Spoilers ahead for the second episode of The Walking Dead Season 9, called "The Bridge."
Season 9 of The Walking Dead will take the zombie apocalypse into a whole new era, and not just because of the time jump that moved the action ahead more than a year. Two major characters will depart the series, and although we can still only speculate about what gets rid of Rick, the latest episode may have revealed why Maggie leaves, and it has everything to do with Georgie. Here's what happened.
Maggie, who has been showing a couple of Negan-esque qualities in her leadership style, apparently has a standing invitation to join Georgie in her outreach efforts in the zombie apocalypse. Georgie is largely responsible for some of the progress made by the settlements -- especially Hilltop -- in the 18 months between the end of Season 8 and the beginning of Season 9. Georgie gave them the means to recreate innovations that helped civilization develop prior to the zombie apocalypse, including how to build a windmill.
Georgie's outreach has obviously done a lot of good, and she has evidently gotten along well enough with Maggie that she wants Maggie to leave Hilltop and join her outreach efforts. In her conversation with Jesus, Maggie made it clear that she still intends to stay at Hilltop, so if she does leave the settlement to join Georgie, something significant probably needs to happen to give her that final push.
It's worth noting that Maggie was playing with the adorable baby Herschel during this conversation, and the poor kid was recently endangered when Maggie was attacked while taking him for a walk in his stroller. If Maggie comes to fear for the life of her child -- who never got to meet his dad and is named after her murdered father -- then she may feel compelled to leave Hilltop in somebody else's hands and take baby Herschel somewhere safer.
Her responsibilities to Hilltop as its newly-elected leader (and person who hanged their previous leader) may make her feel obligated to stay and lead, but the latest episode did prove that there are people who could step up in her absence. Jesus has been by her side throughout the entire time jump, and he has the temperament to be a pretty solid leader. Michonne could theoretically relocate to Hilltop and help out.
While it's difficult to imagine Michonne leaving Alexandria at this point, perhaps she'll be willing to make the move to Hilltop after Rick dies, assuming that's how Andrew Lincoln departs The Walking Dead. Hilltop could be a safer place for Judith than Alexandria as well. We can only speculate on the details at this point. It's worth noting that new showrunner Angela Kang referred to the theory of Maggie taking off with Georgie as "a fair suspicion."
That said, Angela Kang naturally wasn't going to give away what is bound to be one of the most impactful twists of the ninth season. She did talk Georgie's significance in her chat with THR, saying this:
It's like when you're playing a video game, and the fog of the map around you is expanding as you go into different areas to explore. That's what's happening with [Georgie's group]. The Alexandrian group thought it was just them before Jesus came along and told them, 'The world is so much bigger than you think.' Then they found out through Georgie the world is even bigger than that group thought. There will be certain societies that just kind of exist out there, that we don't constantly check in on. We don't always tell stories with Oceanside, but they're very much there. That's the same deal with Georgie and the twins. She's off trying to figure out who else is out there. That builds very much into the idea of civilization that all of our characters are grappling with. Either way, we're still going to tell more stories with Maggie.
While Angela Kang didn't drop any details about whether Maggie will or will not leave Hilltop to join Georgie, her comments do indicate that Georgie and Co. aren't going anywhere. Their kindly nature in their first appearances in Season 8 make them unlikely candidates as the people killing those Saviors, so they would be a natural choice for a woman with a baby to want to join if she felt compelled to leave Hilltop. Even if Georgie is generally off-screen, she's around and busy.
Sending Maggie to join Georgie would also be a great way to leave the door open for Lauren Cohan to return, even if only for the occasional guest shot. Cohan landed an exciting new network TV gig as the female lead of Whiskey Cavalier, so she's likely to be busy without the zombie apocalypse, but Cohan has been open about her willingness to return if such a thing can be worked out, and fans haven't had to worry that she'll be killed off.
Angela Kang has some hopeful words for fans, saying this about the possibility of more Maggie after her Season 9 departure:
I hope it'll work. We'll cross that bridge [when we get to it]. Lauren and I have had conversations, and she's excited to come back, even if it's not for a full season. We can work with that. That's scheduling problems. We'll figure out the story. She's great. We have a great relationship, and she still loves the show. Sometimes our actors need to spread their wings a little bit. We get that.
Despite the disappointing ratings for the Season 9 premiere, The Walking Dead almost certainly isn't going anywhere any time soon. Fans who stick around after Maggie's departure can always hope that she'll be back at some point. We may need that beacon of hope once the Whisperers enter the scene and Rick (probably) bites the dust. We'll have to wait and see.