The Walking Dead and Hook: How Negan and Carl are like Hook and Jack

Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in Episode 7Photo by Gene Page/AMC
Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Carl Grimes (Chandler Riggs) in Episode 7Photo by Gene Page/AMC /

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead featured bonding moments between Carl and Negan that were eerily similar to those of a classic Robin Williams film from the 1990s.

If you can forget for a moment that Negan is a bad guy, watching his interactions with Carl on this week’s episode of The Walking Dead made it seem like these two are developing a bond. “Sing Me a Song” was an episode where Negan came out and said that he’s having moments with Carl that his father should have been having with him. Anyone who has seen the cult classic Robin Williams film Hook might see some parallels between Negan and Carl and Hook and Jack.

That’s right, The Walking Dead may have just taken a little side trip to Neverland.

I won’t spoil Hook for those who haven’t seen it yet, but the premise of the movie is that Peter Pan leaves Neverland, grows up and becomes a lawyer. Robin Williams plays the adult version of Peter Pan who needs to remember where he put his magic. Dustin Hoffmann plays the affable villain Captain James Hook, and in order to get the ultimate revenge against Peter Pan he kidnaps Pan’s children, Jack and Maggie. Maggie refuses to be swayed by Hook’s charm so she is locked away, but Jack harbors enough anger toward his father that Hook finds it easy to exploit his frustration. Jack is hurt that his father is always working and is never around for him. He’s too busy with his clients and he’s always putting his clients before his family. Hook knows exactly where to manipulate Jack, and so he does. And it works.

Negan has been impressed with Carl since Carl told Rick it was okay to chop off his arm. He’s blown away when Carl shows up at the Sanctuary and starts shooting at Negan’s men with the biggest and most badass gun in the truck’s arsenal. Credit goes to Chandler Riggs for his stunning performances this season. Negan senses that there is a lot more to Carl than he ever thought, which is why he takes Carl on a tour of his little world at the Sanctuary. Negan wants to show Carl how the Saviors respect him, and how he has created his own little world built on that respect.

Carl wonders why Negan hasn’t just killed him, and why he has allowed Daryl and Rick to live. Negan says it’s easy. He thinks Daryl will become a very good soldier for him, and so far Rick is producing some good stuff for him so it doesn’t make sense for Negan to get rid of him, either. When Negan finds out about Lori, and how Carl had to shoot her, the pieces all fall into place. He knows Carl is a badass and he wants to harness his youthful energy and control it.

Like Hook with Jack, Negan sees the potential to exploit Carl’s latent frustration with his father. If you think back to the Prison, Rick was suffering from his first major mental break and the solution was to dial back and start a farm. That’s the moment when Carl started doing his own thing, including killing his first person point blank. Given that Rick has taken the somewhat unpopular stance that the Alexandrians must bend to Negan’s will, this has given Carl a wide berth to resent his father yet again for being weak. Couple that with teenage angst and you have a recipe for a post-apocalyptic meltdown.

Jack and Carl both understand that Hook and Negan are bad people, but like an addictive drug, these men are offering something that their fathers cannot offer at this moment: Strength.

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Hook and Negan both know that these boys represent a path to getting under their fathers’ skin. The question for Negan is how far he can push before he goes too far with Carl, and how to use Rick’s subsequent reaction to his advantage.

With all of that said, though, consider this little bit of food for thought: Is it possible that Negan, unlike Hook, genuinely cares about Carl? I’m eager to hear what you think.