"She's doing everything in her power to not give in to the impulse to kill him when he says that."

Sunday's season 11 premiere of The Walking Dead ended with a shocking move from Jeffrey Dean Morgan's Negan when he left Lauren Cohan's Maggie to die rather than help pull her on top of a subway car as zombies were pulling her back down onto the tracks. (We'll have to wait until next week to see if she survives after his diabolical decision.)

But there was perhaps an even more gasp-inducing moment between the two earlier in the episode. Convinced that Maggie had only brought him down into the zombie-infested D.C. metro tunnels to kill him, Negan shot back that he would not allow her to put him down like a dog "like Glenn was." Considering Negan is the one who put Maggie's husband down — bashing his skull in with a barbed-wire covered baseball bat right in front of her — it was a loaded comment to say the least.

What was Cohan's reaction when she first saw the line in the script? "It was disgusting," she says. "When I read that, I thought it was just pathetic for Negan to do that."

The Walking Dead
Lauren Cohan and Jeffrey Dean Morgan on 'The Walking Dead'
| Credit: Josh Stringer/AMC

Cohan also gives her character credit for not taking out her nemesis right then and there (which may have actually been prudent considering what happened later). "It's this boiling point, and she's doing everything in her power to not give in to the impulse to kill him when he says that, especially after everything he does to egg her on up to that point."

The two share an interesting dynamic — while Negan appears to be trying to play tough guy with a comment like that, Cohan thinks it shows something else entirely. "You can feel Negan's paranoia," she says. "He really thinks this is what's happening and we're on this death march where I can get him away from Alexandria's eyes to kill him. He's scared of that — and he should be because she's like a hair's breadth away from letting it happen. And she's got a fricking gun in her hand and all these people with her who have been through it together and would do anything for her. He should be scared."

The way Cohan sees it, Negan may have been hoping for Maggie to pull the trigger as an easy (or, at least, easier) way out: "He is at a point where he can't take the tension of it anymore. It's his need to provoke me so much that I might kill him because he's so f---ing scared of being trapped like this is how I justify him saying it."

And, Cohan notes, the actor delivering the line recognized the weight of it as well. "Jeff did not want to say it," says Cohan about the actor having to utter Glenn's [Steven Yeun] name in that way. She's certainly right about that; Jeffrey Dean Morgan explained to EW why he was opposed to delivering the line, saying, "I fought it! That's the one line that I immediately called [showrunner Angela Kang] and I was like, 'I can't say it. I can't f---ing bring up Glenn's name here.'"

But, as we've learned, when Negan gets backed into a corner, he tends to come out swinging — bat or no bat. "The episode is about going deeper and deeper into our own individual hell," Cohan says. "I love when Maggie says to Negan earlier [before they enter the subway tunnels], 'What, you don't want to go down there?' And it's almost like, 'I've been there. And I know you've probably been there, but we're going there again.'"

We'll find out if that decision winds up being the worst one Maggie ever made, or if she somehow makes it out alive and ends up giving in to that first impulse after all.

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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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