The Walking Dead season 9 delivered its strongest episode since the departure of Rick Grimes with episode 11, "Bounty", and gave fans plenty to discuss. Following Alpha's shocking and brutal backstory in "Omega", Hilltop was left in a dilemma as they desperately tried to avoid sending Lydia back to her abusive mother, but after unveiling Alden and Luke as prisoners, the Whisperers got what they came for without a drop of blood being spilled.
Meanwhile, a refreshingly light-hearted B-plot saw a group from the Kingdom raid a local movie theater, confirming in the process what many fans already suspected: that Jerry is an absolute gift and should be protected at all costs. The romantic relationship between Ezekiel and Carol developed considerably more during this trip and the forthcoming inter-community fair was touted as a major upcoming event for viewers to look forward to as the climax of season 9 draws near.
"Bounty" may have driven several storylines forward, but it also posed several pressing questions and may have set up some key mysteries that will unfold beyond the current run and into the recently announced Walking Dead season 10. Here are all the big unresolved question marks from The Walking Dead season 9 episode 11, "Bounty."
Will Henry's Rescue Mission Start A War?
The crux of "Bounty" rested on Hilltop's decision to hand Lydia over to the Whisperers. While Daryl and the other members of the community with speaking parts initially refused, they were ultimately forced into trading the young girl for two captured members of their own side. With the switch completed, the tense standoff diffused without conflict. Naturally, this decision ruffled some feathers within Hilltop and some heated discussions ensued, as characters attempted to come to terms with the decision to hand a teenage girl back to a parent who routinely abuses her.
Henry took Lydia's release badly after the duo struck up a budding relationship, and promptly set out alone to find her. Daryl and Connie soon followed in pursuit of the lovestruck youngster. While Henry's bravery is admirable, the Whisperers left Hilltop on a relatively peaceful note, and any attempt in reneging on the trade of prisoners will likely result in an unpleasant backlash from Alpha and the Whisperers.
It's easy to dismiss Henry's mission as the actions of a hormone-fueled teen hoping to ride heroically to the rescue, but his desire to get Lydia back actually plays into the more philosophical theme of Rick's vision for the future and the principles his new civilization will adhere to. Unfortunately, these principles will almost certainly come at a price, as the events in this episode precede an arc in the comic series titled "The Whisperer War." Whether or not Henry's attempt to rescue Lydia will trigger this conflict remains to be seen, but the character's current story is heavily influenced by that of Carl in the comics. If the AMC series follows a similar path, then war against the Whisperers is coming whether Henry tries to get his new girlfriend back or not.
Is Alpha Respected As A Leader?
Alpha made her dramatic unmasked debut in "Omega" and a big statement of intent was required from The Walking Dead's new villain to cement the character as a dangerous new threat to be taken seriously. That moment came when the young member of the Whisperers, a newborn baby, began crying and attracting several nearby walkers. Alpha chose not to help, and the child's mother chose to sacrifice her noisy offspring to the undead. Alpha reasoned that if the child can't live quietly, then it can't be part of their group.
There's certainly a contradiction in Alpha effectively ordering another mother to give up her child, but risking war against a large, well-armed community to rescue her own. Lydia herself also seemed surprised that her mother bothered coming to her aid, revealing that the Whisperers usually abandon anyone deemed to be a liability. The flashbacks in "Omega" proved that everything Alpha does is for the survival of Lydia, so her motivations in approaching Hilltop are clear. It remains to be seen, however, what Alpha's followers will make of the apparent preferential treatment afforded to Lydia. While Alpha certainly seems to command both respect and obedience from her followers, the rescue of Lydia may put her position under threat.
Has Daryl Become The Hilltop's New Leader?
Since The Walking Dead began, Daryl Dixon has been one of the show's most popular characters, one of the group's best fighters, and Rick Grimes' most trusted friend. One thing Daryl has never been, however, is a strong leader. Defined by a sense of self-survival and a quiet but deadly demeanor, Daryl has often seemed uninterested in forming bonds with newcomers and is routinely suspicious of large groups. These qualities have always prevented Daryl from rising to the position of leader and after the death of Rick, Daryl opted to live alone in the woods.
This is unfortunate, as Hilltop has been quickly going through its leaders. Gregory was executed, Maggie left, and Jesus died at the hands of the Whisperers. With few protagonists left to take over the role, Tara began to lead by default, but this week's episode saw Daryl step up to the challenge in a big way. After the Whisperers came knocking at Hilltop's door, Daryl took charge of negotiations, even striding outside to speak to Alpha face-to-face, and this represents distinctly new ground for the veteran character. Daryl is a man who will do anything to protect himself and his friends, but rarely does he take sole responsibility for diplomatic decisions such as this.
The question must therefore be asked, will Daryl take up the position of leader at Hilltop full time once he returns from his current mission to find Henry? Will the traditionally lone wolf finally start taking care of the entire pack? With Rick and Maggie gone, and Michonne leaving in season 10, he probably won't have much choice.