The actress explains Maggie's state of mind on what to do with the prisoners — and Gregory

SPOILER ALERT: Read on only if you have already watched Sunday’s episode of The Walking Dead, “The King, The Widow, and Rick.”

There was a lot of stuff going on in the latest installment of The Walking Dead. Rick (unsuccessfully) attempted to make a new deal with Jadis and the Scavengers. Daryl, Tara, Michonne, and Rosita started their own resistance within the resistance. Carl befriended solo survivor Siddiq. And Carol tried her best to get Ezekiel out of his secluded, guilt-induced funk.

But perhaps the most intriguing angle of all was taking place at the Hilltop, where Jesus had forced Maggie into a dilemma in terms of what to do with the Savior prisoners he brought back from their raid. Jesus thought he had successfully convinced Maggie of the need to show the enemy mercy when she built a makeshift jail to house them, only to learn at the end that she actually planned to kill them unless they could be used as a bargaining chip in the war. And as the cherry on top, she also threw the duplicitous Gregory in the jail with them.

It was a big episode for Maggie, as we saw the newly installed Hilltop leader balancing her thirst for revenge with a tactical strategic plan. We chatted with star Lauren Cohan to get her take on the events, as well as some teases of what to expect next.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: We saw a few weeks ago when Jesus first showed up with those prisoners that Maggie was not too psyched to see that, and then that picks up here with her calling him out for putting her in that position and giving away their resources to care for the enemy. Is Maggie more upset about the logistical complications of having prisoners or the moral dilemma of what to do with these people Jesus just dropped at her feet?
LAUREN COHAN: I think it’s a bit of everything. It’s so funny. I don’t want to end up giving away the turnips because obviously they’re our favorite vegetable. [Laughs] I think that she has just got a lot of voices and a lot of cooks in the kitchen. She’s weighing up the safety and the survival of the Hilltoppers and Rick’s group and all these moving pieces that are going on. And then just this perpetual nag that is Gregory sitting on her shoulder.

There’s this huge dilemma introduced at the beginning: How do we continue on in our lives in a way that honors the fallen? She’s conscious of that, but she’s conscious of this immediate thing, and then she’s really just overwhelmed by this perpetual vengeance. I don’t think that I as Lauren really, really understood yet how vengeful Maggie is, seeing what we get to explore this season.

There are these decisions being made for the safety of all, and it’s just so fortified by her desire to see Negan go down. No matter what moral dilemma she’s in and decision she’s making, it’s impossible for it all to not be colored by that. So Jesus does acquiesce to that agenda, but I think he’s trying to remind her of the humanity that she has had. It’s been really great to have these warring factors, and the memories of Hershel and Glenn, and the pressures of protecting and providing for those to come. And the stresses of us all as a group entering into this giant war.

Maggie’s argument is, “We need to end this,” and Jesus’ argument is that they need to be able to live with themselves after the war is over. Who’s right?
It’s so funny, isn’t it? I don’t know! I just really feel like we all want to see this Negan thing ended. Who’s right? I don’t know.

We saw Jesus arguing with both Morgan and Tara about keeping those prisoners alive. Had Maggie been there in the moment when they captured them and Jesus argued to keep them alive, what do you think she would have done?
I think she may have needed to be held back from doing something. I do feel like she has the long game. That’s why she says at the end — much to their surprise — we’re not keeping them for sentimental reasons. But she knows that there’s a long game to play to make sure this is done right so that it is actually over. There’s more exploration of what it will really mean if we get what we want that comes in the next couple of episodes.

I do love that scene at the end, because we see Maggie have this jail built for the Saviors, and we think she’s come around to Jesus’ way of thinking. Yet then we learn in that big reveal at the end that she’s only keeping them alive as bargaining chips, and if that doesn’t work, that she still does plan on killing them. What does that decision say about Maggie, where her head is at with everything, and her ability to find a tactical advantage?
With as much as is going on, she still is very singularly focused on this one ultimate goal. And in that conversation that Aaron and I have at the end — the grief and the pain of not having these people — the only thing she can really do is stay focused. I think that the action Maggie really needs to take doesn’t necessarily need to be this, but happens to be this.

Credit: Gene Page/AMC

How about the decision to throw Gregory in then pen with them? What’s her plan for that guy?
I just love the stuff with [actor Xander Berkeley]. It’s so fun. It’s so interesting. We’ve got Gregory using his usual tactics to try to manipulate, and not only is Maggie now at his desk while he’s on the other side of it, but she ends up using his own tactics against him at the end of the episode. There’s a reason to not make too impulsive a decision, but what Maggie needs to do is put Gregory in his place and get him out of her head.

This is the great consideration of progressing to the place that she’s in. Whose advice do you take, and who is your trusted advisor? Who do you listen to? And at the end of the day, you still have to make the decision on your own. Gregory’s ideas do permeate as much as Jesus’ do, but she needs to get some space.

So what’s coming up next with Maggie on The Walking Dead?
It gets really dark. I really go into previously unknown territory with her this year. It’s been freakin’ wild.

For more Walking Dead scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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The Walking Dead

AMC's zombie thriller, based on the classic comic book serial created by Robert Kirkman.

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