An entire nation of The Walking Dead watchers is feeling very twitchy and jumpy right about now as the hours tick down to what is arguably the most anticipated episode ever of AMC’s unlikely smash hit. Why so edgy? Since it was announced last November that Jeffrey Dean Morgan would play Negan, the dreaded leader of the villainous Saviors, and make his appearance in the final episode of Season 6, there has been constant speculation as to the consequences of that freighted debut.

To add to the festering anxiety over Negan’s appearance, as last night’s penultimate episode ended we appeared to see beloved Daryl get shot by Savior Dwight, who keeps coming back like a bad penny. Following the shot, Dwight mutters “You’ll be alright” at a camera obscured with blood spatter. Oh, and Dwight and fellow Saviors are also holding Glenn, Michonne, and Rosita captive. Carol, following her reluctant but effective massacre of most but not all of yet another group of (presumed) Saviors out on the road, has wandered off. Morgan, who feels responsible, is trying to find her. And back in Alexandria, Maggie is writhing in agony in what appears to be a serious episode involving her pregnancy.

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So, MANY of the Ricks are in serious jeopardy.

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When Negan appears in issue 100 of The Walking Dead comics (now up to issue 153), upon which the TV series is based, he and his crew have the Ricks at a disadvantage. Negan, who seems to specialize in strategic shock and awe, randomly picks Glenn from the lineup and kills him with his barbed wire-shrouded baseball bat, “Lucille.” In fairness, it should be stated that the Ricks have by now killed about 30 of Negan’s euphemistically-named Saviors in at least four different incidents leading up to this dramatic Clash of the Titans. So Negan has some legitimate cause to be miffed, even if it is his policy of violent intimidation and extortion that has led Rick’s group to wreak said havoc.

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Since Rick and his cronies have proven such a surprising thorn in Negan’s pursuit of regional domination, it is a given that Negan HAS to retaliate violently when he makes his appearance. So the real question is who will be the victim(s) of his pique? Will the show follow the comic or will it deviate from the blueprint? Will Negan kill Glenn, who besides being the victim in the comic, has slipped out of a remarkable number of dire situations on the show including a zombie swarm nightmare earlier this season. The show’s audience-manipulating handling of that dilemma — appearing to show Glenn being munched, not showing the resolution for weeks — led to mass viewer involvement and endless speculation but also resentment.

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Would they let Glenn — who is noble, trustworthy, brave, and an expectant father — off the hook again? Will it be Daryl, assuming he survived the gunshot?And what of the fate of all the other Ricks in jeopardy? We’ll know in six days and then have over six months to debate, mull, speculate, and ponder. And you thought this was a show about zombies.

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The Walking Dead Seasons 1-4 Collection [Blu-ray]

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The Walking Dead: Compendium Three

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