Warning! SPOILERS for The Walking Dead season 9, episode 13.
The Walking Dead season 9 introduces a new group of survivors - The Highwaymen - making them new allies as well as a replacement for the Saviors. Since the time jump, The Walking Dead has gone through all kinds of changes, but the biggest change is how the communities are now so estranged from one another. Before Rick "died", the communities were on their way to rebuilding civilization, but since then, they've each grown more isolated and paranoid.
The Walking Dead season 9 also sees the survivors up against a new enemy - the Whisperers. They're a group who disguise themselves with the skins of the dead, moving among herds of walkers, and are led by a cruel woman who goes by the name, Alpha. The Whisperers are unlike any enemy the survivors have fought before and they are without a doubt the most dangerous threat they've faced. And in order to fight this most dangerous enemy, the survivors are going to need all the help they can get.
Earlier this season, The Walking Dead introduced a mysterious symbol that appeared to mark a border of some kind. And originally, we speculated this symbol was linked to the Whisperers and might be setting up an attack on the fair. Now, however, it's been revealed that the symbol belongs to the Highwaymen - a new group who are patrolling the roads nearby the Kingdom and stealing from unsuspecting passersby, just as their name would suggest. So who are the Highwaymen and how might they be replacing the Saviors?
Who Are The Walking Dead's Highwaymen?
The Highwaymen make their first appearance in The Walking Dead season 9 episode "Chokepoint", coming in to conflict with the Kingdom. They first attack a group being led by Jerry, holding them a gunpoint and stealing their armor, weapons, and other supplies. They give Jerry a letter (marked by that strange symbol that looks like sideways "K") to deliver to Ezekiel, informing the Kingdom that they must either give the Highwaymen the supplies they demand or all those traveling to the fair will be forced to pay a toll.
Outraged at the fair's success being held for ransom, Ezekiel - along with Carol, Jerry, and others from the Kingdom - head out to confront the Highwaymen. And initially, Ezekiel believes their only option will be to kill them, but Carol sees another way. She believes that since the Highwaymen didn't kill Jerry's group when they so easily could have, then they may be people with whom they can talk and maybe even strike a deal. At the meeting place, the Kingdom makes them a new offer: the Highwaymen are welcome to come and trade at the fair in return for keeping the roads safe and clear for those traveling to the Walking Dead's upcoming fair.
And at first, the Highwaymen aren't all that interested, believing their original offer is still the better deal for them. Then Carol pulls out her trump card - if the Highwaymen come to fair, they can watch a movie thanks to the Kingdom recently having secured a new bulb for their projector. And the promise of a such treat proves to be more than enough to sway the Highwaymen into agreeing to their terms. When Tara's group are traveling from Alexandria and run in to trouble on the road, the Highwaymen come to their rescue, and later on in the episode, the Highwaymen are officially welcomed to the Kingdom.
How The Highwaymen Will Replace The Saviors
The Highwaymen's transition from enemies into friends is faster than any group ever encountered on The Walking Dead, but there's a good reason why - there are spots for five communities to sign Walking Dead's charter, but only four communities remain: Alexandria, Hilltop, the Kingdom, and Oceanside. The Sanctuary no longer exists, having been abandoned during the time jump, and the only remaining Saviors were killed by Carol after they attacked her and Henry on their way to Hilltop. That leaves a vacancy the Highwaymen could very easily fill.
Ezekiel's plan is for all the communities who come to the fair to sign the charter, symbolizing that they are again a unified people. Bringing the Highwaymen into that union only makes sense given how quickly they made peace with the Kingdom. Obviously, the Highwaymen are not bad people. If they were, they'd have killed Jerry's group as well as Ezekiel and Carol when they came to bargain. In which case, The Highwaymen are replacing the Saviors by being that fifth community to sign the charter, but they aren't going to be anywhere near as dangerous or difficult of a community.
With threats like the Whisperers not going away anytime soon, the survivors need all the allies they can get. Having the Highwaymen join alongside the other communities only makes sense, better preparing them for war that's sure to come.
The Walking Dead season 9 airs Sundays on AMC.