Lauren Cohan’s return to The Walking Dead was highly-anticipated, but her first real episode back was anything but a warm welcome for Maggie. Cohan initially exited the series alongside Andrew Lincoln in the first half of season 9, but the writers and producers left her story open-ended, allowing for her to return to the series if she wanted to in the future.
Following a six-year time jump, The Walking Dead explained away Maggie’s disappearance by saying she was off with Georgie and the twins improving other communities. Hilltop survived for as long as it did because of what the people there learned from what Georgie had to offer, and so, Maggie felt the need to get away from Negan and do some good in the world, thereby also giving her son Hershel a better future. The thing is, although she’s finally back in the fold at Alexandria, Maggie’s first episode back was quite harrowing, to say the least.
Immediately after helping the survivors fend off the Whisperers, Maggie saw Negan roaming freely; she didn’t say anything to him, but he knew the pain she was feeling at that moment, that releasing him was a knife in her heart. Shortly after that, she saw Hilltop destroyed and burned to the ground – a result of the Whisperer attack earlier in season 10. Maggie spent the rest of the episode finding her people – most of whom ended up dead – and trying to take out the Reaper following them. To top it all off, Alexandria itself was in shambles because of the other Whisperer attack.
Throughout “Home Sweet Home”, Maggie saw one thing after another that disheartened her, beginning with her husband’s murderer being set loose, and then knowing that one of her best and oldest friends in this world was responsible for freeing that person. Then to see her two homes devastated and her other friends killed, it’s amazing how much The Walking Dead threw at her in its first hour. Of course, a lot can change over the years, which is precisely why the series had a time jump; it’s easier to push the story forward leaps and bounds when it’s not being confined by previous storylines.
Viewers knew these things were coming, however, because it was all set up in the original Walking Dead season 10 finale. When it was announced Maggie would be coming back in episode 16, the anticipated confrontation between Maggie and Negan, as well as Maggie’s reaction to everything that has happened, was at the forefront of people’s minds. Looking back on season 9 and 10’s stories, Maggie handled it better than fans may have expected, but there’s still a lot more to come. The Walking Dead has a few more episodes to go in season 10 before gearing up for season 11, which may see two villain groups appear – the Reapers and Commonwealth – not just one as originally expected.