The Walking Dead: How does Negan sleep at night?

Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Austin Nichols as Spencer Monroe - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan, Austin Nichols as Spencer Monroe - The Walking Dead _ Season 7, Episode 8 - Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

How does a guy like Negan sleep at night? Odds are good that he sleeps pretty well, and here’s the reason why.

Negan has done some pretty awful things. Ironically, it’s very likely that the way he killed Abraham and Glenn aren’t the worst things he has ever done. (Quick Author’s Note: This article is based upon the television universe and will not include Negan’s history in the comics universe)

We’ve seen him brain people with a baseball bat, order someone to kill someone else, gut a man like a fish, and use a hot iron to melt a man’s face.

That’s some pretty heavy stuff to deal with, so how does someone like Negan sleep at night?

There are two things I’d like to address here: How Negan justifies it, and whether he likes it.

You Get What You Deserve

Negan makes a big show of talking up his rules. Break the rules, pay the consequences. Easy peasy.

When Negan meets the group in the woods, he explains that someone has to die to atone for the deaths of his men. It’s like an updated version of Hammurabi’s Code, which essentially establishes the “Eye for an Eye” concept.

The hot iron is yet another tool in Negan’s arsenal. The iron is used as a punishment when Saviors fall out of line. It’s a brutal punishment where a hot iron is placed against a man’s face, melting his skin away. It leaves a devastating scar, as we’ve seen with Dwight, and the scar is to serve both as a reminder for the recipient and a deterrent for everyone else.

The interesting thing about Negan’s punishments is that he frequently points out that he’s only following through with the punishments because a rule has been broken. He’s not doing it for fun, he doesn’t seem to enjoy it (we’ll get to that in a bit), but he’s doing it because someone is making him do it.

In the season premiere, it was Lucille who demanded blood. Spencer’s cowardice demanded that Negan kill him. Rosita’s assassination attempt forced Negan to order Arat to kill someone. At no point does Negan ever kill someone for the sake of killing someone. (At least, not yet)

You Made Me Do This

In “Sing Me A Song” Negan says “it” should be ready. Carl asks what it is, and Negan pauses, and takes a breath before replying that “it” is “the iron.” He’s not excited about what he has to do.

As he looks out to his people, Negan gives a little speech. “You know the deal. What’s about to happen is going to be hard to watch. I don’t want to do it. I wish I could just ignore the rules and let it slide but I can’t. Why?” The response from the kneeling Saviors: “Rules keep us alive”

Negan goes on to say that civilization is based on rules, and cutting corners won’t work. The punishment for cutting corners is the iron.

After he burns Mark’s face and Mark passes out, he jokes that it wasn’t so hard. But clearly Negan has some respect for the process and their importance. “Let Mark’s face be a reminder to him and everyone else that the rules matter.” He goes on to say he hopes a lesson was learned because he doesn’t want to do that ever again.

A ruler who enjoyed inflicting pain on people does exactly that. Think of rulers like Commodus (from Gladiator) and Ramsay Bolton from Game of Thrones. In both cases, these men did things with intent to cause pain.

Negan has a different approach. He can stomach these horrid acts because he has rationalized his role. He didn’t break the rules, he’s enforcing them. The blame lies with those who break the rules, and this justifies the punishments.

For Negan, rationalizing his role in punishments is what allows him to sleep well at night. His burden is heavy because he is the leader of the Saviors. In his mind, though, everything he does is for the greater good of the group. Should he fail to enforce the rules, the Sanctuary falls apart. Negan has a keen insight into the minds of men and he knows that being soft on enforcing rules would spell certain disaster for the whole group.

More from Undead Walking

There’s nothing that can justify bashing a man’s skull in with a baseball bat, and no one gets to play Judge, Jury and Executioner. In Negan’s world he fills all three roles, and doing his job—and doing it well—is all he needs to get a good night’s sleep.