to do the dirty work of killing Rick for him so he could take over Alexandria. A foolish idea that Spencer could have done himself, but he didn’t have the guts to do it. Thinking back to that kill makes me cringe. But anyway, now we’ve got Brandon in a similar position where he wants Negan to carry out his revenge, but I doubt Negan would just do that because he has an opportunity.
Could Negan turn a new leaf? It’s possible, since he’s gotten into Rick’s head with his strategy and he tried to prove his trust by remaining in the cell when he could have escaped. So even though he’s now out, part of me believes that he’ll still try to gain the smallest ounce of trust from Rick. If he’s hidden among the Hilltop folks, maybe something happens where he saves Maggie’s life instead of ambushing her?
Like so many things revolving this character, there are a lot of different ways this can go for Negan. I could end up being 100 percent wrong and Negan does go back to his killing ways and relishes the freedom. But that feels like the easy route and Kirkman wouldn’t have Negan try to get Rick to trust him or take his advice if he was just going to revert him back to who he was before imprisonment.
At the very least, Rick no longer has to grapple with whether he would free Negan. That would also be too easy, but given Rick’s words last issue and how he checked on Negan right after that, he seemed to be giving it consideration. Or at least wonder whether it was right to say doing a bad thing doesn’t make you a bad person, when he has Negan locked away for the things he’s done.
All in all, Negan being out there puts him back in play for now. What will he do now that he’s free from his cell? We’ll see, come issue #153.