SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen “The Walking Dead” Season 9, Episode 2, titled “The Bridge.”
This week’s episode of “The Walking Dead” opens with Rick (Andrew Lincoln) addressing an unseen person, whom viewers of the Season 9 Comic-Con trailer already know to be Negan (Jeffrey Dean Morgan). As Rick tells him about the progress all the communities are making together, with the camera moving through a camp the groups have set up as they work to repair the bridge that was seen to have collapsed in the season premiere. Rick rejoices that people not simply fighting for survival anymore, but rather are building something for the future.
Construction on the bridge is moving along, but Rick learns that a herd of about 100 walkers is getting closer and will no doubt be drawn closer when they use the explosives they need to proceed with construction. Luckily, our group has placed sirens in strategic locations to draw the herd away if need be. But to make matters worse, Eugene (Josh McDermitt) tells Rick that multiple Saviors have walked off the job site and are unaccounted for at present.
Elsewhere, Michonne (Danai Gurira) travels to Hilltop to convince Maggie (Lauren Cohan) to send more food to the construction site. Maggie is upset that the Saviors have yet to deliver the ethanol fuel that was promised, but Michonne says people at the Sanctuary told her the delivery went out as scheduled and those who were making the delivery have not been heard from since. Adding to the issue is the fact that Earl (John Finn), who tried to kill Maggie in a drunken rage over the death of his son at Gregory’s urging, is Hilltop’s only blacksmith. He is being held prisoner in the cells beneath the main house and without him, Hilltop cannot repair the plow they need to harvest their food.
Tammy (Brett Butler), Earl’s wife, asks Jesus (Tom Payne) when she will be allowed to see her husband. Jesus tells her that is up to Maggie, so Tammy decides to sit outside the door to the cells until she is allowed to see him. Michonne approaches Jesus and tells him of her plan to establish a charter between the communities in order to make their laws and punishments clear. Jesus speaks with Maggie about the idea later, imploring her to let Tammy see her husband.
Back at the construction site, Henry (Macsen Lintz) is distributing water to the workers. Justin (Zach McGowan), one of the Saviors, decides he wants more than his allotted share of the available water. He pushes Henry to the ground, takes the cooler he is carrying, and drinks more. Henry responds by using his bo staff to knock Justin to the ground. Justin tries to go after Henry, but Daryl (Norman Reedus) stops him and a fight breaks out. Rick steps in to break things up, but Daryl is still furious. He doesn’t believe most of the Saviors will ever fall in line with Rick’s vision of the world and storms off.
Maggie relents and lets Tammy see Earl in the cells. Later, she speaks with Earl alone about why he did what he did. Earl reveals he used to be a raging alcoholic, but quit after he tried to drive home drunk with his infant son in the car. He had not had a drink since then until the night he almost killed Maggie.
Elsewhere, Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) sits with Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) as he describes a woman he used to know while she sketches. She expresses skepticism that anyone in the group trusts her, but Gabriel reassures her. Later, Rosita (Christian Serratos) sets off the explosives needed to proceed with construction on the bridge, which draws the walker herd as expected. The team begins to sound the sirens to distract the walkers, but Justin has abandoned his post and the second siren doesn’t sound. As a result, the herd heads directly into a group that is chopping down trees for lumber, which includes Daryl and Aaron (Ross Marquand). In the ensuing chaos, Aaron is hit by a falling log, crushing his arm. Rick and the others arrive just in time and attack the herd while Daryl gets Aaron to safety.
At the bridge camp, Enid (Katelyn Nacon), who has been apprenticing as a doctor under Siddiq (Avi Nash), treats Aaron but quickly concludes the only way to save his life is to amputate his arm at the elbow. Justin is brought to answer for what happened and Daryl attacks him in a rage, with their fight spilling out into the camp. Carol stops Daryl before he can finish him.
Back at Hilltop, Maggie tells Michonne that she is willing to discuss a common system of laws. She also says that Hilltop will send the food to the bridge camp as agreed and that Earl will be allowed to resume his work as the blacksmith under supervision and a council will decide his fate at a later date. She then reveals that her father was himself an alcoholic but was ultimately a good man. Gregory, on the other hand, had numerous chances to redeem himself but squandered them, which led Maggie to hang him.
That night, Justin confronts Rick about what Daryl did to him. Rick gets right in Justin’s face and tells him to pack his things and leave the camp at daybreak. Justin decides to go a step further and leave immediately. Rick then goes to see Aaron, who apologizes for what happened to his arm. Aaron instead thanks Rick for helping to start the world anew. Nearby, Gabriel and Anne are on watch just outside the camp. After Gabriel reveals the woman he had Anne sketch was the organist at his church, she places her hand on his inner thigh, leading to them having sex. Later on, Anne is at one of the watch posts alone when she sees the helicopter that has sporadically appeared the past few seasons in the night sky.
Rick walks around the camp and sees small groups sitting around fires, laughing and having a good time. Carol (Melissa McBride) and Ezekiel (Khary Payton) sit together, with Carol asking Ezekiel if he is still carrying the ring he used to propose to her in the season premiere. He produces the ring, and she tells him she will wear it for a while to try it on for size.
We then cut back to Rick sitting outside Negan’s cell, telling the former Savior leader that despite the hardships the communities have faced the people ultimately came together. Negan, bathed in shadows, mocks Rick for his optimism and tells him that he will be back in charge soon enough.
The episode ends with Justin walking alone along a dark road. He hears something in the trees and goes to investigate. We don’t see who he sees, but he appears to recognize someone. Suddenly, the unseen person grabs Justin and pulls him into the darkness.