When The Walking Dead made its long-awaited return with its extended Season 10 episodes, star Lauren Cohan was thankfully able to truly settle back into playing Maggie, since her official return in Episode 1016 was necessarily more limited. Fans learned more about what Maggie was up to during her years away from Alexandria and the now-destroyed Hilltop, and were introduced to a new villainous threat. But on the more positive side, the character also delivered some very meaningful name-drops, with Emily Kinney's Beth and Scott Wilson's Hershel among the R.I.P. references.
Maggie was able to speak lovingly about her past during multiple scenes, first during a heart-to-heart conversation with Norman Reedus' Daryl, and then later with Angel Theory's Kelly. Understandably, Lauren Cohan was pleased to be able to give those long-gone Walking Dead characters (and the actors who portrayed them) some love and attention. Here's how she put it in an interview with AMC.com:
It was really nice because we went so far in talking about them. We talked about her Nana that we've never really known about in the Greene family. And then moreover you get to a point, kind of like I was saying before but more specifically, you get so used to pushing onward that you're not expecting to have the opportunity to talk about these people that were so much a part of who you are as a character and to talk about Beth, Shawn, Dad, all in relation to the next generation. It just felt like it came at the perfect time, and it is not just that it came at the perfect time in the show but that it came at the perfect time for Maggie because she had the reason to share those stories again and to relive the stories and to really honor the memories of those people.
Indeed, The Walking Dead could have easily found ways to carelessly shoehorn verbal callbacks to Beth and the short-lived Shawn, but Maggie's situation allows for some truly organic and genuine motivations for her to talk about the many family members she lost over the years, not to mention Steven Yeun's Glenn. Raising a child in the post-apocalypse is presumably hard enough as it is, so being able to share stores with Hershel about his namesake, his father, and his family legacy is a much-needed way for Maggie to teach her son while also digging into some cherished memories that have nothing to do with walkers or Negan.
Even beyond her parental role, Maggie was also able to bond with Kelly over the idea of sisterly love, and the pain that comes with losing them. Granted, Connie is still alive out there for Kelly to reunite with at some point, while Beth was ruthlessly killed off back in Season 5. (Though not as ruthlessly as she could have been, I guess.) Cohan continued:
She had the opportunity and the responsibility to let her son know who he came from and who he's named after, and it's a very sentimental episode in so many ways because of those family members still being with her at just the moments that she needed to be inspired and informed by them, obviously with Kelly and with her son.
Considering even the opening scene featured references to Andrew Lincoln's Rick and Danai Gurira's Michonne (though without names being used), it's almost hard to remember the long era in which The Walking Dead purposefully avoiding having its characters remembering killed-off characters and talking about past events. Obviously, the show wouldn't be very fun if it only consisted of characters reliving old times, but it's definitely more reflective of real life for people to at least sometimes reminisce and be mournful. Hell, Negan is getting an entire episode to delve into his backstory.
Here, Lauren Cohan gives showrunner and executive producer Angela Kang credit for bringing that element into recent seasons and for allowing characters to handle their grief so that they might move beyond it at some point.
I really like how Angela [Kang] gives characters the opportunity to reflect on people that we've lost, and I think that that's been happening more and more in these last couple seasons and it's given the characters the ability to move forward because they've had the space to process the past and to be able to speak about their loved ones. As we just said, it's too raw in some ways to think or to dwell on more recent events, but I think that Maggie's ability to use her experience with losing her sister to support and bolster a new friend is very important. And it's something that all the people that we see, and the community that we see, need to connect to each other and to be a team.
Don't expect to see Lauren Cohan's Maggie waxing nostalgic with Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan anytime soon, however. She might not end up bashing his brains in like he did to Glenn, but I don't foresee a point when they'll be able to talk to each other with anything but antipathy oozing from Maggie's every pore. And so help me, if he attempts to bond with Li'l Hershel the way he did with Judith, I'll jump into my TV and slap him myself.