In last week's season premiere of The Walking Dead, Maggie became the official leader of the Hilltop community after Gregory's treachery so gloriously backfired on him.
When the cowardly bureaucrat revealed that he'd made a backdoor deal with Negan to double-cross the Survivors, the collateral damage he caused lasted about 30 seconds. When threatened with the loss of their homes if they fought agains the Saviors, the Hilltop community members outside Negan's gate didn't blink. At this point, Jesus triumphantly yelled what everyone had known for weeks: "The Hilltop stands with Maggie!" And just like that, Maggie found herself promoted.
When she first appeared in Season 2, Maggie was a fearful farm girl, unaware of her own strength and resolve. Since then, she's blossomed into a fair-minded and determined leader, learning first from Rick, then Deanna Monroe, who personally tapped her to be the next leader of the Alexandria Safe Zone. The late congresswoman saw political acumen in Maggie she obviously thought should be encouraged, and we saw that in action when Maggie arrived at the Hilltop and faced resistance from Gregory at every turn. During Season 7, she skillfully swallowed her feelings of disgust and rage at Gregory's selfish nature, and managed to create a tense, but stable working relationship with the man. Until he pulled that unimaginably boneheaded move in "Mercy," that is.
But this article isn't about Maggie's leadership skills. It's about whether Rick, longtime leader of the Survivors, would ever give up his mantle and follow Maggie. She's obviously proven herself to be a more than capable leader, and Rick has supported and endorsed her at nearly every turn. The question here isn't whether Maggie would make a good leader -- the question is whether Rick would make a good follower. Hell, if he'd even be willing to be a follower. Given what we know of him so far, the answer is a tentative, "Yes."
Rick isn't a man who seeks power for power's sake. He's a guy who does what needs to be done, and often isn't that thrilled to be doing it. His furious shooting at Negan as the latter scrambled to dodge bullets in the Sanctuary confrontation was pretty out of character, to be honest. Rick doesn't love killing, but as leader of the Survivors, he's tasked with doing it a lot. His mission has always been to find the stability he enjoyed pre-Apocalypse, or something at least reminiscent of it, and leadership typically doesn't offer that kind of respite.
Speaking at New York Comic Con, Andrew Lincoln seemed to echo those sentiments. "He’s getting tired… he’s not a politician. He’s a general… he’s a sheriff’s deputy — that’s where he comes from, that’s his DNA," Lincoln said. "Now, Maggie is different and Deanna sort of spotted her as a future political leader — somebody that could run things. She’s industrious… she’s respected, principled and I think that Rick is very much [tired]. He just wants it done, and then other people can take over."
At the very least, it's clear that Lincoln sees Maggie as the more suitable long-term leader and Rick as a general who'll someday soon be ready to lay down his arms. And let's not forget the fact that Rick basically said as much to Maggie before they left the Hilltop for the Sanctuary.
After she thanks him for showing her how to be someone worth following, Rick grabs her shoulder and earnestly tells her, "After this, I'm following you." It certainly sounds like he's ready to pass the torch. We'll have to see whether or not the events of Season 8 will allow that to happen.
Airing Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on AMC, The Walking Dead stars Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes, Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon, Lauren Cohan as Maggie Rhee, Chandler Riggs as Carl Grimes, Danai Gurira as Michonne, Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier, Lennie James as Morgan Jones, Alanna Masterson as Tara Chambler, Josh McDermitt as Eugene Porter, Christian Serratos as Rosita Espinosa and Jeffrey Dean Morgan as Negan.