SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen Season 10, Episode 17 of “The Walking Dead,” titled “Home Sweet Home”
Maggie Rhee is back and she means business. With the premiere of the first of six bonus episodes of Season 10 of “The Walking Dead,” Lauren Cohan has officially made her full-time return to the series that made her a household name.
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Before delving into the storyline of this week’s episode, Variety asked Cohan about her experience shooting the show under COVID protocols and how it differed from her past experiences on the set.
“There were obviously a lot of parallels for us shooting the show that’s about an apocalyptic environment, and coming out of what most of us know to be the closest thing to an apocalyptic environment,” Cohan said with a laugh. “We shot episodes that involved a lot less people. So just comparing it to previous seasons of ‘The Walking Dead,’ it was different in that regard, because we didn’t have huge hordes of zombies and we didn’t even have a huge amount of crewmembers.”
But now to the plot. The episode kicks off strong, with Maggie almost immediately coming face to face with Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan), the man who killed Glenn and Abraham before Maggie’s eyes. Of course, Maggie has no idea about the good Negan has done for her friends in the recent past, but even when Carol (Melissa McBride) tells her, the urge to get revenge is still there.
“Maggie’s not really free to take her vengeance and just act on her impulses,” Cohan said. “I don’t think that she wants to pay the price that that might mean for her on her conscience and as an example to her kid…We’re seeing Negan find a lot more of the light, and we’re seeing Maggie in a little bit more of the darkness. That’s where a huge part of the tension of the season is coming from.”
Maggie then partners with Daryl (Norman Reedus) to go out and retrieve others from the group that Maggie has been traveling with of late, including her son, Hershel. They are joined by Kelly (Angel Theory), who is still looking for her sister. Also accompanying them are two of Maggie’s new companions, Cole (James Devoti) and the masked Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari).
With nightfall approaching, the group decides to spend the night in a abandoned lot filled with shipping containers. Of course, they first must clear out the walkers infesting the lot, which includes a sequence in which a walker gets its head squashed by a large metal door.
“You don’t feel like you’re doing the show unless you have some really gruesome kill that have never been done before,” Cohan jokes.
That night, Maggie and Daryl talk, with Maggie filling Daryl in on where she has been and what happened to her in all the time she was gone. She says that she and Hershel had been staying with a group in Tennessee, but their settlement fell and she and a few others ran. Daryl asks her what happened but she doesn’t want to talk about it.
The next morning, they set out again. When they reach the encampment where the rest of Maggie’s group had been staying, it has been burned down. No one is nearby, save for two charred corpses. Cole alludes to another group called the Reapers being responsible, ostensibly the same group that attacked the Tennessee settlement.
Daryl finds some footprints running into the woods, so he and the others set off to find any survivors. They soon find a few others, who tell Maggie that they were set upon by unknown attackers who have been picking them off in the woods one by one. Soon, someone begins firing on the group, killing two of the other survivors from Maggie’s group.
Maggie moves to flush the shooter out, coming face to face with a massive man in a ghillie suit. She and the others fight with him, eventually surrounding and wounding him. Maggie essentially identifies the man as one of the Reapers and asks him why he killed their people. He replies, “Pope marked you.” With that, he pulls the pin on a grenade strapped to his chest and blows himself to pieces.
Maggie continues to search for Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller), who it turns out was sitting unhurt and unafraid in a tree the whole time. She joyfully reunites with him and brings him back to Alexandria, as Negan looks on from afar.
“To be playing a mother who has to keep her optimism for her kid is just so much of what I think drives the show and the characters forward,” Cohan said.
“Just the way he was dressed with the baseball cap and the nod to Glenn and the sort of sparkiness and the cheekiness of being up in the tree safe the whole time, while mom’s been through hell,” she continued. “It all feels like a bright little wink and nod to the brightness and hope that Glenn represented.”
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