Lauren Cohan makes her long-anticipated return to The Walking Dead. Season ten, episode seventeen, "Home Sweet Home", picks up directly after the defeat of the Whisperers. Maggie arrives in the nick of time, but is stunned to see Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan) free. Carol (Melissa McBride) admits she released him, and praises his role in killing Alpha. Maggie brings two new companions, but left Hershel (Kien Michael Spiller) behind. Daryl (Norman Reedus) and Kelly (Angel Theory) accompany Maggie to retrieve her son and new group. But they encounter a deadly new threat that has mysteriously targeted Maggie.
"Home Sweet Home" begins with Maggie killing walkers with Judith (Cailey Fleming), who explains Michonne's absence. Lydia (Cassady McClincy) and Nabila (Nadine Marissa) help pack a wagon as the survivors prepare to move. Maggie sees Negan for the first time. "I didn't escape...if that's what you're thinking," he says. Maggie rushes past Negan, who looks remorseful, to speak with Carol and Daryl.
Daryl and Carol are separating people to Oceanside and Alexandria. Maggie introduces Cole (James Devoti) and Elijah (Okea Eme-Akwari), the bad-ass in a metal mask we saw in the midseason finale. They tell her their group with Hershel is "waiting at the rendezvous." Maggie informs Daryl and Carol that "they lost their village and need to live with you." She wants to take them to the Hilltop.
Maggie, Cole, and Elijah are led to the burnt ruins of the Hilltop. Carol is forthcoming about Negan's involvement and why she released him, "Alpha had to die, and Negan was our best chance." She wants them all to return to Alexandria. Cole is unsure if he can be in a place with "the guy that torched the Hilltop and killed her husband." Daryl replies, "We're still figuring things out." Carol knows that Maggie will never forgive Negan. Daryl wonders if she has. They both agree it's good to see Maggie again.
Kelly joins Daryl and Maggie's group. She's still looking for her sister, Connie. Maggie walks briskly in the lead. They cover a lot of ground with her breakneck pace. Cole tells her they need to stop and seek shelter before dark. Maggie doesn't want to, but relents when Cole draws the line. They see a fenced yard with shipping containers and loads of walkers. Kelly thinks it's crazy to stay there, but Cole says the walkers are "no sweat."
Maggie opens the fence and they storm the yard. The elite fighters plow through the undead. Maggie gets a vicious cut on her left forearm trying to keep a container closed. Elijah and Daryl join her to lock in the walkers. That night, Maggie tends to her wound while Daryl asks where she has been. Maggie is reluctant to tell her complete story.
She and Georgie were gone for years. They were helping a group in Knoxville. The settlement fell and "I haven't seen her since." She's too broken up to tell Daryl what else happened there. She then took a "detour" to her "nana's place on the ocean." She had planned to go there with Glenn. Maggie took their son instead. Hershel loved the water. He asked "how his daddy died." Maggie said "a bad man killed him." She admits to Daryl, "I left home because I couldn't have Negan taking up any more space in my head." Maggie continues that they met another community of people, but that's also "over." Daryl reminds her that the Negan issue "is not decided."
The following day, they realize Kelly has gone missing. The group finds her by a broken down truck. Maggie chastises Kelly for leaving her post. Daryl updates her about the missing Connie. Maggie takes a softer tone. She tells Kelly that Elijah also lost a sister. Maggie sees a pillar of smoke in the distance. They race to the rendezvous point.
Maggie runs into the smoldering warehouse screaming for Hershel. They find two burnt bodies outside. Cole thinks it's the "Reapers." They wiped out their home from "out of nowhere." Maggie takes firm command. She "needs to find her son." Daryl believes the survivors scattered. He finds tracks in the dirt. They break into two groups to follow the trails.
Kelly, Cole, and Elijah stick together. Kelly asks Elijah to remove his iron mask, revealing a surprisingly scared young man, "This is a lot, but you're not alone." Daryl finds two women and a man who survived the attack. They didn't see anything, but curse "the goddamn Reapers." The women tell Maggie that Hershel escaped. Suddenly, a sniper shoots the man in the throat. He dies gurgling blood as the others take cover.
They are separated by sniper fire. Daryl and Maggie try to outflank the shooter. They hear a gunshot. One of the women has been shot in the stomach. "It's a trap, they're trying to flush us out, pick us off one by one," Daryl whispers. The other woman tries to help her friend and is also shot. She points to the shooter's location with her last breath. Daryl realizes it's one sniper.
Maggie finds the sniper's rifle unmanned. But he's watching her in a camouflaged ghillie suit. He jumps up and attacks her. She stabs him in the shoulder, but is whisked off her feet in a rope trap. Daryl shoots the sniper with an arrow, but is tossed into a tree and knocked unconscious. He awakens to see the sniper take off his suit and advance towards Maggie.
The sniper is shot with another arrow as Kelly, Cole, and Elijah arrive. They have him surrounded. "Who are you? You killed my friends and our family. Why did you do this!" Maggie screams. The sniper looks at her calmly, "Pope marked you." Then pulls a grenade pin from his tactical vest. Everyone hits the ground as he explodes.
They continue to search the woods. A pebble hits Maggie. She looks up to see Hershel hiding in a tree. That night, they take refuge again in the containers. Elijah brings Kelly a pear. She recognizes Maggie as "an older sister", a leader who's always taken care and been "in charge of people." Daryl and Maggie discuss their brutal and capable attacker. Maggie wants to make sure "nothing follows us back to Alexandria." Daryl agrees they need to "cover their tracks and take the long way back."
The group returns to Alexandria. The Whisperers left a lot of damage. Everyone is pitching in to rebuild. Negan looks at Maggie as he works. "So this is home sweet home?" Cole asks Maggie. "Yeah it is," Maggie takes Hershel's hand and leads him inside.
"Home Sweet Home" didn't give us any real answers about Maggie's absence. The Reapers have been introduced as a threat, but we don't know if the sniper worked for them. His remark to Maggie about "Pope" means that she's definitely made some enemies. Lauren Cohan continues to be great as Maggie. She's one of the show's strongest characters. Her and Hershel dealing with the reformed Negan should be quite interesting. The Walking Dead returns next Sunday night on AMC.