Almost an entire season has passed since Maggie left The Walking Dead, and only now is a replacement finally emerging. Rumors of Lauren Cohan's departure from AMC's zombie apocalypse series had been rife before the actress finally bade a muted farewell in season 9's "What Comes After," with Maggie's exit very much overshadowed by the "death" of Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes that occurred in the same episode. While neither character is actually killed, Maggie's exit happens off-screen during the time skip, as the former farm girl takes off to live in Georgie's community (which may or may not be the Commonwealth) after a bust-up with Michonne.
Maggie has kept in touch with the folks at Hilltop, informing them of her progress as she learns from another settlement, but Hilltop itself hasn't fared quite as well. The likes of Jesus and Tara have taken over as leader of Hilltop, and both struggled to adapt to the role before ultimately being killed. In narrative terms, The Walking Dead has certainly suffered from Maggie's absence. While Rick's exit was handled by shifting emphasis to a more balanced ensemble format with no clear lead character, The Walking Dead's Maggie-shaped hole remained unfilled, with no one else stepping up in that same 'politically-aware but still willing to get their hands dirty' manner.
Hilltop has soldiered on without a clear leader since Tara's death, but in season 10's "Silence the Whisperers," a new candidate to replace Maggie finally rose from the pack - Eleanor Matsuura's Yumiko. In The Walking Dead's comic story, Yumiko is in a relationship with Magna, but very much second-in-command when it comes to their small group of survivors, with Magna taking the undisputed lead. On TV, Yumiko has been a far more prominent and assured character compared to her comic counterpart, and this was typified when she took charge of the recent Hilltop tree collapse after other, more recognized, leaders such as Eezkiel failed to deal with the emergency. Yumiko then decides when to sound the retreat, and is unapologetic in the face of complaints from her girlfriend.
This kind of organized, people-first approach was a hallmark of Maggie's time as leader, and Yumiko's confident decisiveness separates her from previous Hilltop leaders such as Jesus and Tara. Although this duo might've replaced Maggie in terms of her position at Hilltop, their leadership was always reluctant, and lacked the self-assured attitude that Yumiko and Maggie possess. Jesus and Tara were also very separate characters in their own right and already had their own arcs and stories before being thrust into Maggie's spot. Yumiko presents a relatively fresh canvas, and her ability to lead in the face of adversity is now becoming a key part of her personality. It's perhaps a little odd that it's Yumiko, rather than Magna, coming to the fore, but this could be indicative of how The Walking Dead's TV adaptation is attempting to turn all of Magna's group into proper characters, rather than the 'Magna and her assorted followers' setup from the comics.
Having Yumiko lead Hilltop, officially or otherwise, will be a huge boost to The Walking Dead season 10 in terms of building new major characters, but Maggie is already confirmed to return next season. This might render Yumiko's rise pointless before long, but the character arguably couldn't have made this leap any sooner, as a newcomer taking charge of Hilltop right after joining the settlement wouldn't have been believable. Fortunately, Yumiko's growth may be not only a short-term solution to Maggie's absence, but a long-term one for Michonne's, with the Alexandria leader set to depart permanently following the current season.
The Walking Dead season 10 continues with "What It Always Is" November 3rd on AMC.