The Walking Dead delivers a banner episode with loads of foreshadowing. Bounty finally brings back King Ezekiel (Khary Payton), Jerry (Cooper Andrews), and the characters from the Kingdom. His majesty has a mission that may unite the fractured colonies. Alpha (Samantha Morton) and her Whisperers demand the Hilltop release Lydia (Cassady McClincy). Daryl (Norman Reedus) refuses, but is forced to rethink his choice. We get a sprinkle of hints about the fallout between Maggie and Michonne. Henry (Matt Lintz) makes a dangerous decision.

Bounty opens with Ezekiel, Jerry, and Carol (Melissa McBride), with much shorter hair, waiting in the woods. A giddy Jerry informs his monarchs Nabila is pregnant. Jesus (Tom Payne) and Tara (Alanna Masterson) ride up on horses. Tara gives them medical supplies from Alexandria. There was some kind of outbreak. She's broken the rules and brought more than allowed. She's decided to live at the Hilltop. Tara also gives Ezekiel the Multi-Community Charter that Michonne had been writing.

In the present, Ezekiel is looking at the charter. There are spaces for the leaders of each community to sign. He walks in the Kingdom to see preparations for the fair. A team is heading out to hunt a herd of deer for the celebration. Jerry now has three children. Meanwhile at the Hilltop gates, Alpha demands Lydia's return.

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Enid (Katelyn Nacon) is treating Earl (John Finn) for some burns. Outside the house, Tammy Rose (Brett Butler) tells her that they will find Alden (Callan McAuliffe). They race to the gates as the alarm is rung. Daryl refuses to return Lydia. He explains what Alpha does to her daughter. Kelly (Angel Theory) looks behind the Whisperers into the corn patch. Connie (Lauren Ridloff) is still hiding and unseen. Alpha demands to speak to the leader. Daryl responds why, so she addresses everyone. The Hilltop killed her people, entered their territory. There will be conflict if Lydia is not returned.

Daryl goes outside to confront her. In the woods, the Kingdom's deer hunt has been successful. But instead of returning, Ezekiel has a side mission. He takes Carol and the team to a movie theater. It's been five years since the projector broke at the Kingdom. He thinks showing a movie at the fair will give everyone hope. The theater may have a projector bulb, but is loaded with walkers. Ezekiel convinces Carol it's worth the risk.

At the Hilltop, Daryl tells Alpha that he can light them all up now. She smirks, they have Luke (Dan Fogler) and Alden. Her minions bring them up and put knives to their throats. Daryl is stunned to see a Whisperer nursing an infant. He chastises Alpha for bringing a baby outside. Alpha retorts that they are animals. Animals have offspring outside. She proposes a trade, Alden and Luke for Lydia, or they will be killed. Luke turns around and sees Connie hiding. Even though he's tied up, he signals the deaf Connie that the dead are coming.

In front of the theater, Ezekiel plays funk music on a boombox to draw out the walkers. They enter cautiously. The remaining walkers are blocked by a popcorn machine. Ezekiel dispatches Jerry and Diane (Kerry Cahill) to get the projector bulb. Daryl walks back inside. They have to get Lydia, but she's missing from her cell. Henry has freed her and they've absconded together.

Outside the gates, the Whisperer baby starts to cry loudly. Alpha gives the mother a harsh look. The woman puts it down in the dirt. Walkers trudge towards it. Alden cannot believe what he's seeing. Alpha tells him that the dead will quiet the baby if the mother cannot. Inside the Hilltop, Daryl gives his dog a whiff of Henry's shirt. It leads him to the secret tunnel. Addy (Kelley Mack) knows where he's taken her. Enid swears to Daryl that she and Addy can get them back.

Luke signals to Connie about the baby. She grabs the infant and runs back into the cornfield. Connie fights off walkers, but is soon surrounded. Just when she's about to be killed, Daryl, Earl, and Tammy Rose show up.

At the theater, Jerry finds the projector and delicately removes the bulb. In the theater lobby, Ezekiel has another side mission. He removes the poster display case. He wants it for the signed charter. Carol cautions him that Alexandria may not come to the fair. She says they might have to ask Jesus to shelter them if the Kingdom fails. The trapped walkers start to break out. A walker surprises Diane and Jerry upstairs. He accidentally drops the bulb into a row of seats.

Henry and Lydia are at the Hilltop's teens secret hideout. He gives her fresh clothes. She's surprised her mother came back for her. Henry warns that people like that won't change. Enid calls for Henry from outside. She tells him about Luke and Alden. Henry's torn. How can they give her back, when they know what will happen to her. Enid tells him about the letter Carl left her. They must continue to live, be themselves, no matter how bad it gets. Lydia comes out. She will go back to her mother. She kisses Henry.

At the Hilltop gates, Daryl leads Lydia outside. Alpha walks to her daughter. Lydia apologizes to her "mother". She is viciously slapped. Call me "Alpha". Her mother leads her away as Luke and Alden are released.

In the theater, Jerry tells Ezekiel he dropped the bulb. Another herd is coming outside. Ezekiel doesn't want to risk their lives further, but Carol objects. She rallies the troops. They wipe out the walkers inside and retrieve their "bounty". As they ride triumphantly towards home, Ezekiel feels optimistic. Maybe they are done "losing". They pass a sign with a red Alpha symbol on the back.

At the Hilltop, Henry asks Daryl how can he live with returning Lydia. He brings up Daryl's mysterious deed that saved Alexandria. Daryl responds the world is "shit". You just have to live with it. Back in the Kingdom, Ezekiel puts the charter in the display. Jerry fires up the projector. Ezekiel and Carol kiss under its bright light.

A montage plays of a better night in the Hilltop and Kingdom. Luke drinks happily with his longtime companions, but Connie is not feeling jubilant. Enid and Alden passionately hook up. Tammy Rose and Earl joyously care for the rescued baby. Jerry puts his infant child to sleep. But Henry lays awake with a determined face. He gets up in a huff. Daryl is sitting outside when Addy approaches him. She found a note in Henry's room. He's gone after Lydia. Daryl gets his gear, talks briefly with Tara, then walks towards the gates. Connie decides to go with him. They leave together with the dog in tow to find Henry.

"Bounty" was an exposition goldmine. Alpha is a fierce and sadistic woman. The crying baby scene was stunning. Ezekiel's hope for the fair sounds like a disaster in the works. The charter and movie may be a prelude to carnage. Henry has fallen hard for Lydia. His quest for her also spells doom. The flashback with Jesus takes the show in an intriguing direction. We'll get to see the events after Rick's disappearance. Why did the communities fall out? What happened between Michonne and Maggie? What did Daryl do to save Alexandria? The Walking Dead season nine builds major steam on AMC.

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Julian Roman