Warning: Storyline and character spoilers ahead for the “Knots Untie” episode of The Walking Dead.
Yes, Maggie! When Jesus led the Alexandria group to The Hilltop, his survivor community, to discuss how the two towns might trade goods, Hilltop leader Gregory quickly revealed himself to be a condescending, sexist fool who underestimated negotiator Maggie at his own peril. As Jesus points out to her at the end of the episode, even the storied Negan didn’t threaten Gregory into as good a deal as Maggie artfully negotiated for her community. Yahoo TV talked to Lauren Cohan, whose Walking Dead heroine secured much needed food and supplies for her group, about Maggie becoming the leader Deanna predicted she could be, about Maggie’s commitment to building a new world worth living in, and about what baby-to-be Rhee means not just to her and Glenn, but to all their friends and family.
There’s no other way to say it: Maggie kicks butt in this episode.
It was really fun, and I like that it builds to this place where she finds that strength. At first she’s like, “Do I have to? I don’t want to talk to this guy.” Yeah, it’s really been a ride for me [in the second half of Season 6]. I couldn’t even get my head around the midseason premiere. I think I was more gutted than I have ever been on an episode of the show. It just took it to such crazy peaks and valleys. Then comic relief with our buddy comedy. Now it’s time to kick ass and take names.
As you just touched on, Maggie is a bit hesitant when Rick says, “You should be the one to talk to Gregory.” Is it because he’s such a jerk when they meet him or is it because she’s hesitant to put herself forth as a leader of the group?
I think it’s a combination of the two. I think that she wants to do a good job. She wants to get the group what they need. They came there because they need food. And it’s that he’s just… she’s confronted some characters like this before. Initially, I don’t think that he seems like The Governor, but everybody always goes in with their reservations when you go into these new, seemingly perfect communities. It’s just so uncomfortable for her. I think that there’s an interesting dynamic, because [her group] lives in a world where she’s really seen on her merit, and to be then in a situation with someone like [Gregory], who she suspects, and who ultimately does try and be a bit sleazy with her, it just, as it would with anybody, it just makes her really angry.
Ultimately the tables turn, and she realizes that he’s just a lovable buffoon. Lovable may be a bit too far… but he’s just a buffoon. I think it’s great we see that we can trust Jesus a little bit, because he gives us the tip about the ammo before we go in [to The Hilltop]. But ultimately it’s when the final twist comes, and she really pushes the knife in and says, “We’ll take half of everything you have.” It’s just coming from this great place of inspiration, that this is actually a chance to make a big change for what the group has had. It’s exciting and it’s hopeful, and Gregory may become somebody that’s really… once we get the bulls–t out of the way, now they can really negotiate about serious, meaningful things.
When she walks in, and he calls her Natalie, thinking he’s being so clever… he clearly expected her to be very impressed with him. But she handles him from the beginning.
Yeah, and “my husband,” the gentle mention of my husband is like, is this a language that this person is going to understand? I just think it’s so funny he thinks that she’s going to be impressed by these paintings and by this whole situation. It’s just so funny, because you want to say to him, “I grew up on a farm. I know what’s up. This s–t is not going to work on me.”
When he brags about “owning” the painting. It’s like, dude, in this world, those things just don’t matter.
Who cares, right?
And in the final negotiation, even before she demands half the supplies, he’s trying to get sympathy for his stab wound, and Maggie just uses that to remind him that he’d almost certainly be dead if her group wasn’t there.
It’s so funny, too, because I think that [Maggie] and our group, in this situation, it’s so matter of fact that [The Hilltop people] can’t handle themselves, and that we know how to handle ourselves and to protect people like them. And how lucky they have been. It’s a similar theme with Alexandria. You see people who have skated through, and you can’t quite believe it. You also can’t believe the luck that now everyone gets to find them and have a symbiotic relationship. Yeah, I love that bit. It’s just like, [Maggie’s group] has been through so much that none of these little tricks or manipulations are going to get through the bulls–t detector.
What does it mean to Maggie that Rick and the rest of her friends and family do trust her and have chosen her, have recognized, that she should be in this leadership position?
I think that it’s just such a beautiful thing that everybody here has strengths, and has strengths that combined can create this fleet of warriors. Where she has certain softnesses that could be perceived as weakness, Rick recognizes that that’s exactly what they need to communicate with Gregory, and that’s ultimately… she’s unrelenting, but she’s not mean in the negotiation with him. She actually goes pretty gently on him until she says [give us] half. I think that it means a great deal, because everybody wants to be able to do their part to create a world they want to live in. At the top of the episode, she’s up at dawn trying to get these really sad tomato plants to grow… it’s just not happening. It’s a very impotent situation that she’s in, and it’s frustration upon frustration. There’s actually a scene that didn’t make it into this episode — we probably have an hour of footage for every episode that has to be made into a 42-minute episode, so there’s a lot that we end up losing — but there’s a scene of frustration for her after the first negotiation with Gregory, where she’s literally racking her brains and trying to figure out what Deanna would have done to get what they needed from this guy, more time efficiently.
I think ultimately, it’s just a puzzle. Everything in this world is possible. It’s just figuring out the puzzle. That’s why I like the twist at the end, because it’s coming from a place of hope and excitement, because they can actually… she sees this as a loophole, and it’s like, OK, cool. We can keep treading water. We can make this exchange with Hilltop and keep our head above water, or we can just push through this opening and actually get what we really need and really deserve. It’s funny the way things work with this group, too. It’s honestly in everyone’s best interest if they put their resources in our hands. [Our] group is sometimes the underdog. They’re like the brutish, unwashed cousin that comes storming in there, but ultimately this opportunity with Hilltop is an opportunity to get to a much more stable, sustained place. As soon as Maggie hears Jesus say, “Trading with other groups,” it’s like it broke the top off of all of their dreams. There’s no stopping them now. That’s really the only thing they’ve been missing, the true web of this [trading]… this is how civilizations were started. We’re starting over, and here it is.
We’ve seen Maggie be this confident person for. This is the Maggie we first met. This is the Maggie who went up to Glenn in that pharmacy and started their relationship. Do you feel like that?
Yeah, I do. I’ve looked at this shift in her, and I think when you acclimate to a new group… the water will find its level. Now as their group evolves, there’s a position for her skills and her… it’s like feistiness evolved, or feistiness matured. It’s those same, for lack of a better word, goals and qualities that she has that ruled again. I think she’s always been strong and forthright, but I think she is getting to know this new dynamic, she wanted to learn and wanted to observe and defer to people who knew which direction to go in. There’s been so many trials that they’ve gone through that have helped them all figure out the best approach, I guess. Now there’s opportunity for her to contribute in a bigger way.
As a leader, and as a mama who’s going to bring this next generation into the world they’re trying to create. The scene when Maggie and Glenn get to experience the sonogram, it’s so lovely to see them share this moment together, because it felt so normal. It’s something that, before the apocalypse, a couple could have taken for granted. It seems like maybe it calms her a bit, too, and assures her that this experience can go smoothly. Especially since she was such a part of that very crushing experience with Lori.
Yeah, and I think that the most important part of prevailing in these odds is not being jaded by what has come before you. That is a huge arc in this world. What I like so much about the sonogram, both for Maggie, for Maggie and Glenn, and largely for the group is that… Abraham speaks, I think, for a lot of people when he says, “When I see rain coming, I wear galoshes.“ That line is so funny. I love it. But ultimately, we’re all softened by that picture of this tiny thing that needs all of us to build a wall for it to grow within. That’s, for me, what always drives Maggie… she’s not trying to keep passing the day, she’s trying to reach towards a future that is bright and beautiful. And if I say I’m not having a baby out of fear, then that’s not my philosophy, and that’s not being true to myself. It’s just keeping the belief, keeping the point of living. Fear comes from a different part of the brain, but if we all focused on this biological need to sustain and to foster and to procreate and to nourish… Maggie is trying to keep herself in that head space, because it’s infectious. Ultimately, Abraham might get it by the end, and I just love what’s happened for his character, and him questioning his own ideals in this world. He’s staying ready for battle all the time, where he stops sorta being vulnerable with people.
Everyone in the cast has talked about the season finale being just devastating, but what can you say about Maggie’s arc for the rest of this season? Will we see her continue on in this leadership role?
This is the beginning with a new Maggie. This episode begins the start of a really, really big turn for her, definitely.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.