Comparing 'The Walking Dead' villain Negan to President-elect Donald Trump in episode 4
Who would you rather have as your leader: President-elect Donald Trump or Negan? We don't make the comparison of Trump to The Walking Dead's latest villain solely because Trump was unexpectedly elected as America's next president, it's something a cast member of the show already posited.
"Negan's a little bit of a loose cannon, and Trump is a little bit of a loose cannon," actor Michael Cudlitz, who played Abraham — one of Negan's victims in the brutal season premiere — told the Huffington Post in August. "And that's not me being political. That's by his own description, so yeah, I think we actually have our Negan and our Rick."
This comparison feels even more relevant following season seven's 85-minute fourth episode, "Service," which centered around Negan's first visit to Alexandria as part of his arrangement with Rick and the group. Negan, introducing himself by banging his barbed wire-covered baseball bat against the walls of Alexandria, immediately shows he isn't gracious in victory after essentially emasculating Rick in the premiere.
But he isn't just like Trump in his lack of humility. Negan's a demagogue, offering members of the Saviors the chance to move up in his inner circle with a points system that's like a post-apocalyptic rundown of The Apprentice. He promises his lackeys that they'll live like royalty. His fixation on Daryl in particular is because he thinks he'd be a good henchman for him. Negan's anger towards him centers on the fact that Daryl refuses to blindly follow him and rid himself of his identity (remember, everyone in the Saviors is "Negan" by extension).
Trump has also suggested torture, as well as killing terrorists' families; Negan gleefully bashes people's skulls in with a baseball bat and plays "Easy Street" on an endless loop to deprive you of sleep. However, perhaps it's Negan's views on women that are the most comparable and horrifying.
As the Daily Beast's Melissa Leon explained, Negan has a twisted relationship with women and a narrow-minded understanding of rape. He offers women the chance to be his wife in exchange for the benefits of being under his protection; in turn, he gets to be with women like Dwight's "super hot" wife, Sherry. But Sherry only agrees to this because Negan was going to kill Dwight.
"Rape isn't actually limited to what happens when a strange man corners a helpless lady in a dark cell," Leon writes. "Consent under duress (like, say, when your husband's about to be murdered) is also hardly consent. Negan can fathom neither fact. It's part of what makes him a villain."
Negan doubles down on this disturbing worldview in "Service," when he asks Rick about Maggie.
"Widows, especially ones that look like that, they are special," he tells Rick. "I love them. Right after their husbands go, they are just empty inside. But usually not for long. Where is she? I would love to see her."
After Trump's win, it's hard not to create parallels between Negan's comments and Trump's infamous leaked Access Hollywood tape, or the many accusations of sexual assault against him. A similar analogy could be made between Negan insulting Olivia's weight after he finds out she's in charge of Alexandria's inventory, including food, and Trump's comments about former Miss Universe winner Alicia Machado. Put simply, they're both abhorrent individuals, but both hold positions of power. For The Walking Dead, where's the hope?
Quite poetically, it comes from the show's most diverse and marginalized characters. While Negan forces Alexandria to give the Saviors all of their guns, Michonne practices her marksmanship outside of Alexandria (unfortunately, Rick sways her to give up arms and accept Negan's authority). Rosita keeps a gun to herself, and by the end of the episode asks Eugene to create bullets for her.
Maggie, who isn't dead, as Rick told Negan — we presume she's currently at the Hilltop Colony — surely won't take Negan's reign lying down. Her resilience after her husband's death in the premiere says that much.
Some viewers may interpret "Service" as a defeatist narrative in which Negan comes to Alexandria, takes a ton of their stuff, and leaves. (Did we really need an 85-minute episode to explain this?) From Rick's perspective, that's certainly the case. However, as with the show's introduction to the Kingdom, The Walking Dead episode had an undercurrent of optimism.
And in the early age of Trump, that was a welcome respite.