‘TWD’ Showrunner Says They’re Not Making Maggie a Villain to Make Negan Likable

  • Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for “The Walking Dead,” season 11, episode two.
  • So far, season 11 appears to be making Maggie a villain to make former villain, Negan, more likable.
  • Showrunner Angela Kang tells Insider that’s not the case. “TWD” has the chance to redeem itself to fans it upset long ago.
  • Visit Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Is “The Walking Dead” making Maggie into a villain in order to make Negan more likable?

It sure seems that way after watching the first two episodes of the show’s final season, but showrunner Angela Kang says that’s not the case.

“It’s a great question about Maggie and Negan. It’s not our intention to really make her a villain to make Negan shine,” Kang told Insider earlier this month when we asked if the show is making Maggie look like a bit of a bad guy in order to make Negan more likable.

On Sunday’s episode, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) makes a brutal call, allowing Gage be torn apart by walkers when others, including Alden, argue they had time to save his life. (Maybe that was Gage’s punishment for bailing on the group last episode with their supplies.)

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Maggie makes a decision on Sunday’s episode that divides her followers and makes her look a bit like a bad guy.

AMC


Later, Maggie tells a pretty cutthroat and harrowing story of what she had to do at one point to ensure she and Hershel survived. After killing a group of men, she found tortured women alive in an attic with their eyes gouged out and limbs severed. Maggie said her first thought wasn’t to try and help them, but that there must be food in the house that was keeping them alive. So she “took care of them.”

“Hershel and I filled the cart with it, and we left,” Maggie tells the survivors after Gage’s death, adding, “I don’t feel anything when I tell you that.”

Yes, all of our survivors have down some pretty unspeakable things to get to the show’s final season, but even this seemed pretty ruthless and a little out of character for Maggie. 

Before that, on the season premiere, Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) accused Maggie of being so caught up in her rage against him that it was affecting her ability to put the safety of her own people first. At one point, he even asked if anyone wanted to leave the tunnels with him.

Like it or not, despite leaving Maggie to possibly die on the season premiere cliffhanger, Negan was making some pretty valid points as he was not only looking out for his own safety, but also the safety of others. 

What’s going on with Maggie?

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Maggie comes across as extremely cold on Sunday’s “TWD.” You don’t want to be on her bad side.

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Kang explained that what we’ve seen since Negan’s debut on the season seven premiere when he brutally killed Maggie’s husband, Glenn, is a shift in the two character’s ethos. Like it or not, at this point, Maggie and Negan may be a bit more similar than either may care to admit.

“Negan may have moved a little bit more towards Maggie, but I think Maggie, as a result of the things that she faced out on the road, has moved a little bit towards Negan,” Kang said.

“There are a lot of gray areas for all of our heroes and they are trying to grapple with those things,” Kang continued. “They’re trying to make the right decision for themselves, their people, their loved ones. Maggie, she doesn’t mess around and we’ve seen that in the past as well, but she’s definitely had to kind of go a little darker at times.”

‘TWD’ has used its popular female characters to help make the case for Negan

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Maggie holds a gun to Negan’s head on “TWD” season 11 premiere.

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Though “TWD” may not purposefully be vilifying Maggie to prop up Negan, the show has inarguably used its roster of female characters to help make viewers empathize with the former leader of the Saviors a bit more since season nine.

  • Judith befriended Negan to help tell others that he wasn’t such a bad guy. By the end of season nine, Negan was somehow the only one who went off in search of Judith when she went missing during a snow storm. (Frankly, it was a little tough to believe that no one else would go to the ends of the Earth to save Rick Grimes’ daughter.)

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Negan is made into a hero of sorts on the season nine finale because he saved Judith.

Gene Page/AMC


  • Michonne’s final episode almost became a little less about Michonne and more about showcasing a “what if” scenario to make the case that Negan and his group weren’t so different from Rick’s survivors. In an alternate reality, Michonne never meets and joins up with Rick. Instead, she becomes one of Negan’s top fighters. Iconic moments from the show are revisited and shown from Michonne’s perspective as a devoted member of the Saviors so that Rick’s group is made out to be the bad guys in a “sliding doors” scenario. 
  • After Negan kills Alpha for Carol, we’re supposed to feel a bit bad for Negan. Carol doesn’t keep good on her word to help clear Negan’s name at Alexandria. Instead, Carol sends Negan off to live out the rest of his days in a cabin.

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Carol doesn’t hold up her end of the bargain with Negan.

Josh Stringer/AMC


  • Even the great “Here’s Negan” episode used Negan’s wife, Lucille, to help show the man once had some redeemable qualities. The show didn’t shy away from showing that Negan wasn’t a saint. (That would have been the episode’s downfall if they pretended Negan was the perfect husband.) Instead, the series included the fact that he was cheating on his wife, although in a slightly different way that makes a huge difference to how fans interact with the character. In the comics, Negan cheats on his wife while knowing she has cancer. On the show, Negan stops an affair the moment he learns about his wife’s diagnosis and becomes a doting husband. That small writing choice makes Negan slightly less of a jerk when he becomes completely committed to keeping his wife alive.

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Negan’s love story with Lucille helped show a different, tender side to the character that fans weren’t used to seeing.

Josh Stringer/AMC


After two episodes of “TWD’s” final season, it’s difficult not to consider that Maggie’s moral compass is being compromised a bit in order to elevate Negan, a man who directly caused her trauma.

Even Jeffrey Dean Morgan has questioned some story choices between Maggie and Negan on the final season out of concern.

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Negan decides not to help Maggie on “TWD” season 11 premiere, a choice which initially concerned Jeffrey Dean Morgan.

AMC


When Morgan learned Negan was going to leave Maggie for dead on the season premiere, he called up a few cast members, including Norman Reedus, who plays Daryl, and Cohan before speaking with Kang.

“I had talked to Lauren and I had talked to Norm [Reedus] and then I called Angela and I was like, ‘This is a horrible idea. Any good that we have done is immediately gone,” Morgan said on the series’ aftershow, “Talking Dead.”

Morgan also questioned whether or not Negan should dare to speak Glenn’s name to Maggie, saying that was phone call number two.

The actor is acutely aware of how Negan’s actions may be interpreted by fans. Negan’s controversial entry onto the show on the season six finale/season seven premiere is often credited with when many viewers left the series.

It’s taken years for some (not all) fans to warm up to the character.

We’ll continue to see Maggie and Negan’s story play out throughout this final season. Honestly? It’s long overdue.

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Maggie and Negan have always avoided discussing Glenn’s death, until now.

Josh Stringer/AMC


“Those two do have a continuing story as they’re trying to grapple with how they coexist,” Kang told Insider of Maggie and Negan. “Can they work together? Is there forgiveness and redemption to be found? Are they ultimately going to go back to their own corners?”

“It’s definitely not to try to specifically show any light in Negan, but it’s just to show that if there is really like a mix for both of them,” Kang said, emphasizing again that they’re not trying to lift Negan up at Maggie’s expense. “They have moments where each of them can do heroic things. There’s also moments that they can both do dark things and they’re just crashing together.”

Regardless of how you feel about the current Maggie and Negan dynamic on “TWD,” I actually like and applaud that “TWD” is not only revisiting the series’ most controversial moment, but leaning into it to (hopefully) have a difficult conversation and not just for the sake of exploiting these two characters for ratings.

The tension between Maggie and Negan is currently the most compelling story line on the final season.

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These two are probably going to have it out at some point.

Josh Stringer/AMC


Is Maggie going to kill Negan? (She almost did in the comics.) Will Negan wind up sacrificing himself to save Maggie — or her and Glenn’s son Hershel — at some crucial moment? Is Hershel going to learn that Negan killed his father? If so, will Hershel do something about it (promo photos show Hershel training with Judith)? Could Hershel kill Negan?

We’re outside the realm of the comics now, so anything seems possible. Whether or not you’re a fan of Negan, I think fans would be lying if they said none of the above possibilities sounds, at the least, intriguing.

To an outsider it may sound tired for the show to drudge up an old moment that upset many fans. It’s a bold risk to revisit a moment the show tried to avoid discussing for years.

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Like Maggie, fans were never given proper closure for a traumatic moment that drove so many away from the series. If the show can say something smart with the Negan/Maggie dynamic on the show’s final season, that would be huge.

Gene Page/AMC


After the series started becoming more or less the Negan show on seasons seven and eight, defined by the character as a sort of one-dimensional villain who liked to hear himself speak, Kang smartly placed him in a jail cell for half a season when she took over as showrunner on season nine. At the time, Cohan briefly left the series.

Kang worked to get the show back on track as an ensemble series, letting other characters shine before revisiting and adding more depth to Negan.

But in doing so, it seemed like many of Negan’s past transgressions were simply going to be swept under the rug instead of actually discussed. The show strayed from having meaningful conversations about Negan in order to try and gain back the trust of its fandom. But, at some point, fans don’t want to be spoon-fed that Negan’s the bee’s knees after he killed one of the show’s most beloved characters.

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The show may have been ready to move on with Negan’s redemption story, but many fans weren’t convinced of his redemption yet.

Eli Ade/AMC


It seems like Kang and the writers know that.

After Cohan returned to the show on the season 10 finale, the series shockingly showed Maggie open up about Glenn’s death, mentioning how Hershel asks about his father’s killer.

The heart-to-heart between Maggie and Daryl made it seem like the show was finally ready to address some of her scars.

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Maggie told Daryl on the bonus season 10 episodes that Hershel is asking about his dad, Glenn.

Eli Ade/AMC


Kang previously told Insider earlier this year it was “painful” and “heartbreaking” for the writers to revisit the events of the season seven premiere given the episode’s reception. But they knew it wouldn’t be true to Maggie’s journey and what she’s been going through if they didn’t address “the deep, deep trauma that she went through with Glenn’s death.” 

It’s taken about 5 years for ‘TWD’ to finally have a true reckoning with the story line that turned off a large segment of its fanbase. We’re ready to see where it goes.

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Years later, Maggie deserves closure for the loss she experienced. Hopefully, it doesn’t come at the expense of sacrificing the character’s integrity.

Eli Ade/AMC


It’s not just Maggie who experienced that trauma.

The season seven premiere was difficult for a lot of show-only viewers who weren’t familiar with how graphic Glenn’s death was in the comic. It was tougher to see the fan favorite killed by a man who appeared to relish and take glee in the delivery of that death.

On the flip side, it was tough for the people who worked on the show who were just trying to accurately bring a graphic scene in the comics to life, believing that was what fans wanted to see. Though it may have been what some comic fans were hoping for, it turns out that wasn’t what an overwhelming amount of the show’s audience wanted since viewership fell from over 17 million at the premiere to around 10 million a few short episodes later

Getting some type of closure years later on this story line, whether it ends in forgiveness or Negan’s death or something else all together feels like a massive opportunity for “TWD” to come to terms with a moment that unseated the show from being must-watch TV on Sunday nights.

Hopefully, it’s delivered in a way which not only helps Maggie heal, but without sacrificing the integrity of her character.

Closing the loop on this story isn’t simply what Maggie’s owed, it’s also what the audience is owed to help them be at peace with a moment many never forgave “The Walking Dead” for years ago.

You can follow along with our “TWD” coverage all season long here.

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