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The Real Reason The Walking Dead Fans Started Seeing Less Of Negan

When you have a show that spans many years, you need to find ways to keep it fresh. For season 6 of The Walking Dead, in 2016, that meant bringing in an infamous character from the comics, whom fans knew was going to cause plenty of problems for our survivors: Negan, played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan. 

In the episode "Last Day on Earth," Negan immediately establishes himself as a foe that the heroes shouldn't trifle with, as evidenced in how he mercilessly kills two beloved characters right off the bat (pun unintended). Shortly thereafter, Negan takes control of Alexandria. Rick and his friends rebel, of course, thus leading to an all-out war that results in a lot of bloodshed. 

Needless to say, Negan wasn't just a single-season big bad who could be dispensed with over the course of 13 episodes. For a while, in fact, Negan was arguably the main attraction on The Walking Dead: A good deal of the show's attention went to him, until he was ultimately imprisoned at the end of season 8. Even after his defeat, he has maintained a presence in the main series — his influence bleeding over to the spin-off shows, as well — but in season 9, his character arc moved into the background, with the villain spending a great deal of time in his prison cell, seemingly intentionally kept away from the main storyline. 

Putting the pieces together, it becomes clear why Negan had to take a backseat for a while.

Ratings dropped when the show focused too much on Negan

Christine Evangelista, who plays Sherry, sat down for an interview with Insider where she spoke about the intensity of portraying a character who has been traumatized by an abuser — namely, Negan — with such a warped perspective of consent and relationships, and how when Sherry returns on Fear the Walking Dead, she doesn't even know that Negan has been defeated and imprisoned. As Evangelista stated, "When you don't have that closure and you're carrying around the pain and you're carrying around the blame, that stuff gets heavier and heavier."

The impact of Negan's depravity on viewers, as well, explains why his character had to take a step back from the main plot. He was placed front and center throughout much of seasons 7 and 8, and while it gave audiences insight into the mind of a madman, it also likely turned some people off to the series, who would rather follow Rick's path of righteousness. The Insider itself mentions how, "A lot of fans didn't like that, especially after Negan's entrance onto the show brutally killed two fan favorites in, what viewers came to call, torture porn. That moment and a continued focus on Negan started hurting the show's ratings through season eight." 

An article from Forbes, released at that same time, reveals that ratings were, in fact, dropping during this period. It seems that while Negan is a fan-favorite character, both in the comics and TV show, many believe that too much focus took away from the show as a whole. 

Negan's imprisonment, then, was the right call for the show, even putting aside it being a faithful adaptation of his arc in the comics — because it allowed the creative teams behind the scenes to put Negan in a "timeout" as the show refocused its attention on the main cast of survivors, while keeping him around to increase tension whenever the story called for it. This also gave fans enough distance from Negan that when he finally gained renewed focus (and his freedom) in season 10, his redemptive arc was more believable.

In any case, with six bonus episodes of season 10 set to air next year (plus a final season after that), we definitely haven't seen the last of Negan.