SPOILER ALERT: Do not keep reading if you have not seen Episode 3 of Season 9 of “The Walking Dead,” titled “Warning Signs”
“The Walking Dead” continued it’s strong forward momentum in Season 9, with this week’s episode continuing to show the deterioration of the fragile alliance that has been forged.
The episode opens with Justin (Zach McGowan)–the Savior who raised the ire of Daryl (Norman Reedus) in the first two episodes of the season–lying dead on the ground near a brick building. Soon, he reanimates as a walker and rises back to his feet.
The next morning, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) walks through Alexandria in the early morning and visits Carl’s grave. He leaves a freshly grown tomato from the community’s gardens near the grave as a sign of the future Carl helped inspire. Back at home, he and Michonne (Danai Gurira) talk about the bridge building project and her charter. When Rick tries to get her to take a break, he says “I can think of another way to build for the future,” implying the two should have a child. Michonne is caught off guard at first, but then she agrees and the two kiss. They then get to spend the day with Judith, reading stories and playing games. But that peace is shattered when they get word that Justin has been found and his death does not look accidental.
Elsewhere, Maggie (Lauren Cohan) is on the road to the bridge with the food she promised. A group of Saviors emerge from the woods, questioning her about several Saviors who have gone missing. One Savior in particular, Jed (Rhys Coiro), does not believe that Maggie has no idea what happened to his compatriots, but another in the group reigns him in and they depart.
At the bridge, tempers flare as the Saviors look to blame someone for Justin’s death. Alden (Callan McAuliffe) tries to keep the peace, but Jed slugs him in the face for his efforts. Carol (Melissa McBride) steps in with her hand on her gun, which she and several others draw. The Saviors, whom Rick disarmed after the war, demand guns of their own to protect themselves. Daryl appears and reiterates that Saviors will not carry weapons. The Saviors aren’t having it, and arm themselves with clubs and axes. Things are about to come to a head when Rick rides in on a horse with his gun drawn.
Rick goes into cop mode and asks Gabriel (Seth Gilliam) if he knows where Anne (Pollyanna McIntosh) was the night before. Gabriel lies and says she was on watch with him the whole night. Alden then approaches Rick to ask for some of the Saviors to receive guns. He says that if they can figure out what happened to Justin, he will consider it. After examining Justin’s body, Rick sees the wound that killed him is small and round, much like an arrow or a crossbow bolt.
Rick goes to talk with Daryl, who is none too happy to be accused of murder. Daryl denies any involvement, but says he knows why it happened. He believes such a conflict was inevitable, and that the Saviors will never be completely rid of Negan’s influence. Rick asks him to take it on faith that people can change, reminding him that Daryl once wanted Rick dead for leaving Merle to die on a rooftop in Atlanta.
Teams are organized to do a search of the surrounding area for any evidence of what happened to Justin. When one team fails to check in, Rick and company investigate. They find Beatrice (Briana Venskus) from Oceanside unconscious. When she comes to, she says she was knocked out from behind and that Arat (Elizabeth Ludlow) of the Saviors, whom she was paired with, is now missing.
Back at the bridge camp, the group tries to figure out what to do. They have not told anyone else that Arat is missing. Jerry (Cooper Andrews) asks what they intend to do with the killer should they find them, but no one has an answer.
People again pair up, now to search for Arat. Carol tells Rick that unless they find her, they have a fight on their hands that will be unavoidable. Rick reveals that he wakes up every day and thinks he should kill Negan and finish the rest of the Saviors, but the memory of all those who have died already stops him. “Every life counts now,” he says.
Elsewhere, Daryl asks Maggie if she agrees with Rick’s decisions. They both acknowledge they have not let go of the pain the Saviors and Negan inflicted on them, but Maggie says Rick’s way is the better way for her son. They come across a walker with an arrow-like object sticking out of its chest. Once they dispatch it, Daryl says he knows who took Arat.
That night, Anne returns to her former stomping grounds at the junk yard. She retrieves a walkie talkie from a hiding place, presumably reaching out to someone involved with the helicopter. A man replies to her and she asks if he and his people took the missing Saviors. He denies this, saying “No pick ups. The deal still stands. Will you have an A or a B?” She eventually says she will have an A, to which the man replies “Tomorrow.” Suddenly, she hears a noise behind her, only to discover that Gabriel has followed her. She admits that she previously traded people for supplies, but she still denies any involvement in the Saviors going missing. She tells him that she will never be accepted into the group and implores Gabriel to help her so they can run away together, so long as they do one more thing together. Gabriel says he can’t do it. She says, “And all this time I thought you were a B,” before she knocks him out.
Out in the woods, Jed and another Savior ambush Rick and Carol. Jed holds a knife to Carol’s throat and demands guns from Rick. But Carol manages to stick Jed with a knife, ending the standoff. They refuse to kill the Saviors, however, with Carol telling them “Every life counts.”
Daryl and Maggie arrive at the brick building Justin was outside in the beginning of the episode. Maggie remembers that Cyndie (Sydney Park) had mentioned Oceanside’s residents lived here earlier in the episode. She and Daryl find Beatrice, Cyndie, and some other women from Oceanside behind the building with Arat. Arat is on her knees with Cyndie holding a gun to her head. The women reveal they have been killing all the Saviors who killed the men of Oceanside in the community’s first encounter with the Saviors under Negan. Cyndie says that Arat was the one who killed her little brother, and that learning that Maggie hung Gregory inspired her to start killing the Saviors. Daryl and Maggie decide not to intervene, leaving Arat to be killed.
As the episode ends, the Saviors march out of the bridge camp. Rick watches as they tread over a tomato brought from Hilltop, hearkening back to his visit to Carl’s grave. Daryl and Maggie talk alone, saying that they have given Rick’s way a chance but “it’s time to see Negan.”