With the recent, anguished state of AMC's "Walking Dead", I can't help but think of little Anthony Fremont from Rod Serling's adaptation of Jerome Bixby's "It's a Good Life". That's the classic "Twilight Zone" where Billy Mumy plays a wee fiend who can turn a world upside down by simply wishing it (and wishing, of course, his "enemies" into some mysterious cornfield). For appearance sake, Anthony is an all-powerful adversary and yet there's a scene where one of the desperate oppressed pleads with the others to do the lad in. No one obliges, since Anthony might sense 'em comin', and so...
Anthony, however, is a supernatural freak; "Walking Dead'"s Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) is just a guy: weirdly influential and as damn sadistic as they come (David Morrissey's Governor looks like compassion personified by comparison), but still just a guy. So, why hasn't anyone among the various factions done him in?
Perhaps it's because Negan is flanked by his massive, twisted flock. That doesn't make the bat-battering bastard an easy kill, if his mind-warped disciples are stationed in the shadows with rifles aimed. Also, would killing Negan truly stop the range of his villainy: i.e., would his minions break from their stupor upon his death, as those did at the demise of James Earl Jones' Thulsa Doom in "Conan the Barbarian"? Probably not and yet, what does one have to lose by trying? Life under Negan ain't much of a life, anymore than under rotten, little Anthony.
No matter if shackled or strained, Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) has the potential to defeat Negan, if only due to his gusty constitution, but right now our hero seems to be taking a steady, strategic approach, sort of like Flash Gordon or Buck Rogers rounding up the troops against Ming or Kane. Thing is, Flash and Buck could count on their recruits. Can Rick?
I do have faith in Ezekiel (Khary Peyton). I liked him (and his tiger, Shiva) from the start. Ezekiel entered Season 7 just at the right phase, delivering much needed tenderness in the wake of two grisly deaths. I can't imagine this stately character turning fickle, but then "Walking Dead" has never been predictable.
Indeed, Season 8 will be packed with surprises and I'm suspecting unsuspecting betrayals. That's a plus and minus all rolled up into one, but despite its ambivalence, there's no doubt the show will be as tension-fraught as ever. We'll bite our nails, squirm in our seats and with eyes tearing and/or bulging, watch as we hope and pray for Rick and the good guys to rise up and (somehow, some damn way) strike Negan down. Sure, Anthony may have lived on, but Negan...well, like I said, he's just a guy, and so...
"Walking Dead" recommences (with its historic 100th episode) this Sunday, October 23 at 9 pm.