Daryl Makes a Tough Call and Faces Off Against Alpha on 'The Walking Dead' (RECAP)

Emily Hannemann
Spoiler Alert Gene Page/AMC

[Spoiler Alert: Do not read ahead if you have not watched "Bounty," the February 24 episode of The Walking Dead]

For an episode about a dangerous supply run and a hostage exchange that could go sideways at any moment, the 11th episode of The Walking Dead's ninth season, "Bounty," manages to be oddly hopeful.

Carol's finally back, and she's on a mission — and then a side mission, because Ezekiel neglected to tell her he needs a certain special something for the upcoming fair. Meanwhile at Hilltop, the Whisperers and Alpha have made their demands and they have no intention of leaving without Lydia. This poses one of TWD's no-right-answer, no-good-outcome questions; should the group turn Lydia over to her abusive mother in order to save Alden and Luke? Or should they keep her safe and risk losing two of their own?

Either way, the group has a decision to make... and the consequences could be deadly.

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Flashback Friends

The episode opens at an undetermined point during the six-year time jump, with Carol, Jerry and Ezekiel waiting for some friends from Hilltop (who turn out to be Jesus and Tara). They give Tara and Jesus some medicine for a mysterious illness that had been going through Hilltop, though they say the worst has passed. Tara gives Ezekiel something in a poster tube and says, “Michonne was letting it collect dust.”

When he opens it after Tara and Jesus leave, he finds it’s Michonne’s charter from earlier in the season; the outline of rules every community would follow in order to unify the three groups as one. This informs Ezekiel’s latter mission, in the present. He, Carol, Diane, Jerry and a few others go hunt a herd of elk, but that’s not the true mission. Zeke tells Carol about a “side mission” he hadn’t let her in on: they’re going to an overrun movie theater to get a projector bulb, so they can show movies during the upcoming fair.

Last Best Chance

Carol proves receptive enough to the plan, though she questions why Zeke is risking the lives of “fathers and mothers” for a projector bulb. For her husband, the bulb is about more than just movies; it’s about uniting The Kingdom and the rest of the groups through the shared experience of a movie, and building the foundation of bonds that could grow stronger.

Using a boombox, they lure most of the walkers out of the theater and take down the few still left inside. Unfortunately, they hit a roadblock. There aren’t any bulbs in the main level of the theater; their last best chance is the projector room.

A Light Ending

While Diane and Jerry find a bulb but grapple with walkers in the projector room (and Jerry ultimately manages to carefully wrap — and then drop — the bulb), Carol and Zeke have a conversation about the future. Zeke admits that his side mission had a side mission: he also came to the theater to get a frame for the charter Tara had given him. He still hopes all the communities will come to the fair and that they’ll sign the charter into law, despite what Michonne said.

Carol suggests that the fair and trading might not be enough to keep the Kingdom afloat, and they might want to talk to Jesus about taking them and their people in. Ezekiel’s none too thrilled about that possibility, but before he and Carol can talk about it further, one of the soldiers bursts in and says the boombox died: they have less than 15 minutes to get everyone out of the theater.

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Jerry and Diane meet up with the group again, and Jerry admits he dropped the bulb, but it looked to be in one piece. The theater has about 30 walkers inside, but if they can clear it, they can get the bulb. Zeke’s ready to call it a day and get out, but Carol says otherwise. They take her advice and manage to take down the walkers and get the bulb out in one piece, then they all go home.

Wrong Answer

At Hilltop, things have gone from bad to worse. When the group refuses to give up Lydia, Alpha says “wrong answer” and calls for more of her terrifying Whisperer brigade. Daryl doesn’t want to send Lydia back to the Whisperers, but Magna makes a good point — what if Alpha has Alden and Luke? As (bad) luck would have it, Alpha indeed does have their friends, which she reveals when Daryl goes outside the gate to talk to her.

Alpha — or rather, one of Alpha’s people — also has a baby, which means Hilltop can’t use deadly weaponry against the assembled baddies. Thus, considering Alpha doesn’t want conflict but does want her daughter back, she suggests they trade Lydia for Alden and Luke. This changes Daryl’s mind, and he heads back inside the gates to find Henry and let him say goodbye to Lydia.

Natural Selection

There’s just one problem with this plan… Henry’s gone, and so is Lydia. Hilltop erupts in a slight panic as several people volunteer to check differing places for the pair of teens, but one of Henry’s friends from an earlier episode says she thinks she knows where he is. Daryl volunteers to go talk to him, but Enid steps up instead. She says that Henry likes her, and she’ll be able to talk him out of it. She and Henry’s friend head outside the walls.

Meanwhile, Connie watches from the cornfield as walkers approach. The Whisperers attempt to lead them away, but they’re drawn to the sound of the baby crying. Alpha gives the woman a look and she places the child on the ground, leaving it defenseless against the dead. “To live with the dead means to live in silence,” Alpha says. “If the mother can’t quiet the child, then the dead will. Natural selection.”

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Not Letting the Bad Things Change You

Luke doesn’t believe in that kind of natural selection, and he signals to Connie where she can find the crying baby. Connie runs out and takes the baby back into the cornfield, but that proves dangerous; it’s hard to see through the stalks and she can’t hear, so she ends up having to fend off several of the undead and nearly gets killed. Daryl saves her, and he brings her and the baby to safety.

Outside the walls, in the house where he once attended a “party” with a few other teenagers, Henry and Lydia talk. Lydia says her mom wasn’t supposed to come for her, and in doing so, she broke her own rules. “Maybe she’s sorry,” Lydia says. They’re interrupted by Enid, who Henry meets outside. Henry asks her how they can live with themselves if they give Lydia back.

Enid tells him about how she saw her parents die when she was his age, which made her focused on survival, but a letter Carl wrote to her changed her mind and made her want to live rather than just staying alive. He’ll live with it, she says, “by not letting the bad things change you.” In the end, Lydia makes his decision for him. She comes out of the house and says she’ll be okay with the Whisperers, but she’ll miss him. She gives him a goodbye kiss.

Making The Tough Call

The trade goes down as planned. Alden and Luke share a joyful reunion with their friends and family, while Lydia thanks her “mama” for coming to get her and says she’s sorry. Rather than a hug, this apology and expression of gratitude ends with a slap. “You call me Alpha, like all the rest,” Alpha says. With that, the Whisperers leave.

After, Daryl and Henry have another tense conversation about what happened with Lydia. Daryl says they have to just live with it, but Henry doesn’t want to do that, and he doesn’t think Daryl can, either. “I did what I had to do today. We all did,” Daryl says, and walks away.

Couldn’t Live With It

Of course, that isn’t the end of that. Henry’s friend comes to see Daryl that night with a note from Henry that simply says, “Couldn’t live with it. Left to find Lydia.” Daryl then leaves to go after Henry, but on his way out, he runs into Connie. Connie tells him she can’t live with it, either, and joins him.

Other Observations:

  • Jerry has a family now, and he managed to survive this episode! I was so concerned when they revealed he had kids, it meant he wasn’t making it out of this one. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case.
  • How great was it to see Tom Payne's Jesus, risen again? Even if we can't have him back in the present-day timeline, I'm elated he at least gets to live on in flashbacks.
  • I was happy to hear Carl mentioned again. It makes sense that Enid wouldn’t have forgotten about him after all this time — I’d imagine she still has his letter.
  • Tammy Rose and Earl getting screen time makes me VERY worried one of them will be getting a certain upcoming comic death.
  • Henry mentioning “when things went bad at Alexandria” makes me wonder if he means All Out War, or something after? Maybe something tied to those mysterious scars?

The Walking Dead, Sundays, 9/8c, AMC