While the Season 9 premiere of The Walking Dead might have seemed quieter and less action-packed than many of the show’s recent episodes–thanks to the end of the pesky war with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan)–there was still plenty to see. The new episode caught viewers up on what’s been happening since the end of the show’s “All Out War” story and set the stage for a major Maggie (Lauren Cohan) arc, leading up to her departure from the show.
In the final moments of the episode, Maggie lets Rick (Andrew Lincoln) know that she’s ready for him to step aside and let her lead. Following that, she supervises the execution of Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who tried to have her assassinated. The moment shows the woman Maggie has grown into since being introduced in Season 2 of The Walking Dead.
And during a visit to the show’s Atlanta set, new showrunner Angela Kang explained to GameSpot and a small group of other outlets that it would also inform her final story on the show–for now.
“We had always planned to have this great story with Maggie this season, and I think we promised something,” she says. “You know, we wanted to pay off that promise. So we definitely have a very strong Maggie arc. Lauren, I think, has always been such a great actress for us, has done some spectacular work this season. As you’ve seen in the episodes but also in the episodes that are upcoming, there’s some stuff that just blew me away. And I’m just a pure fan.”
Still, while Maggie may be the focus of what is unfolding at Hilltop, the coming events will also be used to build up those around her to fill the void, once the episodes featuring Cohan have come to an end. “It also opens up some interesting opportunities for other characters when that character is gone for reasons that will be explained in the story,” she explained. “That’s part of the story going forward, what’s happening at Hilltop? And how do people deal with Maggie not being there?”
However, that doesn’t mean the show is preparing to kill off Maggie. Cohan has told us before that her story will be left open-ended, which is different than the send-off for The Walking Dead‘s other outgoing star Lincoln.
Cohan has said she’d like to be able to return to the show at some point, and Kang is confident that could happen. “I’ll say first of all that we still plan to tell more story with Maggie,” she said. “Lauren wants to, it just it will be a little subject to her schedule. But hopefully, we have her back next season.”
While there is no clear picture or when or if Cohan will be able to return to The Walking Dead, her exit date from the series has not been revealed. While she’s shot her final scenes for now, AMC has not announced when she or Lincoln’s final episodes will air.