New mother Maggie Rhee will be focused on building a better world for son Hershel as she struggles with Rick Grimes' decision to keep Negan — murderer of Hershel's father, Glenn — alive in jail.
"Maggie has had the baby, and it was a really long pregnancy, as we all know. So we have baby Hershel, named after dad, and a big part of what Maggie is focusing on is creating a world that is safe for him. A world where he can see that this works, where we can work together," Maggie actress Lauren Cohan said on the Walking Dead Season Nine preview special.
"A big part of her conflict this year is finding peace of mind with allowing Negan to live, and being a good leader, and a good mother, and how she's going to let those two desires co-exist, essentially."
Cohan previously told EW her character, now long settled in as the de facto leader of the Hilltop, took issue with Rick not following her lead despite telling her he'd one day be following her — but she "wasn't someone to follow," she tells him in the Season Nine trailer.
"I think it's a realization for Maggie that she needs to just trust her gut and sort of make decisions that may be unpopular or may be not in total agreement with the group," Cohan said.
"Because we had an agreement [about] how we were going to deal with Negan, and Rick didn't want to, and Rick and Michonne as we move forward have a different idea of finding peace in the future. And that's just not really working for her now, or maybe just not yet, but she needs to get down to the facts for her and say, 'I've got to run this civilization and I've got to lean on my own decisions and have faith in my own decisions.' So that's a big part of just the theme of Maggie's action right now."
Last season ended with Maggie vowing to show Rick and Michonne they were wrong in their handling of the jailed Negan, so will she win her vengeance — or find forgiveness?
"I think it's gonna be interesting," Cohan said at San Diego Comic-Con, stepping around the question. "Because I think we all have ideas about what we would do in certain situations and who we want to be and the legacy we want to leave. And when it really, really, really, really comes down to it, what do you do?"
Cohan has just six episodes left this season before she steps away from the franchise for upcoming ABC spy dramedy Whiskey Cavalier. The actress told People her exit doesn't rule out a future return, and Maggie's story this season is left "open-ended."
Jeffrey Dean Morgan, who plays Negan, teased the jailed former Savior leader will share facetime this season with characters and actors he's had little or no interaction with, implying at least one Maggie/Negan confrontation is on the way. How that plays out — for both characters — remains to be seen.
The Walking Dead Season Nine launches Sunday, October 7 on AMC.