The fifth episode of The Walking Dead season 9, "What Comes After," wasn't just Rick's (Andrew Lincoln) farewell to the series - it was also Lauren Cohan's last episode as Maggie. You could be forgiven for not realizing, though, since the last time we see Maggie she's with the others, distraught over Rick's supposed death, with no immediate intentions of leaving the community. Apparently, though, Maggie disappears from the show during the big time jump at the end of "What Comes After."
We've known for a while now that Cohan was going to make her exit partway through season 9, due to scheduling conflicts with her upcoming TV show Whisky Cavalier. However, fans were probably expecting a more dramatic exit, given that Rick left after being impaled on a piece of rebar, leading two walker herds on horseback to a bridge, blowing up the bridge with himself on it, and then getting airlifted out of the show in a mystery helicopter. Maggie, by contrast, apparently just disappeared off-screen.
The news of Maggie's departure was confirmed by showrunner Angela Kang, who told The Hollywood Reporter, "That's the last of her for this season... 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." THR speculates that, at some point in the time jump, Maggie left to go and join Georgie (the woman who gave her the "Key To A Future" book), who had been attempting to persuade Maggie to become a part of her group for some time. However, we won't find out officially where Maggie has gone until at least episode 6, "Who Are You Now," which will get the audience caught up after the time jump.
This is a pretty lame way for a character who's been part of the group since season 2 to be written out of the show - in such a way that fans weren't even given any indication that she was leaving during the episode itself. At the very least, Maggie did get some closure in "What Comes After," when she finally got the chance to confront her husband's killer, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). Though Maggie originally went to Alexandria with the intent of killing Negan, seeing what a miserable wreck he had been reduced to convinced her that he was already suffering a fate worse than death, and killing him would be a mercy.
That might be a logical end to Maggie's season 9 arc, but it also arguably reduces her down to a character whose only purpose was revenge - rather than being an effective leader for Hilltop, or protecting her baby son. Moreover, for a character to exit a show without the audience even realizing it feels like a pretty big misstep. Hopefully Cohan's scheduling will allow for her to return at some point in The Walking Dead season 10 or beyond, since it would be a serious disappointment if this was really the last we saw of Maggie.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9pm on AMC.