A little side note on the whole “let’s attack Negan” thing, because it’s been bugging me all week trying to predict how it will all play out.

Let’s see:

Pretty much everything they’ve let on about Negan on the show is steering us towards assuming that he is the nastiest villain we’ve come across on TWD. Even if the non-comic-readers were immune to outside influence and only relied on the information provided on the show, we already have plenty of evidence suggesting Negan is the villain to end all villains on this TWD: anyone who’s come in contact with the infamous baddie is either with him (hence very menacing and violent) or afraid of him, as was the case of the people Daryl came across in the first half of the season, and as is the case of the people of Hilltop. The cherry on top came by way of Jesus’ narration this week: Negan got himself a sweet deal – half of everything they had in exchange for their lives – by inspiring fear in the heart of the Hilltoppers. The deal was already in place, so it’s safe to assume these guys didn’t need further convincing. Yet Negan beat sixteen year old boy to death to drive the point home.

We get it. This is a guy who will stop at nothing. Deals mean nothing to him; he’s above the ‘law’ (by which I mean any kind of understanding humans reach in the post-apocalyptic world) and can go back on his word whenever the spirit moves him. Such was the case, we assume (again), with Negan requesting Gregory’s head on a platter and keeping whoever this Craig guy is as collateral until he gets what he wants.

I also get why Rick is eager to take him on. He’s dealt with scum before and came out victorious, despite his group’s losses. And really, is anything we’ve learned about this Negan dude worse than what Rick has seen so far? The Governor kidnapped his people, made Daryl fight his brother in the walker pit for entertainment, almost killed Glenn and Michonne, decapitated Hershell, and then attacked their home with a freaking tank! The Claimers almost raped his son. Gareth and his fellow cannibals almost slaughtered Rick and co. for barbecue purposes and ate Bob’s leg while he was still alive. Could Negan really be that much worse?

Rick has every right to be confident. The group have been through hell and back, battling not only the most despicable humans to cross their path, but also hordes of walkers (meanwhile, I guess we’re supposed to assume the Saviors have been pretty safe wherever their camp is located, much like the denizens of Alexandria and Hilltop?). They also did that when they were much lower in numbers, malnourished for the most part, and without Patty and the fire power they now possess.

So if Rick and the rest of our group are considered seasoned veterans by now, it makes perfect sense that they believe they can handle Negan. After all, what have they seen so far? A bunch of bikers that Daryl single-handedly reduced to bloody puddles on the asphalt? A couple of incompetent idiots who stole Daryl’s stuff because they were too scared of Negan? A leader who sends a coward to do his dirty work (killing Gregory) instead of just taking care of business himself? It’s not like Hilltop put up any kind of fight before basically becoming Negan’s bitches.

Thing is, everything we’ve come to expect from this season’s finale points to the contrary. That Negan is not only a most powerful adversary, to borrow a phrase from my other favorite show, but also about to get medieval on their asses by the end of Season 6. We’re already placing bets about which of our favorite characters will die at Negan’s hand.

So the question is, what can he do to stand up to his formidable reputation? How will he threaten and torture our group even more than others have in the past, in order to stand out from the previous villains we’ve already loved to hate? In other words, what’s in store for our group that will be the game changer everyone expects Negan to be? What more atrocities could this supervillain perform that wouldn’t just be rehashing the same old stories?

What I’m saying is that, if you want to hype up your next baddie as this… evil incarnate, you’d better have the goods to back it up. Because unless this guy proves to be exactly what we’re all supposed to tremble in our boots in anticipation, all the hype will be for nothing, and this very strong season will just be a repetition of what we’ve seen so far, only in a different setting.

On the other hand, unless the showrunners want to follow in the direction of made-for-TV-torture-porn, they one thing that’s left for them to do is kill off major (and beloved) characters. Whether it’s Glenn, Daryl, Michonne or even pregnant Maggie, such a move might be enough in terms of shock value, but it may be too tough for die-hard fans to swallow. Which means they’ve pretty much painted themselves into a corner – or are left with a conundrum.

Again, I have no idea what happens in the comic book aside from the identity of Negan’s victim out of our OG group, so this is all speculation on my part. Maybe the show will follow the storyline laid out in the comics (apparently it seems to be pretty faithful to Kirkman’s original work this season), or maybe they’ll try to surprise not just the viewers but the comic fans by going a different direction.

Either way, I’m excited to see how far they’re willing to take it. I don’t know if I’m willing to sacrifice the ‘intergrity’ of the story in order to keep my favorite characters alive, but then again, it’s not really up to me now, is it?