The Walking Dead Sets Up Maggie and Negan's Spinoff

Warning: this story contains spoilers for Sunday's "The Rotten Core" episode of The Walking Dead. "He's in the hands of the man who killed his father," says Maggie (Lauren Cohan) when Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) swears to protect her son on Sunday's Walking Dead. After Hilltop stowaway Hershel Rhee (Kien Michael Spiller) is captured by a Commonwealth trooper at the Riverbend Apartment Complex, Negan puts his life on the line saving the son of Maggie and Glenn (Steven Yeun). "If anything happens to him...," Maggie warns over walkie-talkie, but before she can finish, Negan radios back: "It'll have to happen to me first."

As armored troopers shoot their way through the complex in search of stolen military weapons, Maggie is floors away with Annie (Medina Senghore): Negan's pregnant wife. "He's in good hands," Annie assures Maggie, telling her Negan is "trying to be better" in the six months since he left Alexandria for Riverbend.

"He doesn't get to forget," a tearful Maggie says. According to Annie, "He hasn't. What matters to me is who he is now. He's someone who'll do whatever he can to protect your boy." 

Negan gets Hershel to safety and confesses at gunpoint he's the "bad man" Maggie told Hershel killed his dad. Before Hershel can pull the trigger and avenge Glenn, Negan tells him the shot will alert the bad guys.

"Maybe I deserve to die for what I did to your dad, to your family," Negan admits, "but these people here, they don't." When Hershel is returned to Maggie, it's with a promise: Negan and Hershel will settle their unfinished business when he's older. 

It's unclear how Hershel or Annie might factor into Isle of the Dead, the Maggie and Negan spinoff recently greenlit at AMC. In the new series from showrunner Eli Jorné, Maggie and Negan travel "into a post-apocalyptic Manhattan long ago cut off from the mainland. The crumbling city is filled with the dead and denizens who have made New York City their own world full of anarchy, danger, beauty, and terror."

Now an expecting father who risked his life protecting Hershel, Negan could begin to earn enough trust for Maggie to travel with him to New York. On The Walking Dead: Episode Insider, showrunner Angela Kang explained the Negan and Hershel story is "really important to the story of Negan and Maggie." 

"We've always shown and we've always known that Negan has like a fondness and a sense of care for children. He actually is often able to speak to them and reach them in a way that perhaps their parental figures can't," Kang said. "He has no animosity towards Hershel, but he can certainly feel that that animosity is coming the opposite direction. But this is complicated because it's Maggie's child, and he knows that there is so much weight behind anything related to it. And Maggie, for her part, of course, does not trust him with her child."

She continued, "Even if that wasn't a child related to Maggie, I do think he would protect the child. He absolutely would, but on top of that, I think he's trying to relay to Maggie, 'I'm not exactly the same person that I was or that you think I am.' Like, I think he's trying to tell her, 'You can trust me. You don't have to like me, we don't have to be friends, but when it comes to this stuff, I'm gonna live up to my word.'" 

Isle of the Dead premieres in 2023 on AMC. 

Follow @CameronBonomolo on Twitter and @NewsOfTheDead for TWD Universe coverage all season long. New episodes of The Walking Dead: The Final Season Part 2 of 3 air Sundays on AMC and AMC+.