Spoilers below for the back half of The Walking Dead Season 10, so be warned.
The Walking Dead has long used missing characters as a jumping point for character drama, and the Season 10 winter premiere reintroduced that problem with a new twist. Instead of getting lost out in the world at large, The Walking Dead's Magna and Connie are trapped within a cave system that Alpha and the Whisperers filled with walkers. For those who wondered why this plotline specifically played out as it did, it turns out Marvel's upcoming comic book adaptation The Eternals played a meaningful role.
As Walking Dead fans may or may not be aware, actress Lauren Ridloff (who plays Connie) landed a plum role in The Eternals last summer, as she'll be portraying Marvel's first deaf superhero, Makkari. The second recent Walking Dead star to make the leap to Marvel, following Danai Gurira's debut on Black Panther, Ridloff's Connie isn't as much of a power player as Michonne, but showrunner Angela Kang & Co. apparently felt like it would be best to give the character a narrative-based reason for her absence.
In an interview with Insider, Angela Kang was asked if Lauren Ridloff's commitments to The Eternals played a role in Connie's current whereabouts. In her words:
Yeah, there is some aspect of that that is true. But I think for the story, it's actually worked out really beautifully. So I think there's some really interesting stuff that came out of it for both Carol and Daryl, and she's a character that I think is leading with emotion for both of them. So sometimes those things that you have to do to help out a beloved actor also work out in your favor.
Strangely enough, even though Magna is a more prominent character in the comic book, Lauren Ridloff's Connie has arguably overshadowed Nadia Hilker's Magna ever since their first introduction in Season 9. Part of it comes from how the show has incorporated her deafness into scenes, and part of it is the fanbase's embrace of Connie being a friend (and more) with Daryl. Which, of course, also factors into Carol's relationship with Daryl, a Walking Dead element that inspired its own offshoot shipper fanbase.
After all, it was Carol's impulsive actions that caused Connie and Magna to get separated from the main group in the first place – although everyone was having a hard time staying together down there – and Carol fully blamed herself for it, and tearfully begged Daryl to join in that blame game. All of that, in turn, made Daryl go out to try and take out Alpha by himself, leading to him getting stabbed a bunch. The trickle effect, meanwhile, lead to Beta infiltrating Alexandria and killing a bunch of its residents in order to cause a walker infestation within the walls.
Angela Kang has already stated that fans will eventually discover what happened to Magna and Connie, though she wasn't very up front about when that would be. My guess is at some time before Marvel's The Eternals hits the grand stage. The Marvel superhero film recently finished filming, which assumedly implies that Ridloff won't be too busy to return to The Walking Dead in the future. Assuming Connie doesn't end up as a cave skeleton or anything, which would destroy Kelly.
Beyond introducing Marvel's first deaf superhero to the live-action universe, The Eternals will also welcome the MCU's first same-sex relationship. An interesting connection, perhaps, considering The Walking Dead's Magna and Yumiko are currently the show's main same-sex couple.
The Walking Dead airs Sunday nights on AMC at 9:00 p.m. ET. To see what other new and returning shows will be around in the near future, head to our Winter and Spring TV schedule.