Actors leave The Walking Dead all the time. But Lauren Cohan’s potential departure has been making headlines — because it’s driven not by a character’s death, but by a pay dispute. It’s hard to imagine The Walking Dead without Maggie. And there are a few things about this situation that make it unique from other big exits.
Here’s what we know about Cohan’s future on The Walking Dead, including what would happen to her baby (page 5) and how fans may react if the show moves on without her (page 7).
1. Cohan’s future with The Walking Dead hangs in the balance
In February 2018, rumors surfaced that Cohan had yet to sign a contract to appear in The Walking Dead’s ninth season. And fans began to speculate that her time with the series could be coming to an end.
According to sources familiar with the situation, Cohan wasn’t satisfied with the salary that AMC offered during negotiations. Once word got out, castmate Khary Payton took to Instagram with a plea for the powers that be to “pay the woman.”
But it may be too late.
Next: Cohan may not have time in her busy schedule for The Walking Dead anymore.
2. Cohan has already committed to other projects
On Feb. 20, 2018, news broke that Cohan had been cast in Whiskey Cavalier, a pilot for ABC. And suddenly, her exit from the series seemed a lot closer to reality. Her new series isn’t a done deal — after all, it may not even be picked up to run as a full series. And in the meantime, co-star Andrew Lincoln has insisted that he believes Cohan will work out the pay dispute with AMC.
Even if Whiskey Cavalier does get greenlit, there’s still a chance that Cohan could balance both series. She could appear on The Walking Dead in a recurring role, or find a way to work both into her schedule. The question is, when one series is grueling enough, whether she’d even want to do both.
If Cohan is ready to move on, unfortunately, we’ll have to bid adieu to Maggie, too. But is The Walking Dead ready to lose another longtime main character?
Next: Do the comics offer a clue about Maggie’s potential fate?
3. Maggie is still alive and well in the comics
If The Walking Dead writers needed to expedite a Maggie exit, they’d have to come up with it all on their own. In Robert Kirkman’s comics, the Hilltop leader is still alive and well. In fact, she’s played an essential role in bringing The Walking Dead’s various colonies together.
Of course, AMC’s series has diverged from the comics in many key ways over the past few seasons. And Maggie’s newfound grudge against Rick and Michonne is definitely a departure from her comics arc.
But even so, there are no real signs that the series is ready to say goodbye to Maggie quite yet.
Next: There would be a huge hole to fill with Maggie’s departure.
4. Who would take her place at the Hilltop?
Since Season 5, The Walking Dead has set Maggie up to emerge as one of the series’ strongest leaders. In Seasons 6 and 7, she found her footing and began to assert herself. And in Season 8, especially, she’s become the Hilltop’s best hope at survival. It doesn’t seem like it’s time for Maggie to hand over the reigns to anyone else.
But if The Walking Dead writers are forced to make do without Maggie, then they could likely make a case for Jesus to take over for her. And if the events of the Season 8 finale are any clue, he may have a new right hand man in Daryl.
Next: Maggie’s death could lead to The Walking Dead’s biggest tragedy yet.
5. What would happen to Maggie’s baby?
Any way you cut it, losing Maggie wouldn’t be a great thing for The Walking Dead, story-wise. She’s still pregnant with Glenn’s child. And in many ways, that pregnancy has come to represent one of the few threads of hope that survivors, and fans, can hold onto.
If Maggie dies before giving birth, it would almost certainly mean the end of Glenn’s child, too. And in one fell swoop, fans would lose not just one, but three meaningful pieces of The Walking Dead puzzle.
The other alternative would be for them to offer a time jump, in which Maggie has already given birth. But then, orphaning her child would still be tragic — and it would feel, in many ways, like a repeat of Lori and Judith in Season 3.
Next: Losing Maggie might be too much for The Walking Dead’s characters to bear.
6. Can the survivors take another huge loss in their ranks?
The Walking Dead’s core survivors have suffered a lot of painful blows in the last eight seasons. And they’re still grieving the loss of Carl Grimes, who, like a pregnant Maggie, represented the hope that a new generation could still thrive.
Even with an impending civil war of sorts, it’s hard to imagine Rick, Michonne, Daryl and Carol being able to recover if they lost another longtime ally. And for viewers, it would feel a lot like yet another unnecessarily cruel blow for characters that have already been through too much.
Next: Will viewers even want to watch anymore if Maggie is gone?
7. Can The Walking Dead keep fans interested if it gets rid of Maggie?
In the last two seasons, The Walking Dead has killed off several of its most beloved players. From Glenn and Abraham to Carl and, soon, Morgan, longtime fans have lost many of the characters that inspired them to tune in to begin with.
There’s no way of saying for sure how invested fans are in Maggie’s fate. But it’s safe to assume that, as viewers have already begun to abandon the series, losing yet another huge part of the series won’t help with fan engagement.
The Season 8 finale set up a clear path for Maggie, Jesus and Daryl. They’re making plans to undercut Rick and show him “how wrong he is” since he spared Negan. To cut her new villainous role short, or cut Maggie out of it entirely, would feel like an abrupt change.
The only way the series might be able to sustain itself without Cohan would be to let Maggie go off on her own. Leaving the door open for an eventual return might let fans say goodbye to her without the agony of yet another death.
We’ll have to wait to see if Maggie shows up in Season 9.
Follow Katherine Webb on Twitter @prufrox.
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