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[This story contains major spoilers for season nine, episode five, of AMC’s The Walking Dead, “What Comes After.”]
Andrew Lincoln said farewell to The Walking Dead (at least as far as his time as a series regular, as he transitions toward original movies set in the Walking Dead universe) in Sunday’s episode, and he wasn’t the only one: “What Comes After” also marked the final appearance of Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, if only for now.
“That’s the last of her for this season,” showrunner Angela Kang confirms, speaking with The Hollywood Reporter about Cohan’s work in season nine. AMC programming president David Madden verifies the news, adding: “I would hope it’s not the last you’ll see of her for the show, but she is not in any immediately forthcoming episodes.”
This past spring, Cohan signed on for a series regular role on ABC’s new drama Whiskey Cavalier, following a months-long contract negotiation with AMC over her work on The Walking Dead. The deal allowed her to return to Walking Dead in a limited capacity for season nine; given the way this most recent episode ends, it would appear the capacity has reached its limit.
For what it’s worth, Maggie’s departure now makes some sense in the context of “What Comes After.” Throughout season nine, Maggie’s story revolved around a thirst for revenge against Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the Alexandria prisoner who brutally killed her husband Glenn (Steven Yeun). In “What Comes After,” Maggie finally found herself within shooting distance of Negan, after convincing Michonne (Danai Gurira) she would never find peace until she achieved vengeance. But when confronted with the reality of Negan, Maggie witnessed firsthand how far the former king of the Saviors has fallen. She determines that death would be a kindness toward Negan; life imprisonment is a much crueler fate for the man who killed Glenn.
Maggie and Negan’s climactic scene mirrors the most recent appearance of Negan in the Walking Dead comic books from Robert Kirkman and Charlie Adlard, on which the show is based. There, Maggie comes to a similar conclusion about Negan, though the scene takes place much further down the line than the show’s current place in the story. Given Cohan’s limited ability to return to The Walking Dead, it makes sense why the timetable was quickened for the AMC series.
Weeks ago, The Walking Dead offered a natural way out for Maggie: a role in the group led by Georgie, the wise survivor played by Jayne Atkinson, introduced in season eight. Since their first meeting, Georgie has apparently attempted to enlist Maggie as a new member of her entourage. Despite Maggie declining the offer, it would seem Georgie was committed to the recruitment effort.
Is it possible that Maggie and Georgie are now on the open road together, following the most recent events of season nine? It’s impossible to know at the moment, considering the other big twist in Lincoln’s farewell episode, aside from the obvious matter of Rick’s exit via helicopter: the massive time jump that occurs between Rick’s departure and the final act of the episode. The exact length of time that passes is currently unknown, but it’s long enough for baby Judith Grimes to grow up into a gun-toting zombie-killer, as played by Cailey Fleming — quite possibly a decade, give or take a couple of years. With such a gulf in time between Maggie’s showdown with Negan and whatever comes next in the series, there’s truly no telling where the Hilltop’s leader might pop up next.
“We’ve been talking to Lauren and hopefully we’ll get to tell more story for her,” Kang says. “We definitely have some things up our sleeve that we’d love to do. A lot of that is just a scheduling conversation, so hopefully that will all work out, because I think mutually we would like to continue with Maggie’s story, for sure.”
Adds Madden: “Angela and Lauren talk. They are actually friendly. And we would like to see her come back. A lot of that is going have to do with Whiskey Cavalier [which premieres midseason on ABC] and what her availability then becomes, which we obviously don’t control. But creatively, we would love to see her return to some degree. And we definitely feel there is more of Maggie’s story to tell. We did not, as you have seen, kill her off in 905. We established that she is out there somewhere. And that’s something we would like to pay off by having her return, if her schedule permits.”
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