Explaining THE WALKING DEAD’s Maggie Mystery

Warning: Spoilers below for The Walking Dead episode “Stradivarius.” Proceed with caution.It’s become apparent that when it comes to rolling out the Whisperers as the new villains, The Walking Dead is going to slow its stride to a crawl. Done right, this can maximize the tension and anticipation; done wrong, it feels like an overly padded tease of the sort Lost used to get really sadistic with (end episode in cliffhanger; have entire next episode be set an hour earlier and build to the same cliffhanger from another point of view. Repeat. You remember.)So while the villains take their time to show up, we get a show departure so unceremonious that it makes Rick Grimes’ exit look like Hodor. Maggie, it turns out, left during the period the show skipped utterly with its time jump. Where has she gone? Nobody knows. Why has she gone? Well, that depends in what context you’re asking.

Whiskey and Good Decisions?

The behind-the-scenes reason she’s gone, of course, is that Lauren Cohan has been cast on the new ABC show Whiskey Cavalier. But unlike, say, David Caruso back in the NYPD Blue days, the actress wants to keep her options open and Maggie’s story open-ended, which is why the storyline hasn’t killed her off. If Whiskey Cavalier doesn’t end up lasting more than a season, she can come back to Hilltop. And if it does, giving her the old “moved away” storyline allows for spin-off movies of her own…or appearances in the planned Rick Grimes trilogy, which could be shot as one-offs during her new show’s down time.

From Glenn to Gone, and Down the Hilltop-side

None of the above, however, explains why Maggie Rhee, the character, is gone. But we can make some deductions based on what we are given this week. Firstly, we learn that Michonne doesn’t know Maggie has peaced out. And thinking Maggie is still top dog at Hilltop, she refuses to go all the way there with the newcomers, planning to turn back just before the final leg of the journey. So why can’t she face Maggie? And why has there been so little communication in the gap years that she doesn’t even know Jesus is the leader now?Think back to their last major interaction. Maggie came to Alexandria to kill Negan. She had Daryl divert Rick so he wouldn’t come to stop her. Michonne tried to stop Maggie, but ultimately let her in to Negan’s cell, where she discovered a broken man who wanted to taunt her into killing him. Realizing he was already in a worse place than she could put him, and that a fatal blow would be giving him what he wanted, Maggie changed her mind. But that’s when things got interrupted, as news of the events that would become Rick’s last stand came down.

Ex and Violins

So…had Maggie not had her big reckoning with Negan, Rick wouldn’t have been sidetracked, he quite possibly wouldn’t have been injured either, and he’d have gotten way ahead of those walkers on the bridge and clear of the explosion that most of our heroes presume took his life. Maggie isn’t directly to blame for this, but that’s not how an aggrieved, pregnant wife is likely to see it. Had Maggie done nothing that day, events very likely would have gone down differently, and better for Rick and his family.Michonne’s slicing of the Stradivarius violin that she fears might be a weapon gives this week’s episode its name, but not, perhaps, for the surface notion Luke spouts that music is what will help us survive over primitive aggressors. Rather, it represents her knee-jerk tendency to make a judgment of something as an object of violence even when it isn’t. She almost certainly blames Maggie for Rick’s death, and that’s why they have not spoken, and will not. It’s entirely possible Maggie feels the same way, and that’s why she left.

Sly Maggie-nations

Because what better redemption would there be than for her to turn up in the Rick movies and save him? And in the meantime, is it possible Michonne humors Negan’s small steps at redemption — via helping Judith with homework — because she wants to find something, anything that can make her feel like Maggie’s trip to the cell wasn’t a pure negative, and can have a silver lining, however small?She’s right to want Negan on her side, of course, in the long-term. But in the days to come, she may not always be assured of that.

Images: AMC

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