Spoiler Warning for Season 9, Episode 11 of “The Walking Dead,” as well as all episodes of the previous seasons. Certain spoilers from the graphic novel series will also be discussed. Minor spoilers from “Fear the Walking Dead” will also be discussed.
“You live with it by staying who you are, by not letting the bad things change you.”
War is brewing. Tensions are rising. In the latest episode of “The Walking Dead,” the conflict with the Whisperers takes a chilling turn as a hostage exchange is negotiated. We also check in with the Kingdom for the first time in quite a bit, adding much needed levity to the story while also setting up many important plot lines. Without any doubt, this is the strongest episode of the second half and serves as further proof that this is season is downright amazing.
We know very little about what transpired between the communities during the six year time jump. This episode opens up with a flashback to some period years prior to provide a small bit of insight. King Ezekiel, Jerry and Carol are shown to be waiting for some of their friends to arrive for a meeting. Jerry has an exciting bit of news to share in that Nabila is pregnant with his child. The trio are giddy from this reveal and Ezekiel congratulates his best friend with a hearty hug. Two familiar faces come riding up on horses; it’s Tara and Jesus. The Kingdom hands over supplies to Jesus to help assist with what appears to be an outbreak at the Hilltop. Jesus notes that Maggie is back at the community taking care of the crisis, but it is getting better. Mention of the tension comes in the form of Tara explaining that she has decided to leave Alexandria, taking extra supplies and also the charter that Michonne created for the communities in the process. It is clear from the dialogue that Alexandria has already isolated itself from everyone, but that not everyone agrees with Michonne’s leadership. Tara hands over the charter to Ezekiel in the hope that he will be the one to bring about the reunification of the communities. As Jesus and Tara depart, the trio open up the charter and take a look at it, seeing the various articles that are intended to bind the communities for life. The document is officially titled “Multi-Community Charter of Rights and Freedoms,” and is a clear example of just how hard Michonne worked to craft a basis for the future of all her people. Sadly, years have passed and the charter has not been signed and the survivors remain distant. What happened to cause this rift is still unknown, but that reveal may just be on the horizon.
All these years later and the charter is still in the possession of King Ezekiel. While looking over it, Dianne comes to alert him that a hunting party is about to head out. While walking, the two discuss some nearby herds that will need to be avoided while out on the hunt. There’s a great moment wherein Ezekiel notes how great it is for Dianne to be back at the Kingdom after she spent a significant amount of time at the Hilltop. Carol comes to let Ezekiel know that she will be joining him on the hunt, wanting to get away from her empty nest and to spend more time with her king. We get our first look at Jerry’s family after the time jump and it is revealed that he and Nabila now have three children. After a successful elk hunt, Ezekiel wants Carol to return to the Kingdom while he and some others go out on a side mission. Carol wants some of the action and insists on joining in what Jerry repeatedly calls “movie time” at a local theater. This mission is far less serious than what is going down at the Hilltop right now, but it’s still important. Ezekiel wants to retrieve a film projector light bulb to screen movies at the Kingdom. The community’s last bulb burnt out several years ago and as such, most of the young children don’t even know what a film is. Carol questions whether this is worth risking the lives of themselves and the Kingdom soldiers, but Ezekiel is adamant. The community needs this. The people need this.
Once inside the theater, the Kingdom army splits into groups and each has their own task. Some fighters guard the entrance to the screening room where debris is keeping a collection of walkers from entering the lobby. Ezekiel has another mission while at this theater. He collects a poster case to house the charter permanently before and after the leaders sign it. Carol remains a bit hesitant to believe that all of the communities, specifically Alexandria, will attend the Fair. She also raises the idea that if the Kingdom continues into disarray, that the residents move to the Hilltop with Jesus’ approval. Sadly, they are kept so far out of the loop that not only do they not know Jesus is dead, but they are also completely oblivious to the conflict with the Whisperers. Still, Ezekiel remains hopeful that everything will work out, but he does acknowledge that they must prepare for every outcome. From inside the projector box, Jerry works extremely carefully with Dianne to retrieve the bulb. He notes that any wrong move could render it unusable or could even make it explode. Once the bulb has been collected and placed in bubble wrap, the two go to exit the room, but are attacked by a walker. Dianne manages to dispatch it, however Jerry accidentally drops in into the walker-filled theater. After returning to the lobby and alerting the king to the accident, Jerry and the others must decide whether to go and retrieve the bulb or cut their losses and go home. Carol steps forward and makes a queen’s decree that they will get the bulb. In an epic walker-killing montage set to “It’s All Right Now” by Eddie Harris, the members of the Kingdom use their skills to take down dozens of walkers and recollect the bulb all before the herd arrives. Talk about efficiency.
The other prominent storyline of the episode deals with the immediate aftermath of the end of “Omega” when Alpha and the Whisperers rolled up to the Hilltop demanding Lydia. Before that, we check in with Enid, who plays a major role in the episode, as she treats Earl’s arm while Tammy observes and encourages her husband to retire from blacksmithing. Outside, there’s a great little moment as Tammy thanks Enid and encourages her to keep her faith alive that Alden will return. Marco alerts Enid and Tammy to the conflict brewing outside and the community goes into battle mode. From atop the lookout point, Tara tells Alpha that the Hilltop is more than prepared to defend itself and Daryl recommends that the group leave immediately. Alpha reiterates her singular demand that the community hand over her daughter. There will be no conflict if she is returned. Daryl decides to walk down to the barrier gate to speak with Alpha one-on-one. Realizing that the villain group is outnumbered, Daryl threatens to gun down Alpha and all of her people. The sound of a baby crying nearby chills Daryl to the bone as he realizes that the Whisperers have brought a newborn to what could be a bloody battle. Alpha orders Alden and Luke to be brought forward and their Whisperer masks are ripped off before they’re held with knives to their throats. “It’s a good trade,” Alpha explains, clearly believing she is in the position of power in this situation.
A decision has been made. The Hilltop must turn over Lydia or conflict will ensue. Daryl goes to collect Lydia from the jail, but Magna informs him that she is missing…and so is Henry. In a moment that proves Dog Dixon truly is Daryl’s dog, the canine manages to track down Henry’s last location at the Hilltop using one of his shirts. Daryl prepares to exit the community to go get him via the emergency escape route Sasha made, but Enid volunteers stating that she can make him come back and that she is responsible for Alden. Addy leads the way, realizing that he most likely took Lydia to the hideaway cabin that the Hilltop teens hung at in “Evolution.” At the shack, Lydia dresses in normal clothes rather than scraps and she notes that it feels nice. Enid and Addy arrive and Henry comes out to speak with them, vehemently refusing to give up his two-day girlfriend. It is here that Enid really shines as she explains that this life isn’t fair, and that they just need to look out for their own people right now. She also tells Henry about losing her parents, and also Carl. For the first time since he wrote it, the specifics of Carl’s letter to Enid are revealed by her; he told her that her life must be more than just surviving somehow. Since his passing, Enid has been working to follow the advice Carl gave her, but it hasn’t been easy. Lydia steps out of the cabin and states that she will return to her mother, citing the fact that she misses her people. It almost seems as if her decision was based more out of a desire to not want Henry to have to give her up. It’s been clear since her introduction that Lydia and Henry have feelings for one another, and this is further proof of that.
This episode takes a dark turn; dark for even “The Walking Dead.” In a series of events of that really highlight just how horrific this show can get a times, and also just how ruthless the Whisperers are, we hear the sound of the baby crying. Moments before, Alpha had sent some of her people to keep back a herd that was approaching the Hilltop. Now, the baby’s cries are drawing the real walkers toward the standoff. The mother and Alpha make eye-contact and the true nature of the leader comes to light. Giving just a glance, Alpha instructs the mother to lay down the baby on the ground and walk away. Alden is absolutely stunned to see this and calls Alpha out about it, but the Whisperer leader makes it clear that in order to move among the dead, you have to be quiet. In her words, the baby won’t be quiet, so natural selection will have its way. With his hands bound behind him, Luke manages to sign to Connie, who is still hiding in the cornfields nearby. She sees the baby laying on the ground and charges out of her hiding spot to the rescue, shooting a walker with her slingshot and kicking another one to the ground. She grabs the baby and runs back into the cornfields. Viewers are thrown right into Connie’s point of view as the sound is wiped away to highlight the fact that she must fend off walkers while not being able to hear them coming. The baby is crying, drawing more and more into the field, but Connie is all alone and manages to take several down. Thankfully, Daryl swoops in and kills one walker before it bites Connie. Kelly, Tammy and Earl help bring Connie and the baby back to the community. This scene is probably the highlight of the episode and really shines as a piece of genuine terror.
The episode wraps up as the hostage exchange comes to fruition. Daryl walks Lydia out of the Hilltop’s gate while Alden and Luke are brought forward. Once our people are returned, Enid embraces Alden and states that she never wants to let go of him again. When Lydia reunites with her mother it isn’t under happy terms. We see the abuse firsthand as Alpha slaps her daughter across the face before pulling her in for a warm hug. It’s clear from their dialogue that Lydia isn’t allowed to call her mother anything other than Alpha. When night falls, Henry stops Daryl and expresses the fact that he’s having a hard time with what they just did. Daryl flat out tells him that the world sucks and that some difficult decisions have to be made. A beautiful montage set to music shows where all of the characters are at the end of the episode. Magna’s crew celebrate Luke’s safe return in their trailer with booze, but Connie isn’t feeling it. Tammy and Earl hold the Whisperer baby, possibly revealing that they have adopted the newborn. Enid and Alden have romantic time in their trailer. Jerry inserts the new projector bulb as Ezekiel and Carol kiss in an absolutely stunning shot. Later, Jerry is shown taking care of his own baby while Nabila sleeps. This wouldn’t be an episode of “The Walking Dead” without something popping off in the final moments. Addy speaks with Daryl in the barn to show him a note Henry left behind. He left…to go find Lydia. As Daryl preps to head out in search of him, Connie steps forward and communicates with Daryl to let him know that she also can’t live with what they did and that she wants to come along with him. Daryl is hesitant at first, but Connie persists and the two head out with Dog to retrieve the prince of the Kingdom.
The good in “Bounty”
- The ruthlessness of Alpha and the Whisperers in action. They really are animals that don’t act as normal humans do. Alpha rules by fear as seen in the glare given to the mother, ordering her to lay down her baby.
- Daryl making the call to hand over Lydia solely to get Alden and Luke back. It isn’t the easiest or best decision, but it’s what needed to be done.
- Enid really standing up and trying to make Henry understand why Lydia needs to be handed over. Her monologue about her parents and Carl really shows how much she has grown as a character.
- Connie’s scene in the cornfields with the baby is some of the most intense moments the show has done in recent memory.
- Connie teaming up with Daryl and Dog to go out and recover Henry. This is surely going to be an interesting dynamic that forms and could make for a fascinating friendship.
- The opening flashbacks showing a brief moment during the time jump and revealing some insight into the
- The juxtaposition between the intense conflict at the Hilltop and the lighthearted mission the Kingdom is really well done.
- Jerry becoming a father is the good news we need in this world. What a wonderful father he must be. The excitement Carol and Ezekiel have for him is also great.
- Carol and Ezekiel’s romance continues to be amazing. They really are made for one another. On the outside, Carol seems to be annoyed by Ezekiel’s campiness, but she loves it deep down.
- The musical montages of the episode are simply too great to put into words.
- Seeing Jesus again, even in flashback form, is very much welcomed and appreciated.
The iffy in “Bounty”
- The interactions between Enid and Alden do still feel a bit forced, but that may just be because their relationship hasn’t received much screentime. It’s great that they’ve both found happiness, but we haven’t been able to witness the development together, so it still feels a bit stiff.
- The same is true for Henry and Lydia’s relationship, but this is even more stiff considering they have only known each other for a handful of days. Henry risking it all for Lydia is pretty hard to believe.
The bad in “Bounty”
- Again, Henry’s actions continue to paint him as incredibly naive and not all that equipped to survive long term in the apocalypse. It just isn’t believable that Carol’s child would act this foolish, even if his motivations are pure. After all of the children she has had to witness dying, wouldn’t it make more sense for Henry to be a hardened survivor like she is?
- The fact that Carol and the Kingdom are still unaware of the conflict with the Whisperers is downright ridiculous. It’s pretty much exactly what happened during the conflict with the Saviors when Carol wasn’t made aware until MANY episodes after Glenn and Abraham were killed. Keeping Carol out of the loop is tiring and does not benefit her story.
Top performances in “Bounty”
- Lauren Ridloff as Connie
- Katelyn Nacon as Enid
- Samantha Morton as Alpha
- Norman Reedus as Daryl Dixon
- Melissa McBride as Carol Peletier
- Callan McAuliffe as Alden
Lingering thoughts and predictions
- There was something extremely worrying about how Connie was sitting by herself near the end of the episode. Is it possible that she was bitten during the scene in the cornfields? She’s seen writing a note, so could this be a goodbye letter?
- Enid made reference to the death of her parents, which was shown in a flashback during the episode “JSS.” Her “Just Survive Somehow” mantra is mentioned once again, but it seems that Carl has inspired her to move past just surviving and instead build a life worth living.
- Earl and Tammy made note of the upcoming Fair, and seem to be planning on attending. Who else plans on going from the Hilltop?
- Earl and Tammy adopting the Whisperer baby parallels Aaron adopting baby Gracie after her father was killed by Rick at the Savior outpost. Now our group is raising two children that were orphaned by two villain groups.
- Henry mentions that Daryl helped out at Alexandria when things went bad, but no specifics are given. Is this the unknown event that caused the separation of the communities and resulted in Daryl and Michonne having the scars on their backs?
- Carol is the happiest she has been in a long time, but that probably means she is headed toward tragedy.
- Once again, Tara gets to demonstrate her leadership skills, but Daryl is the one to step forward face Alpha one-on-one. It’s important to note that Tara had already made the decision to hand over Lydia before Daryl returned to the community to retrieve her.
- The simple fact that Jerry has a family puts an immediate target on his back, as well as Nabila and their children. Please stay safe.
- Ezekiel mentioned Oceanside in the present timeline so it appears that the community IS still standing, but is far removed from everyone else. We don’t know if all members of the community, including Cyndie, survived the time jump.
- Ezekiel has a line about how Henry used to love movie nights. This is a direct reference to a great moment back in “The Well” in which Henry asks Benjamin if he can stay up late to watch movies.
“Bounty” is a wonderfully strong episode that really pushes the story in plenty of exciting directions. The conflict with the Whisperers continues to escalate and it looks as though we are headed straight for a deadly end to the season. Hopefully, the communities start to come back together, because we need everyone on the same page now more than ever.
Be sure to tune into “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.