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How The Walking Dead's Spring Finale Started Setting Up Negan And Maggie's Spinoff Without Intending To

Maggie and Negan in The Walking Dead's Season 11 midseason finale
(Image credit: AMC)

Spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't yet watched The Walking Dead's final spring finale!

Even though The Walking Dead tried to pull a fast one on viewers by making it seem as if Maggie was a goner in “Acts of God,” it was pretty obvious that someone was going to step in at the last minute, with Daryl as the obvious choice. At least, it was obvious to anyone who’s been paying attention to news about the TWD universe as a whole, since the announcement about Negan and Maggie’s Isle of the Dead spinoff essentially confirmed that Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s characters would survive the entirety of the flagship’s final season. And the AMC drama’s final midseason finale took a step in the direction of setting up said spinoff, even if it wasn’t intended to be that way at the time it came together. 

How The Walking Dead’s “Acts Of God” Planted Seeds For Isle Of The Dead Spinoff

When it was first announced that The Walking Dead was officially getting a Maggie and Negan spinoff, which Jeffrey Dean Morgan is as here for as anyone, the biggest question that fans likely had in mind was: how is this show going to work with two characters who clearly aren’t ever meant to be BFFs within this universe. After all, one of the show’s other highly anticipated offshoots will be focused on Daryl and Carol, who have remained very loving and close over the years despite any and all temporary setbacks. Not so much the case for the hardcore heroine and her hubby’s murderer, though.

But things definitely took a turn in “Acts of God,” although it’s one that has been somewhat imminent ever since Lauren Cohan returned to the show in full. Once it was clear Maggie and Negan weren’t going to come to blows during any of their first moments together on screen this season, it didn’t take much to then assume that showrunner Angela Kang and the rest of the creative team would find a way to bring them even closer together in non-antagonistic ways. With that kind of animosity-driven dynamic, it’s only natural. But this episode featured Maggie making the fairly shocking request for Negan and his new wife Annie to watch over Hershel as she went off to battle, and then doubling-down on that shock after the former villain pointed out that Hershel didn’t trust him. In her words:

But I’m starting to.

Gross, Maggie, gross! Although not altogether irrational or illogical, considering the circumstances. Even if she’ll never truly forgive him for making Glenn’s head burst open via baseball bat, she has come to recognize his redeeming qualities, and that he has an empathetic soft spot for younger survivors. And when he called her “Maggie Rhee,” invoking the name of his most beloved victim, it was a sign of respect, as opposed to any form of trolling like the old Negan might have done. Instead, he offered a sincere dedication to appeasing Maggie’s wishes.

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Plus, it 100% helps Negan’s case that Annie is sweet and charismatic and didn’t also murder anyone in Maggie’s family. And it will probably also be wise of him not to seemingly leave Maggie for dead again, as he did when Season 11 began. 

So even though the episode didn’t deliver any specific signposts indicating how or why Maggie and Negan end up together en route to New York for Isle of the Dead, “Acts of God” at least leveled the emotional playing field to the point where viewers can accept them taking a giant road trip together without instant bloodshed. It also seems as if Annie and Hershel will have to be involved in the spinoff in some way, either as catalysts for drama or as support. Not that Hershel is very skilled and practiced by way of “killing zombies and murderous human threats.” But who’s to say there won’t be a time jump that ages him up into more of a teenage badass?

Why “Acts Of God” Wasn’t Actually An Intentional Stepping Stone For Isle Of The Dead 

For as much as TV viewers may like to believe that the creative teams behind their favorite shows have a big wall where every story element is conceived and planned out to the fullest, that’s just not the case a lot of the time. In the case of The Walking Dead, the events that played out in Season 11’s middle eight episodes (and possibly some of those in the final eight) were crafted and scripted far ahead of the point when AMC execs made the decision to put in a series order for Isle of the Dead. As showrunner Angela Kang put it in an interview with Deadline

Interesting … we were arcing out this story for a long time before there was any spinoff in the works. So, we’ve not been coordinating our story so much with the spinoff. They’re going off of where we end these two, but we definitely felt like there was a desire on Negan’s part to try to prove himself. I’ll say that it’s notable that he has not yet fully apologized, but this is a guy who I think tries to show his sense of, I don’t know, guilt or whatever and that there isn’t completely closure.

It’s impossible to know just how much of an inkling Angela Kang had about the chances of a Negan-centric spinoff happening, although it seems like The Walking Dead’s resident overlord Scott Gimple might have hinted at such potential futures as Season 11 was coming together, if only to steer the writers away from setting Negan up to lose his legs in an accident, and to avoid introducing characters sharing news that New York City fell into the ocean or something. Isle of the Dead wouldn’t have needed to be a sure thing in order to guide the creatives in such a way, and it was definitely set in stone ahead of the final days of TWD’s production, which wrapped as March came to an end. 

That said, it’s highly likely that Maggie and Negan’s story arc would have played out largely as is regardless, since it’s a more interesting take on their situation for them to have to co-exist with their horrific shared past, rather than just having Maggie impulsively bashing Negan’s head in with the butt of a rifle. (Assuming there aren’t any spare baseball bats around.) To that end, Kang continued, saying: 

Also, I think Maggie, as a very pragmatic leader, definitely can look at what he has done in the current time and gone, all right, he has done everything he can to help my child, and that doesn’t count for nothing. So, I think, for us, it’s just part of their roller coaster or a journey that they’re on. It still continues. Not all is completely resolved between them, but we definitely love writing for this pair. As played by Lauren and Jeffrey, they’re just really good together.

Negan didn’t need to pull off any magnificently heroic acts in order to win some of Maggie’s favor. All he had to do was keep her kid safe and treat him the exact opposite of the way he treated Glenn, and Maggie found a way to wrap her brain around not entirely hating the dude. And there’s still a lot of time for the characters to grow closer and become ever so slightly more friendly on the way to the spinoff. 

We still have no idea how the story is going to take Negan and Maggie from Virginia to New York City, but that information probably won’t come out until after The Walking Dead has hung up its (cowboy) hat for good with Season 11’s conclusion. It’s still unclear when the show will return to AMC for the final eight episodes, but fans can look forward to watching the back half of Fear the Walking Dead Season 7, which returns to both AMC and AMC+ on Sunday, April 17, at 9:00 p.m. ET, with the streaming service debuting Episodes 709 and 710. Don’t forget to check out everything else hitting the small screen soon with our 2022 TV premiere schedule

Nick Venable
Nick Venable

Nick is a Cajun Country native, and is often asked why he doesn't sound like that's the case. His love for his wife and daughters is almost equaled by his love of gasp-for-breath laughter and gasp-for-breath horror. A lifetime spent in the vicinity of a television screen led to his current dream job, as well as his knowledge of too many TV themes and ad jingles.