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Review: The Walking Dead 9×11, “Bounty”

Aaron Neuwirth reviews The Walking Dead season 9, episode 11, "Bounty" in which Daryl and Alpha face off, while Ezekiel and the gang go to the movies.

I came down hard on last week’s The Walking Dead, as “Omega” truly felt like one of the worst episodes of the series. Not for lack of trying, given the introduction of Samantha Morton’s Alpha, but there were too many issues to handle. “Bounty” is a massive improvement, as it presents us with one main story that’s full of tension and a lighter, side-story that reminds audiences what this show can do when it involves us with the characters in creative ways that don’t lose track of what this show is all about.

I probably should have known we were are on the right track when the episode opened with Ezekiel, Jerry, and Carol just hanging out. Each of these cast members has great chemistry with one another, which is already preferred to spending even more time moping with Henry. Sure, last week ended with a cliffhanger, and we got to that quickly enough, but this opening, which gave us a look at the Kingdom, finally, was nice to see. Sure, it was revealed to be a flashback, but it set up this episode’s structure quite nicely.

Staying on Ezekiel’s story, the rest of the episode keeps us in the present day, showing us the lengths, the Kingdom will go to make this big fair happen. For Hilltopalooza, or whatever, to happen though, it means raiding a theater for a big projector bulb, and a few other things. This whole section was well-staged. Be it the interactions between the characters or the display of efficiency when it came to killing walkers (except for the one in the supposedly cleared room that made Jerry drop the bulb).

However minor this part of the episode seemed, it served a purpose. Not only filling in the gaps of an episode but reminding us of how humans in the world of The Walking Dead can act when they are not stressing the same old themes of despair and whatever else to have the audience think on some deeper level of desperate times. Instead, we got to see an enjoyable group work together, speak like people to one another, and accomplish a goal effectively. Being very good at killing walkers is a nice bonus as well.

Getting to the main event, the core story involving Daryl vs. Alpha, and all that went with it, was handled quite well. There’s a key reason that I will get to, but I liked the idea of these two feeling each other out. With a sense of mystery on both sides from their perspectives and a drive to get their way, the stakes were high here. While I didn’t think it was going to end with any of the hostages in play getting killed, this was the right approach. There was some annoying Henry stuff, as usual, but even that felt minimalized.

The best part of this was the cornfield sequence, which found Connie doing her best to rescue a baby discarded by one of the whisperers. With a hearing impairment and a filmmaking team doing their best to present her point of view, this sequence was rife with tension and expertly choreographed to make the feeling of isolation and fear come to life. Muting the sound mix only added to the suspense here, showing just how great The Walking Dead can be at these walker-based action sequences.

And how about the setup to this scene? While we already have a sense of the power Alpha has, watching a whisperer give in to their philosophy by actually dropping their crying baby for the walkers to eat was frightening and compelling. How do you fight an enemy like this? Well, ideally you wouldn’t have to and given Alpha’s request to have her daughter back, one could wish things were different. However, this is The Walking Dead, and bad things are going to happen, no matter how much Ezekiel wishes against it.

Having that cornfield scene come during the middle of the episode was an effective play as far as keeping tensions high between Alpha and Daryl. That in mind, we did have to have Enid convince Henry to give up Lydia. That said, it allows for a nice understanding of these characters as the episode carries on. Once the hostage trade is made, there is a clear realization that Lydia’s life is not great, but it was necessary to send her back to keep two people from dying. Some choices are not easy, even if they are ultimately the right one at the time. If the rest of this season could keep that kind of dynamic writing out there, this show would be much better for it.

Things are going to get out of hand again, as they have to. We now have Henry on a mission to get Lydia back or whatever, and that can’t end well. As it stands, the whisperers have no reason to want to attack any of our hero communities. But now we have another week to see how Henry does, and what it means for Daryl and Connie, who are going to try and do something about it. But at least the fair is a couple of steps closer to happening.

There may be some small gripes, but “Bounty” was the best episode of this half of the season by far. It has tense scenes that work, an enjoyable, character-based storyline, a standout walker action sequence, and some terrific writing to show how difficult decisions can sometimes be. This is what The Walking Dead should strive for every week, and I’m here to see more of that happen.

Dead Bits:

  • Zombie Kill of the Week: I believe I saw a skull get sliced in half real good this week.
  • Jerry is the best, as usual.
  • Dr. Enid: Walker Medicine Woman
  • Neat to see Daryl in the position of dealing with a rival group as the leader for a change.
  • Michonne’s constitution or whatever is called the “Multi-Community Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
  • Some excellent music choices this week!
  • Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.

Written by
Aaron is a movie fanatic and loves talking about such things…a lot. He is from Orange County, California, but earned a degree or two at UC Santa Barbara. He describes himself as a film reviewer, writer, podcaster, video game player, comic book reader, disc golfer, and a lefty. His mind is full of film knowledge and random trivia, but he is always open to learning more, whether it’s through box office stats, reviewing Blu-rays from The Criterion Collection or simply hearing first hand from filmmakers and others about various productions and behind-the-scenes tidbits.

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