The absence of Rick (Andrew Lincoln) throughout most of season 9 of The Walking Dead will have an obvious impact on the current storyline involving the Whisperers, considering how important he was in the comic book version of the story. However, it's actually Maggie (Lauren Cohan), and not Rick, who's currently being replaced.
Season 9 of The Walking Dead saw the departure of two key characters. In the fifth episode of the season, Rick was supposedly killed in a last-ditch effort to stop a horde of zombies from crossing a bridge. Considerably less attention was drawn to Maggie's exit, with the character leaving the Hilltop off-screen during the six-year time-jump. It's possible that Maggie could return to The Walking Dead in season 10, but for now the show is moving on without her.
In Sunday's episode, Daryl (Norman Reedus) fearlessly steps outside the Hilltop's walls to confront Alpha (Samantha Morton), who was trying to force them to release her daughter, Lydia (Cassady McClincy). Daryl is defiant, and doesn't give in to her demands until Alpha produces two of the Hilltop's people as hostages.
This story was pulled directly from the comics, except it centered on Maggie instead of Daryl. In the comics, it was Maggie who confronted Alpha when she came for her daughter. The storyline played out quite similarly, with a large portion of the dialogue coming straight off the pages of the comics. This was an interesting moment for The Walking Dead, particularly since Tara (Alanna Masterson) is the true leader of the Hilltop. Though the decision was rightfully Tara's, it was Daryl who took charge and handled the situation himself. Daryl taking Maggie's comic book arc is a surprising turn of events. Many assumed that Daryl would replace Rick, even though Norman Reedus has stated that Daryl would not be the new Rick.
It appears that the absence of both Rick and Maggie will cause Daryl to rise up and lead the survivors against the Whisperers. If so, it may not be long before Daryl is offered a position of leadership - though whether or not he would accept the responsibility is another matter. It's worth noting that being leader isn't what Tara wanted, and it only happened as a result of Jesus' death.
Maggie isn't the first character in the Whisperers comic book storyline to be replaced in the TV series. Carl too played an integral role in the comics due to his romance with Lydia. Since Carl was killed off in season 8, his comic book arc was given to Henry (Matt Lintz), the adopted son of King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and Carol (Melissa McBride). It will be interesting to see how these character dynamics play out - and how much the show diverges from the comics - as season 9 continues.