To paraphrase the hit movie Step Brothers: did Maggie (Lauren Cohan) and Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) just become best friends???
Okay, “best friends” might be a bit of a stretch, but — and spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 11, Episode 3 “Hunted” past this point — it’s clear that the duo are definitely being purposefully thrust together by the show. In the episode, after new villains The Reapers attack our group, everyone is scattered, with Maggie in particular being hunted (hence the episode’s title) by the masked, militaristic group.
While on the run with an injured Alden (Callan McAuliffe), Maggie bumps into the similarly fleeing Negan, and has a choice to make: leave Alden behind with only a knife to protect him, while Maggie and Negan go for help; or bring Alden with them and almost assuredly get killed by the Reapers. It’s a nearly impossible choice, but ultimately Maggie chooses what’s best for the group: leaving Alden. And despite a clear preference for what Maggie ends up deciding, Negan leaves that choice to her.
This all ties neatly into what the primary focus of at least the first eight episodes of this final season will be, as Walking Dead showrunner Angela Kang previously told Decider.
“The dynamic between Maggie and Negan is fundamentally really interesting to us as writers,” Kang noted. “And hopefully, it will be interesting to fans who wonder what’s going to happen between them, too… In some ways they’ve moved towards each other, and their philosophies. If he was much darker, and she was much lighter, and they started going towards the middle… They have many points of agreement on certain things, but they just can’t stand each other or trust each other, because of the past.”
That past, of course, is Negan murdering Maggie’s husband Glenn (Steven Yeun), among many other crimes. But while Maggie has been gone on her walkabout for the past few seasons, Negan has been steadily working towards a sort of redemption. Not a full one, because not even he would think he can be fully redeemed for his crimes; but at least some sort of acceptance by the group at large. Maggie missed all that, so her own understanding of who Negan is now, and how he’s changed is not up to speed with the rest of the group.
And as Kang says, Maggie has also been changed by her time in the wilderness, and the two are going to have to realize they’re more similar than they think. That’s definitely what we’re headed towards at the end of the episode, which finds Maggie and Negan headed off in the woods together. Will they find that common ground after saving each other’s lives (most likely) next week? Possibly. Will they become best friends? Maybe. Will they become… Lovers?
Uh, probably not on the last one, though if The Walking Dead wants to regain some of that old buzz, having Negan engage in another shocking romance might be the way to do that. But whatever happens next, Negan and Maggie are headed down the same path together. And that’s a big change from even the season premiere, which found the former baseball bat wielding villain leaving her to die.So maybe they’re not as tight as Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly in Step Brothers. But hey, even those two dudes started out hating each other.
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC, and a week early on AMC+.
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