Warning! Contains SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 11b.
While The Walking Dead season 9 saw fan-favorite character Maggie Rhee (Lauren Cohan) depart the cast, she returned for season 10's finale — so why did the actress leave the series only to come back a season later? Maggie was one of two huge cast departures to occur during season 9, the other of course being Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) himself. Rick may not be dead, but he might as well be in the context of the show, as he's only set to appear in Walking Dead spinoff movies from now on, and not on the AMC series.SCREENRANT VIDEO OF THE DAY
A side effect of Rick leaving during the same Walking Dead season, in the same episode to boot, was that Maggie's exit never really got the attention it deserved. While she too survived, the character was rarely mentioned during her absence. In their defense, though, The Whisperers kept the survivors pretty preoccupied.
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By The Walking Dead season 11, Maggie is once again a major fixture on the AMC series. But why was Maggie written out of the show for an entire season in the first place? It's complicated. Here's the reason Maggie left The Walking Dead in season 9 only to return in the season 10 finale.
Why Maggie Left The Walking Dead In Season 9
In her final Walking Dead appearance during season 9, Maggie finally seemed to get past her obsession with killing Negan. After Rick's presumed death and the time jump, Maggie is gone, and it's said she went off with Georgie to help build a new community. In The Walking Dead season 10 finale, Maggie is shown reading a letter written by Carol detailing the dark events and deaths that have befallen her friends, motivating her return. That's what happened onscreen, but offscreen events present a different context for Maggie's departure and return.
Prior to The Walking Dead season 9, Lauren Cohan engaged in a contentious pay dispute with producers, demanding the same pay received by her male co-stars of similar seniority. Another complication was Cohan starring in an ABC spy comedy pilot called Whiskey Cavalier, which got picked up for a full first season. With those two factors in play, Cohan ultimately reached a deal for a limited Walking Dead Maggie return, appearing only in the first half of the season before exiting the story (and also presumably receiving that desired raise).
Why Maggie Returned To The Walking Dead In Season 10
Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang made it clear that the door was open for Cohan's Maggie to come back someday, and that day ended up arriving sooner than expected, as Whiskey Cavalier was canceled after a mere 13 episodes by ABC. It was initially announced that Maggie was returning for season 11, but evidently, the decision was made to have her appear in the season 10 finale and subsequent "bonus episodes" too.
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Since coming back to the cast, Cohan's Maggie has fully reinserted herself into the mix, most notably entering a contentious alliance with her old nemesis Negan. Maggie is understandably resistant to working with the man who killed Glenn, her husband, even if Negan has seemingly changed. With The Walking Dead now headed into the final chapter of its concluding 11th season, Maggie looks here to stay for the rest of the home stretch, at least until if and when she's killed off. As audiences are well aware, The Walking Dead loves to kill major characters.
What Maggie Has Done Since Returning To TWD
Maggie returned to The Walking Dead for the end of season 10, and she's had a busy season 11. She starts the season in Alexandria, where she begrudgingly has to work alongside Negan. This doesn't last long, and Negan leaves her for dead in the first episode. After displaying how cold she's become as a character when she lets two thieves get eaten by Walkers, she, Daryl, and the rest of her group go from the frying pan to the fire when they're ambushed by Reapers. When her group is scattered, she finds herself once again having to work with Negan to survive, which doesn't sit well with Maggie in the slightest. Negan forces her hand, and she agrees to abandon her plans to kill him, pointing out they need each other to overcome the Reapers for the good of communities like Alexandria. He even trains her how to control a horde, Whisperer-style.
Throughout the confrontation with the Reapers, it becomes clearer than ever that Maggie has grown from the resourceful yet nonviolent farmer's daughter introduced in season 2. She kills many Reapers in cold blood, showing a ferocity that proves she's more like Negan than she'd ever like to admit. She's become a strong leader since her return – alongside other mainstays like The Walking Dead's Daryl, she is successfully rallying Alexandria, Hilltop, and Oceanside to go to war with the Commonwealth. What's more, in TWD season 11, episode 16, "Acts Of God," Maggie admitted the unthinkable to Negan: she's actually starting to trust him. When AMC's The Walking Dead returns for season 11, part 3, Maggie will no doubt demonstrate even more just how far she's come in the twelve years since Rick, Glenn, and the rest arrived on Hershel's farm in season 2.
The Walking Dead season 11c premieres on 22nd August 2022 on AMC.