The Walking Dead: Negan as Machiavelli

Dwight (Austin Amelio), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) in The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 5Photo by Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC
Dwight (Austin Amelio), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) and Gavin (Jayson Warner Smith) in The Walking Dead Season 8 Episode 5Photo by Photo Credit: Gene Page/AMC /

All of the Negan fans out there can rejoice after The Walking Dead’s brilliant episode “The Big Scary U” that shed some light on the conflicted leader of the Saviors.

It’s tough being a leader. Ask anyone who has to be in charge of a large group of people, from a CEO to a kindergarten teacher, and they will tell you that leaders have to take the good with the bad. The resident bad guy on The Walking Dead seems to know full well what the burden of leadership is like as he comes clean to Father Gabriel in episode 805’s “The Big Scary U.”

Niccolo Machiavelli is widely studied in political science classes around the world. Known for giving advice to the Medici family in Florence, Italy, during the Renaissance, Machiavelli cautioned the family in power that with power comes certain responsibilities. A leader who doesn’t enforce laws and coddles his constituents will end up in ruin, while a ruler who governs with an iron fist will see the fruits of his powerful governance pay off with well-behaved subjects. The sad reality, he noted, is that you have to be tough. But by being tough, leaders can also be forgiving when the time calls for it.

Negan is a smart guy and he tells Gabriel that if he’s not there to keep things in order, people will die. Gabriel sees firsthand that the Sanctuary’s workers respect Negan and appreciate his protection. Without his intervention, they would have been served up as bait in Simon and Regina’s plans.

There’s a key moment when Negan tells Gabriel that Rick alone is responsible for Glenn and Abraham’s deaths. He laid out the rules and the consequences and Rick broke the rules. He didn’t want to kill anyone, but rules are rules and when it comes to meeting new groups of people, Negan has decided that it’s better to make an impact early on rather than excuse the bad behavior and issue a pardon. 

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Negan values life and it upsets him to learn that Simon and Regina were so willing to sacrifice innocent lives so easily in his absence. My guess is that Negan knew full well that Simon was capable of this behavior and that’s why he put him in charge because that makes it easier for Negan to watch over him. The look of abject terror in Simon’s eyes upon seeing Negan alive tells us that he knows he’s in trouble.

After this little hiccup, you can bet that things are about to change at the Sanctuary. Negan is not going to let this slide and he’s going to make sure a lesson is learned. The big question: Who survives Negan’s wrath?