‘The Walking Dead’ Has New Villains Thanks to Maggie Greene’s Return
Who are the Reapers? Why did a guy just blow himself up? And who on Earth is this “Pope”?
Negan better watch his back, because Maggie Greene is back in town. On Sunday night, The Walking Dead returned to close out its super-sized penultimate season with six more episodes—and kicked things off by giving Maggie a chance to explain what she and her son, Hershel, have been up to, and why it’s been so long since she touched base with Team Family.
But the real question of this week has less to do with where Maggie’s been, and more to do with who the hell she’s managed to antagonize. It seems we’ve got a new villain on our hands, and they apparently have it out for her.
It’s a rough week for Maggie: First, she comes face-to-face with Negan, who’s now at large in Alexandria after Carol sprung him from prison. Then, the onetime leader of Hilltop expressed her desire to return home there with her son and a group of survivors only to find out that the place has been reduced to a pile of rubble and bodies. And then, Maggie has to hear from Carol that Negan was actually with the Whisperers when they leveled Hilltop.
“Alpha needed to die, and Negan was our best chance,” Carol explained. “We were gonna lose everything; Negan’s the reason we didn’t.”
Maggie seems sympathetic, but she’s understandably not thrilled.
But the group must press on—so Maggie, Daryl and Kelly head out for the settlement where Maggie’s been staying, along with her friends from the camp, Elijah and Cole. After a long day of walking (and murdering some walkers to take refuge in a storage container) Maggie reveals to Daryl that, like her old friends, she’s borne witness to a lot of tragedy over the past couple years.
When Maggie first left Hilltop, she’d set out with a woman named Georgie, whose group helped nascent communities learn the farming and engineering skills required to make it in the apocalypse. “But it’d always go sideways,” she said. The group had been helping a community in Knoxville, Maggie continued, but when Georgie left to check out another community, things collapsed and she and Hershel ran.
When Daryl asked what happened to the village Georgie had built, Maggie simply replied, “Not now.”
“It’s actually good to say some of it out loud. Just can’t say all of it,” she said. “I almost came home after Knoxville; maybe I should have. Maybe I should have.”
After the collapse, Maggie said, she brought Hershel to a place that used to belong to her grandmother on the coast—a place, she said, where she and Glenn had talked about visiting after her sister, Beth, died in Season 5. One night, she and Hershel stayed up late talking about his family. “He asked how his daddy died,” she said. “I knew he would; I knew it was coming. I told him that a bad man killed him. He wanted to know if that man got what he deserved. He wanted to know if that man was dead.”
“The truth is I left home because I couldn’t have Negan taking up any more space in my head,” Maggie said. “And when I realized I didn’t want to bring Hershel back to that, the next morning we met a whole community of people who needed us as much as we needed them. And it felt like it was meant to be. But that’s over, too.”
Daryl emphasized that things remain up in the air with regard to Negan—a thread that will certainly return later this season and, perhaps, beyond. Because the next morning, Maggie and the group arrive home—only to find it burned to the ground.
Turns out, there’s a group called the Reapers hunting people down one by one in the woods now. We see several people Maggie had been staying with shot down before a man comes for Maggie—only to be surrounded by her group. But the man, dressed in military fatigues, refuses to answer any of Maggie’s questions. Instead, he tells her, “Pope marked you”—and then proceeds to blow himself up.
There is no group called The Reapers in the Walking Dead comics; there isn’t even a group that seems particularly analogous, from what we’ve seen so far. It’s fascinating, given that we’re just on the verge of truly meeting the Commonwealth—another yet-unexplored community that appears to be the show’s endgame—that the show has now introduced another group to content with. They could be, as The Wrap posits, affiliated with the Civic Republic—villains of the spin-off World Beyond. But so far, it’s hard to guess at who these people are or what they really want.
Lauren Cohan returned to Walking Dead during what would have originally been its season finale last year, after a brief trip to ABC for the now-defunct Whiskey Cavalier. Despite how long this series has floundered, both before and especially after her absence, Cohan’s presence feels like a refreshing return to form for the zombie drama—especially as it shuffles toward its final season. (She was always, and remains, one of the most emotive and compelling performers in the cast.)
Nothing will ever fully atone for Glenn Rhee’s poorly executed, excruciatingly graphic death in Season 7. But it’s still somehow a little sentimental to see his son walk into Alexandria hand-in-hand with his mother. That said, however, in light of this week’s brief scare—which found Maggie racing through the woods looking for her son after finding the camp burned to the ground—I will say this: If Hershel dies, as so many children on this series have, we riot.