Why is The Walking Dead turning Lauren Cohan’s Maggie into the second coming of Negan? Ever since her debut in The Walking Dead season 2, Maggie Greene (later Rhee) has been one of the apocalypse’s most reliable protagonists – loyal ally to Rick Grimes, loving wife of Glenn, brave savior of Hilltop, etc. Maggie departed in The Walking Dead season 9 (Cohan went to film Whiskey Cavalier), and returned in season 10’s finale a changed woman. Maggie was always a tough, no-nonsense leader, but now those qualities have veered into ruthlessness, cruelty and selfishness. In fact, Maggie is rapidly turning into the mirror image of Negan during his bat-swinging “leader of the Saviors” phase.
In The Walking Dead season 10, Maggie leads an expedition to her former settlement, planning to oust the villainous Reapers who took over and claim their supplies for Alexandria. Straightforward enough so far. On the way, however, Maggie insists on taking the direct route through a subway tunnel, despite being warned repeatedly about the dangers within. Maggie also admits she was planning to use the trip as cover for killing Negan, and when one of the squad returns after running away, Maggie has no hesitation letting him die. Not only is The Walking Dead‘s Maggie rapidly losing the support of her fellow survivors, she’s actually transforming into a villain.
Maggie seems driven by a desperate need for revenge on the Reapers – as if doing so will make amends for her past failures. To achieve this, she’s willing to endanger friends and allies, showing the same selfishness Negan did while Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s character was in charge of the Saviors. Though he made less effort to hide it, Negan used his people as pawns to settle personal goals, which is precisely what Maggie is doing in The Walking Dead season 11. Another example comes when Maggie lets Gage get eaten by zombies. She’s sending a clear message to her team – follow me, or end up like this. Once again, this is a more subtle version of Negan’s leadership style, where he’d brand dissenters’ faces with a hot iron to ensure their obedience.
From an in-universe perspective, Maggie’s transformation has been a long time coming. Her execution of Gregory in season 9 highlights a dark streak developing long before The Walking Dead‘s current season, and Maggie also abandoned Hilltop right when the community needed a leader most. The genesis of Maggie’s ruthlessness can be traced back to the death of Glenn – a life-altering event that tainted the goodness she was once known for. This brings Maggie even closer to Negan, since it was the loss of Lucille, his own wife, that triggered Negan’s evil Savior act. Both characters are embarking on the same grief-stricken journey, but where Negan fell to darkness almost immediately after Lucille died and is only now recovering, Maggie has slowly crept deeper into morally questionable territory, and hasn’t yet hit the bottom.
In storytelling terms, there are several possible reasons for making Maggie The Walking Dead‘s new Negan. On one hand, The Walking Dead has always highlighted the fragility of “good” and “bad” in a world where zombies reign. The likes of Rick Grimes and Morgan Jones have constantly flitted between being violent dictators and hopeful pacifists, and The Walking Dead season 11 is proving how even Maggie can take the wrong path, under the right circumstances. But Maggie’s personality U-turn also says a great deal about vengeance, after Lauren Cohan’s character recently admitted to never shaking the desire for payback against Negan. Maggie now faces a choice – let go of the past and stay wholesome, or continue gunning for Negan’s head and turn into the very person she spent so many years hating.