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The Walking Dead 9.11 Review – ‘Bounty’

February 25, 2019 | Posted by Katie Hallahan
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The Walking Dead 9.11 Review – ‘Bounty’  

Tonight on The Walking Dead, tense negotiations between Hilltop and the Whisperers forces everyone to wonder, what can they live with? Meanwhile, Ezekiel is on a mission that puts a lot on the line for a fancy light bulb, but victory holds a much larger symbolic weight.

The plot: At Hilltop, the group (mainly Daryl) begin to talk with Alpha, who only wants her daughter back. Despite their other transgressions–crossing into their territory and killing their people–Alpha won’t start anything with them and will return Luke and Alden alive in exchange for Lydia. Neither Lydia nor Henry are keen on this, and he takes her to the teenagers’ hideout to escape. Enid and Addy (one of the teens) find them, urging them to return even though they admit that yes, it sucks, and Lydia says she’ll go and she’ll be okay. After a tense moment in the field where a Whisperer leaves a crying baby for the walkers, whom Connie exposes herself to save, and the two are then saved by some of the Hilltoppers who snuck out the side to do so. In the end, however, Henry can’t live with leaving Lydia with Alpha. He leaves to get her back, and Daryl and Connie leave to get him back. Over at the Kingdom, a hunting trip for elk turns into a side mission for a projector bulb for their movie theatre. It becomes a bit harrowing, naturally, and they almost leave it behind, but at Carol’s unexpected insistence, they recover the bulb. Ezekiel hopes that the fair, and a movie, will bring the communities together to finally sign the charter written up years ago by Michonne. But they pass a mysterious symbol on a sign on the way back, which will surely be important later.

What can you live with? That question and all its implications form the theme of tonight’s episode. TWD has posed the question of whether surviving is truly living before, but now that the survivors have been surviving for quite a while, enough time to get comfortable and look beyond what that into what it means to live. We’ve also seen them consider, quite seriously and intensely, that to move past surviving, you need make a plan for what comes after. The pursuit of that ideal has ended more than one life on this show, including both of the Grimes men, and arguably even those sacrifices were worth the difference they made.

But danger and difficult choices have quite literally come to the doorstep of our survivors once again. And not only do they already know that Alpha is an abusive, manipulative, and powerful woman at the start of these negotiations, she makes it quite clear where her morals lie. When a baby’s cry threatens to draw walkers on them unwanted, Alpha does nothing but shrug at the mother, giving an unspoken order that goes utterly unquestioned to leave it to the walkers. No one makes any more to help or protect this child–no one but the Hilltoppers. It gives more context to Lydia’s sudden realization last week, triggered by a baby’s cry, seeing a woman comfort her child out in the open yet in the safety of the walls and without anyone telling her to do something as ghastly as leave it for the dead. And sure enough, in a continued flip of what the Whisperers are like, Connie risks her life for a child she doesn’t know, as does Luke by telling her about it, as do Daryl, Kelly, and the others who hurry out to help her and bring them both back in. It’s the kind of situation that immediately establishes stakes and clear lines of what people will and will not do, where they draw the line, what they’re willing to risk. We learned a lot about Alpha from this, and she learned a lot about the Hilltoppers, too.

But even knowing this, they make the exchange. They have to. Alpha’s right, they know it’s a good deal, and avoids a conflict that, while the Hilltop could quite probably win, it would be bloody and dangerous. Even Lydia knows, I think, that making the exchange and going back is the best of a bad set of choices. Personally, I don’t think she at all missed her people or her mother, not to the point of wanting that over this potential new life anyways, but I do think she knew that she didn’t want anyone to die on her account. Maybe even that she didn’t want anyone from this specific place to die. So she does what she must, she goes back to her mother who won’t even let her call her that, back to these people who will leave a baby to die with no second thoughts. But even with Alpha’s less than warm reception of her daughter, that brief moment where she smiles upon seeing Lydia again, that was perfect. It looked and felt genuine, particularly since Alpha doesn’t allow herself to smile, that she buries the emotion and expression as quickly as she can. So while she does care about Lydia, while she does go out of her way to get her back, there’s still a line she won’t cross in showing that emotion. That’s what she can live with.

It’s no surprise that Henry can’t, however. He’s still so young, and more than a little smitten with Lydia, but what it comes down to is that he’s a good person, and still hopeful. It makes sense, I mean, he spent his formative years being raised by Ezekiel and Carol, of course he’s a good person who values life and the safety of those he cares about, as well as doing the good and honorable thing. While no one likes what happened, he’s the one who bonded with Lydia, and he can’t live with having sent her back to that life. Daryl, also unsurprisingly, can’t live with Carol’s son going off alone into an almost certainly fatal situation. And Connie, in a move that I very much like because it means we’ll see her away from her usual group, can’t live with sending that girl back to a group of people who would treat a harmless baby like that.

Are these all smart decisions? Probably not. But like Enid said, living isn’t about just surviving, it’s not letting the world change who you are, even when there are things you need to do to survive. There’s a difference between being able to survive something and not being able to live with it, and I enjoyed the exploration of that with these different characters. Also, Samantha Morton is excellent as Alpha, a round of applause for her.

Ezekiel’s side mission is a different sort of example of what can you live with. It’s born of both the frivolity one can afford when your basic needs are covered and you have security, and also the sort of determined optimism for a future state that one needs to keep going, to get to the ‘what comes after.’ A projector bulb for a movie night is silly, after all, and not something worth risking so many lives over, but it’s what it symbolizes. Ezekiel is also the keeper of the charter Michonne was working on six years prior, before Rick’s “death,” but it has yet to be signed by anyone. Heck, of the 5 communities listed, I think only 3 still exist. We know Sanctuary is long gone, and I don’t think we’ve heard a thing about Oceanside since the time jump. Still, Ezekiel’s hope is that something like a movie, an experience that would be eye-opening and amazing to the young, and a dose of fond memories for the older people, would bring them together. Give them hope for something new, something better, build a sense of community between them. His greatest hope is that it will lead to signing the charter, to each of them pledging to help one another, to taking another step towards rebuilding the world.

I’d like to think Ezekiel is onto something here. He’s built his whole persona around such theatrics for exactly this purpose, to give people something to believe in, something larger than life and bigger than themselves. I suppose that’s what he can’t live without–giving people something to hope for, a reason to come together. Not only does Kingdom need this, as we keep hearing they’re not doing that great, but the coldness between the communities is downright disheartening. From the flashback at the opening, we learn that this has been going on for quite some time indeed; Tara left Alexandria permanently over their stinginess to help Hilltop during a time of need. She makes mention of Michonne probably not being Ezekiel’s favorite person at that time, and later, Henry makes mention of Daryl having done something at Alexandria when things got bad. But once again, we’re left with an incomplete picture of what happened. Whatever it is, with Ezekiel getting the bulb and the frame for the charter, and with Carol getting on board, we end on an optimistic note here. Although there was that mysterious and foreboding that surely won’t come back to haunt anyone.

I’m sure there are those who will say that many of the choices made in this episode were poor ones, and I see where they’re coming from. But for my part, they all felt genuine and true to character, and not bad calls at all. People did what they had to do, both practically speaking, and personally. Sometimes that means taking an impractical risk, because the outcome is worth it. Or maybe just because not trying isn’t something you can live with.

The final score: review Good
The 411
While I wouldn't call this one of the best episodes of the show, this was a solid one. Alpha's extended introduction was fantastic and chilling, bravo and welcome to Samantha Morton who portrays her. She's a new sort of bad guy for the show, but she brought with her some of the classic TWD-style conflicts, where all the choices are bad ones, and there's no 'the only way to win is not to play' option out there. Her appearance makes several characters have to think long and hard about not just the situation in front of them, but about themselves as people, their communities, and their morals. What can you live with? And while Ezekiel, Carol, and Jerry's side quest was more frivolous and light-hearted on the surface, it had a serious matter at its core, one that is close to the heart of these characters, and that's another classic TWD maneuver as well. Plus, bonus points for Jerry, because Jerry's awesome and I always love seeing him, and now he has 3 adorable kids, too!