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The Walking Dead's Showrunner Explains That Shocking Stephanie Twist

In "The Walking Dead's" current 11th and final season, one of the biggest ongoing storylines has been the Alexandria survivors' integration into the Commonwealth, the massive post-apocalyptic civilization with the closest thing the world has to a functioning government, as well as a rigid class system.

Since arriving, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) finally met up with the mysterious Stephanie, only to realize she wasn't quite who she claimed to be. To quickly recap, in Season 9, Eugene began talking on the radio with a woman calling herself "Stephanie," who eventually invited him to the Commonwealth. When Eugene and his fellow Alexandria survivors arrived, Eugene met a woman claiming to be Stephanie (Chelle Ramos), and the two had a brief romance.

Then, in Season 11 episode 12, the show pulled a shocking twist when another Commonwealth member, Max (Margot Bingham), revealed to Eugene that she was the real Stephanie, and that the woman claiming to be Stephanie is actually a covert Commonwealth operative named Shira. Max, meanwhile, is the executive assistant to the Commonwealth's governor, Pamela Milton (Laila Robins), as well as the sister to the head of its army, General Mercer (Michael James Shaw).

In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, showrunner Angela Kang stopped by to explain Max's motivations and exactly what is going on.

Max's story makes more sense once you understand where she's coming from

First, Kang explained why Max began broadcasting on the radio in the first place–something that's strictly forbidden in the Commonwealth. "I think that legitimately Max was feeling adrift," Kang explained. "She feels like her job doesn't quite express who she is, that feeling that a lot of us have at various points in our lives. She was looking for something more, wishing for adventure. She has this mind that is bent towards engineering and just geeky things like Eugene. And so she makes this radio and starts calling out." 

Kang pointed out that it was Mercer's decision to have Shira pretend to be Stephanie, not Max's. Having to watch Eugene and another woman have a relationship was confusing and painful for Max. "I think Max would've been ready to try to meet Eugene if he ever made it in the gates but there's no guarantee that was going to happen," Kang continued. "And instead, she sees there's this person walking around pretending to be her, and that's very scary. And so for Max, she's been existing in this state of, 'What is even happening? Am I actually in danger? Does somebody know that that was actually me? I should keep my head down because my brother's saying so. He seems to be happy with her.'" 

In the end, Max finally revealed herself to Eugene only after the fake Stephanie, aka Shira, went missing. "For Max, she's just baffled and scared and is waiting for the right time to emerge," Kang concluded. "And when she starts seeing these posters for this Stephanie character has gone missing, it's like, "Okay, well, something has shifted, and so maybe now is my time to step forward."