The AMC zombie seriess resident Big Bad has a dark, complicated history with women. [Warning: Spoilers] “>
Weve seen him gleefully bash in the skulls of two helpless men in front of sobbing friends and family. Weve seen his thugs extort peaceful communities for half their food and supplies. But if somehow The Walking Dead had yet to convince you of the depths of Negans depravity, Sunday nights episode, The Cell, added a new, even sunnier dimension to the shows latest Big Bad: Hes the type to extort a woman into becoming his wifewith all the sexual benefits that entails.
But of course, he doesnt see himself as a rapist.
In recounting the story of his relationship with one of his most loyal men, Dwight (Austin Amelio), Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) offers a first unwelcome glimpse into his demented relationship with women. Dwight, we learn, was married when he first arrived at the factory that Negan and the Saviors call home. Like most newcomers, he and his super hot wife and his super hot sister (Negans boorish descriptors) worked for points to earn their stay.
Unfortunately, Dwights sister Tina was diabeticand the price of insulin, a difficult thing to scavenge post-apocalypse, was high. She fell behind on the points needed to keep herself healthy, so Negan offered her a deal: marriage with him in exchange for safety, shelter, food, and her much-needed insulin.
Tina told her would-be suitor shed think on his offer but instead, motivated by an understandable desire not to marry an egotistical psychopath, she ran off with her brother, his wife Sherry (Christine Evangelista), and the whole of the factorys stock of medication. (Daryl runs into the family in the Season 6 episode Always Accountable, in which Tina succumbs to a walker bite and dies.)
Negan, of course, didnt take well to the news that hed been stood up by his maybe-one-day fiance and robbed. He and his men tracked the family down, intending to bring them to his own twisted form of justice via Lucille, the barbed wire baseball bat he used to murder Dwight and Abraham.
Dwight begged Negan not to kill his wife, a display of emotion Negan says he found kinda cute, which softened him into settling for killing Dwight instead. Desperate not to watch her husband die, Sherry then offered Negan the only thing she had left: herself, in exchange for Dwights life.
Negan accepted her offer. He married her, permanently scarred the face of the man she loved with an iron, then turned Dwight into his loyal right-hand manone so warped by his deference to Negan that he carries out orders against scared, broken men in the same position he once was in.
Welcome to the factory, kids.
That charming little tale takes on an even more gag-inducing quality in the context of another moment in the episode, when Negan offers Dwight a little blast from the past with you-know-who in exchange for his hard workthat is, a conjugal visit with his former wife. (I just said it was happy hour at the pussy bar and Dwight eats for free, he announces magnanimously, as if expecting a medal for his generosity.) In Negans worldview, you dont take what you earn, you earn what you takeunsurprisingly, that extends to women.
And because this is The Walking Dead, any situation that can go from bad to worse inevitably will. Whats to come in the episodes ahead will likely hew closely to Robert Kirkmans Walking Dead comic books. Its there that we find an even grimmer picture of the status quo at Negans factory. (Warning: Light comic book spoilers ahead.)
In the comics, Sherry is hardly the last woman forced to become Negans wife in exchange for safety, comfort, or the lives of their loved ones. Theres an entire group of women who, through differing circumstances, come to live in Negans harem. Some of them, presumably, do so out of their own free will and a desire for protection. Others, like the TV version of Sherry, are not so lucky. In theory, each is free to return to her former life of earning points for her supper. But understandably given the horror of life under Negans rule, few ever do.
His tolerance for rape (at least this kindthe only kind he seemingly recognizes) is zero. He thrusts a hunting knife through Davids throat after making him repeat the words We dont rape. And he apologizes to the victim, explaining to her, Were not monsters.
But rape isnt actually limited to what happens when a strange man corners a helpless lady in a dark cell. Consent under duress (like, say, when your husbands about to be murdered) is also hardly consent. Negan can fathom neither fact. Its part of what makes him a villain.
With Sherry, he used his power to create a situation in which she had no choice but to consent. He may find no crime in thatafter all, theyre married nowbut in real life, were capable of recognizing what hes done for what it is. We are not all Negan, after all.