We may be only heading into the second episode of season 10 of The Walking Dead tonight (it’s a Whisperer-only episode), but we already know two big things about this season. First, Danai Gurira is leaving the show, which means no more Michonne. Second, Lauren Cohan is returning to the show, which means Maggie is coming back after being gone since episode four of last season.
That raises two important questions, how is Michonne leaving, and how is Maggie returning? We’ll start with the former.
When The Walking Dead loses a hugely important cast member, they often try to do it in a way where it leaves the door open rather than flat-out killing them off. They did this most notably with Rick, where they went through a back-breaking storyline which made him appear dead to everyone (blowing up with the bridge), but spirited him away in a helicopter which is now leading to an entirely new storyline that will span a few different films, keeping Rick and Andrew Lincoln in the TWD family to some extent, even if his time on the week to week show is over. They also did this with Lauren Cohan who was written off with the door very clearly open for her to return which…she now is.
I have to believe that Danai Gurira also falls into that camp. The Walking Dead knows what a talent they have on their hands, and they’re not going to kill Michonne off, giving her zero chance to rejoin the universe. Gurira is a Tony-award winning playwright, an action star in the Marvel universe and she’s leaving to run her own HBO series. Not star in it, be literally be the showrunner, directing Oscar-winner Lupita Nyong’o.
As such, I have to believe that the plan for Gurira and Michonne is similar to what happened with Rick. In Michonne’s case, the most logical thing to happen is for her to be abducted by the helicopter/three-circle group that is apparently now known as “CRM” as recent developments in Fear the Walking Dead suggest.
It’s possible that Michonne could just set out looking for Rick once she gets some inkling that he’s alive, but this doesn’t especially make sense for story reasons, because I can’t envision her abandoning her children, Judith and RJ, to do this, and neither of them are going to leave the series (TWD is currently in love with its spritely little Judith Grimes in particular). And if she’s not going to be killed off, I have to believe the plan is for her to be abducted, and then to show up to some extent in the Rick Grimes movie trilogy, which could turn into the Rick and Michonne movie trilogy.
I suppose there is a small outside chance she could be killed. After all, she has taken on the role of comic Andrea, Rick’s partner, and Andrea is eventually killed in a scene that Robert Kirkman said was one of the hardest he’s ever written. And yet with Rick and Carl gone already, her death would sort of ring hollow. And again, I think AMC wants to leave that door open, so abduction it is.
As for Maggie? Her return is probably a lot simpler.
Maggie was not written off in any particularly mysterious way. She joined up with Georgie who goes around and helps different communities. There are many theories about Georgie, that she’s attached to the Commonwealth, a big new comic community that should be the next storyline after the Whisperer arc. Or there’s a more recent theory that she’s an evolution of the “key” bad guy group from Fear the Walking Dead, which over the years perhaps became less bad and more helpful. Or it could be neither.
It stands to reason that at some point, Maggie will be getting all the letters people have sent to her informing her that Jesus, Tara and Enid, Hilltop leaders and friends of Maggie, have all been killed by the Whisperers. And as such, it’s time for Maggie to return and help exact revenge on the creepy weirdos who killed them. As for if we’ll see a Maggie versus Alpha showdown, I kind of doubt, as if we’re following the comics that would be Negan versus Alpha, but the show seems to be setting up Carol versus Alpha instead, given Henry’s death. I think Maggie will be part of it all before the war ends, but I also wonder how her role will change with all the departures. Rick and Michonne are leaving yawning gaps in the roster, and it stands to reason she could be a co-lead once again.
I’m looking forward to seeing how showrunner Angela Kang handles all this, as she did a good job with Rick’s departure, and we’ll see how Michonne’s goes, as that’s no doubt going to be tricky as well. I have to believe she can make it work, and TWD would be crazy to let anyone else run the show for years given how much she’s done with it in barely 17 episodes.