'The Walking Dead' executive producer explains why that shocking twist happened on the season 9 premiere

lauren cohan the walking dead 901

Warning: There are major spoilers ahead for „The Walking Dead“ season nine.

The Walking Dead“ season nine premiere kicked off with a flash-forward ahead in time, new opening credits, and a big death you may not have seen coming on the first episode.

This is your last chance to head back before spoilers. 

walking dead 901 maggie

On the premiere, Gregory set a plan in motion to try and assassinate current Hilltop leader Maggie (Lauren Cohan) near the end of the season premiere. As a punishment for his crime, Maggie decided against locking Gregory up in a prison cell. 

Gregory’s resentment of Maggie and Rick’s group has been evident ever since his introduction near the end of season six. After flip-flopping allegiances for the past two seasons, Maggie decided the former leader of the Hilltop had been given enough chances. 

At the end of the premiere, Maggie made the difficult decision to have Gregory hanged for his crimes.

It’s a scene that’s straight out of the comics, so fans probably saw it coming. However, it was a shock to see Xander Berkeley’s character leave the show on the season premiere instead of a few episodes into the season.

Why didn’t Maggie choose to spare the former Hilltop leader? 

gregory maggie 901 walking dead

„I think it just goes a lot to Maggie’s state of mind,“ executive producer and season premiere director Greg Nicotero told INSIDER. „The last time that we saw her, she had been kind of betrayed by Rick, because the entire intent was to find Negan and kill him.“

Nicotero said that now that Maggie has her son Hershel to look out for, she feels the need to step up and be a leader not only for him, but to guarantee the safety and future of the Hilltop. 

„The scene where Rick and Maggie are on the balcony, and they’re talking, I love that Maggie says, ‚Listen, Rick. You said that eventually, people were going to be following me, and you were going to be following me. That hasn’t happened yet,'“ he continued. „She’s really stepping up and challenging Rick, and saying, ‚You know what? You have your way of doing things. I have my way of doing things, and this is all fine and good, but I’m going to do things the way I want to do them.'“

Plan to see a lot more of the differences between Maggie and Rick’s leadership styles as the season continues its next few episodes. 

the walking dead 901 rick

Though we expected to see Gregory’s defiance and eventual death from the comics make it to screen, we were surprised to see it happen so early on the season. Nicotero said that was purposeful. 

„Because it’s so unexpected, we really felt that it was important to kind of launch Maggie’s story, at that point, and to let the audience know that you can’t screw around with her,“ he said of killing Gregory off in the premiere. „I mean, she’s not going to stand by idly while things happen.“

„Maggie is prepared to do what she needs to do,“ continued Nicotero. „She’s been grieving Glen very much so for the past two seasons, so this is, it’s just a great luck of change to get a chance to see Lauren Cohan really, really having an opportunity to get into some great character stuff with Maggie, because she’s been an amazing character since season two.“

„The Walking Dead“ airs Sundays at 9 p.m. on AMC.

You can follow along with our „Walking Dead“ coverage all season long here. Sign up for our „Walking Dead“ newsletter, which will be sent every Monday morning throughout season nine, here.

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