Maggie is leaving The Walking Dead in season 9 and after just two episodes we may already know how: she's joining The Commonwealth. Season 9 a period of great change for the long-running zombie series. Still reeling from the dramatic death of Carl Grimes last season, the show is set to lose two more leading protagonists in Andrew Lincoln's Rick Grimes and Lauren Cohan's Maggie.
Citing a desire to spend more time with his family as the motivation, Lincoln's decision to leave The Walking Dead looks to be a permanent one, even though there is talk of his character being kept alive just in case or Lincoln returning for an episode in a directing capacity. Cohan, on the other hand, is exiting to take a break from the character she has played since 2011 and explore other career opportunities. Both the actress and The Walking Dead's showrunner have declared a willingness for Maggie to return to the series at some point in the future and, to this end, Cohan also confirmed that Maggie won't be killed off.
Since Maggie is still in The Walking Dead's comic series, it's not immediately obvious how the AMC series can write Cohan out while still keeping her available for the future. After all, there's only so many places to go in the zombie apocalypse and not an awful lot of ways to travel there. However, the foundations for Maggie's exit may have been set out in season 9's second episode.
Theory: Maggie Will Go To The Commonwealth
After the Whisperer War arc in The Walking Dead comics (currently unfolding in season 9), the next major storyline concerns a community called The Commonwealth. Led by the confident and forthright Pamela, this settlement is larger than any previously seen in the franchise and is able to offer all manner of shops, facilities and entertainment, as well as the protection of a dedicated and well-armed military force. Alexandria and its allies eventually forge a relationship with this huge new group but, as one might expect, not everything is as it seems within this idyllic community.
Although The Commonwealth have yet to officially appear in The Walking Dead TV series, many suspect that the Georgie character briefly introduced last season is a substitute for Pamela and represents the first glimpse of the show's Commonwealth. Aside from the vague similarities in appearance and personality, Georgie is an erudite individual who appears to be from a well-supplied community with food to spare. She is keen on re-building civilization and is seeking allies to work towards this goal - leading her to forge an alliance with Maggie's Hilltop. While Georgie's connection to The Commonwealth is yet to be confirmed on screen, the similarities are simply too abundant to ignore.
How and Why Maggie Might Leave
A conversation between Maggie and Jesus in The Walking Dead season 9, episode 2 "The Bridge" revealed that since her debut appearance in season 8, Georgie has been constantly requesting that Maggie join her at her own currently-unseen community. Although the reasons for this are still unclear, it can be assumed that Georgie sees Maggie as a potential leader of the future, much like Alexandria's original leader Deanna, and wishes to help develop her potential, while also gaining a valuable asset for her own people.
Jesus reveals that Maggie has so far rebuffed Georgie's offers, but why was this exchange included in the episode if not to set-up a future exit path for Cohan? Having Maggie leave the Hilltop for Georgie's community in order to strengthen inter-settlement relations or learn new skills as a leader provides Maggie with a perfectly reasonable explanation to be off-screen but also allows her to be brought back at any moment. Should Cohan decide to return to The Walking Dead in a future season, her re-introduction would also gift the show with a convenient entry point to move from the Whisperer arc into the Commonwealth material.
The biggest unknown variable in this theory is what could prompt Maggie to change her mind and leave Hilltop. The recent tension between Maggie and Rick could certainly be a factor in her change of heart, as could lingering memories of Glenn's death or Gregory's misguided assassination attempt. However, the tensions established in the season 9 premiere have subsequently eased and Maggie now seems more secure and content as a leader than ever before.
There is, however, one sticking point: Negan. Maggie has made it very clear to Rick that she disagrees with his decision to keep Negan alive and refuses to visit Alexandria while he remains in jail there. Despite this, Maggie doesn't seem displeased enough to move away entirely, but would that attitude change if Rick set Negan free? Rick's current plan may be to keep the former Savior leader locked-up for life but, from the show's perspective, there's only so long the writers can realistically keep such a charismatic and important character confined. Viewers expect that Negan either escapes or is set free at some point this season of The Walking Dead, and this turn of events certainly has the potential to upset Maggie enough to move to Georgie's community and write herself out of the show... for a while, at least.
The Walking Dead season 9 continues with "Warning Signs" October 21st on AMC.