Maggie Rhee: the kintsugi of ‘The Walking Dead’

3 mins read

Kintsugi, or Kintetsu Kouroi,, is known as the art of resilience. Originating from 15th century Japan, it involves repairing a broken object by piecing it with gold, silver, or platinum instead of covering its scars. It invokes beauty within the scars.

When I watched episode 18 of “The Walking Dead’s” extended 10th season, Maggie Greene Rhee (Lauren Cohan) reminded me of a Kintsugi.

Property of AMC and Image Comics

In my opinion, Maggie is the character who has had the most loss out of all the characters in the “Walking Dead.” She lost her home, her father Hershel Greene (Scott Wilson), her sister Beth Greene (Emily Kinney), and her husband, the father of her son Hershel, Glenn Rhee (Stephen Yeun) at the hands of Negan (Jeffery Dean Morgan), the leader of the Saviors. However, the losses may have broken Maggie but through her brokenness, she was forged into a fierce warrior and leader.

For those of you who watched the show, or read the comics, you’d know that we first meet Maggie on the Greene Family Farm in Season Two. We see her as an innocent farm girl who forms a relationship with future husband and resident group runner Glenn and slowly grows to a reliable member of Rick Grimes’ (Andrew Lincoln) group as they travel from the Greene Family Farm to the Prison, Terminus, and eventually the Alexandria Safe Zone. After Glenn’s death, we also see her become the leader of Hilltop after she gains the trust of its people.  In this episode, we see a different Maggie who still has a sense of the same young woman she once was but also fierce and determined. And it has a lot to do with her scars that make the character resilient like a kintsugi.

Kintsugi image courtesy of Kintsugi Spirit

Like a kintsugi, Maggie is ever more resilient and radiant. The latest episode of the extended 10th Season of “The Walking Dead” shows this. The episode, Home Sweet Home, was a homecoming for former farmgirl and the leader of the Hilltop. After returning just in time to rescue Father Gabriel (Played by Seth Gilliam) from a Whisperer, Maggie is seen killing a walker with ease and chatting with Judith. However, she eventually encounters her husband’s murderer Negan. He tries to make small talk and even tells Maggie that he “has not escaped.” It is clear that Negan is somewhat afraid of Maggie, especially after their last encounter in which the former wife of Glenn almost killed the leader of the Saviors. A much bigger blow to Maggie’s world was when Carol Peletier (Played by Melissa McBride) confessed to her about leaving Negan out to help kill Alpha (Played by Samantha Morton) and defeat the Saviors. 

Another example of Maggie being a kintsugi is her growth as a leader. When she returned, she and her son Hershel Rhee did not come alone. She brought with her a group of people who  were a part of a village which she once lived in when traveling with Georgie (Played by Jayne Atkinson). Maggie’s and her group lost their home and were being chased by a new group called the Reapers, which are far more dangerous than the Whisperers and Saviors due to their apparent guerilla and military tactics. Notable followers are two survivors named Cole and Elijah. Elijah is a masked survivor who appears to be mute but is a far more effective warrior due to his martial arts skills that he uses to kill walkers (zombies). And as an effective leader, Maggie is very relatable as seen when she connects with Kelly (Angel Theory) on their relationship with their sisters. The former farm girl has empathy for Kelly who is trying to find her sister Connie (Lauren Ridloff) since she had to deal with the pain of  losing her sister Beth Greene (Emily Kinney). 

Maggie’s inner resilience kicked in when the Reapers started to pick off members of her group one-by-one and, when her son’s life was threatened,. Maggie Rhee became more than a mother wanting to save him. She became a warrior hellbent on unleashing her wrath on those who tried to harm her son and her friends. This was shown when she fought a Reaper nearly on her own until he blew himself up with a grenade after muttering the words “Pope marked you.” Thankfully, Herschel is safe and appears to be very resourceful and witty like his late father when he tosses a rock at his mother and greets her with a smile on his face

Property of AMC and Image Comics

The world that Maggie returned to had become as broken as she did. The Hilltop community was another casualty in another war that the group had to endure. Several lives, notably Henry, Enid, Tara, and many others that Maggie knew, were lost to the Whisperers. Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus) had become a surrogate father of sorts to the introverted and mild-mannered daughter of Alpha, Lydia (Cassady McClincy). The Kingdom once led by King Ezekiel (Khary Patton) was also lost.  Judith Grimes (Cailey Flemming) had grown to a brave and resourceful 10-year old girl along with her brother Rick Grimes Jr. (Antony Azor), and RJ and Judith’s mother Michonne Hawthorne (Danai Gurira) had left Alexandria to go find Rick. Like Maggie, the community may be broken and fragmented due to the suffering and loss but also like Maggie, the community will be forged into gold. Like a Kintsugi. 

You can watch Maggie and the rest of the group fight walkers  “The Walking Dead” on AMC every Sunday at 7 p.m. “The Walking Dead” can also be viewed on the streaming service AMC+.

Brian Adigwu

Brian of Earth-16 is a podcaster for the Geek Talk with Brian of Earth-16 and a contributing writer/journalist for the Daily Planet. You can also hear Brian on the DC Comics Geeks Nation podcast. When not writing, Brian enjoys going to the world of comic books, TV shows, video games, and pro-wrestling. He also loves listening to other podcasts and having a philosophical conversation.

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