The Walking Dead season 9 episode 2 set up Lauren Cohan's big Maggie exit

Jacob Stolworthy

There's a shadow hanging over The Walking Dead season 9 in the form of the forthcoming departures of lead stars Andrew Lincoln and Lauren Cohan.

By the time the midseason finale airs in December, both actors will have exited the show although details on what will happen to their characters - Rick Grimes and Maggie Rhee - are currently unclear.

While it seems likely that Lincoln is definitively done with the series, a return for Cohan seems more definite - and tonight's episode, titled “The Bridge,” proved just that.

One moment sees Maggie taking some much-needed time off from hanging people at the Hilltop. She's hanging with her baby when Jesus (Tom Payne) walks in and the following interaction takes place.

Jesus: “The twins drop off another letter from Georgie?”

Maggie: “No, I was just reading one of the old ones she sent, thinking about how much she’s done for us. How much there’s still left to do.”

Jesus: “You thinking about joining her? You know she’ll never get tired of asking.”

Maggie: “No. I like her ideas, but not that much.”

Jesus: “I bet she’s got a killer record collection by now.”

Maggie: “I’m plenty busy building a future right here.”

Now, for those who don't remember, Georgie is the well-dressed woman who showed up in the twelfth episode of season eight.

Played by Jayne Atkinson (House of Cards' Cathy Durant), Georgie tells Maggie she wants to trade knowledge, hinting that she comes from a community comprised of decent people who want to build a future in the apocalypse.

Comic book readers believe the character is based on Pamela Milton, a recent addition who leads a settlement known as The Commonwealth and is poised to become a major player in a new storyline arc named The New World Order.

Based in Ohio, the Commonwealth is home to over 50,000 people - a full-sized community with jobs, theatre and military force. It's very likely that Maggie may take some time off by heading that way some time soon.

Addressing this theory with The Hollywood Reporter, Angela Kang said: "That's a fair suspicion [but] I'm not going to say that's exactly what happens."

If Maggie's looking for transport, look no further than that mysterious helicotper which made yet another return in this week's episode. Coincidentally, its first appearance arrived in the same episode Georgie was first introduced in.

Kang confirmed Cohan's planning to return at a later date despite her starring role in new sitcom Whiskey Cavalier.

"We'll cross that bridge [when we get to it]. Lauren and I have had conversations, and she's excited to come back, even if it's not for a full season. We can work with that. That's scheduling problems. We'll figure out the story."

She continued: "We have a great relationship, and she still loves the show. Sometimes, our actors need to spread their wings a little bit. We get that."

The Walking Dead continues in the US on AMC every Sunday with the simulcast airing in the UK at 2am. The episode is also available to watch on NOW TV ahead of its repeat on FOX at 9pm the following evening