Eagle-eyed viewers of The Walking Dead may have noticed a new symbol (above) in the episode two weeks ago, “Bounty,” as Carol and Ezekiel were traveling back from The Kingdom. Carol didn’t notice it, but it bears a strong resemblance to the “A” symbol that has become such a large part of the series (and will be explained further in the eventual Rick Grimes movies). Despite its similarity, this symbol is not apparently related to the other one, nor is it related to the season’s existing and formidable villains, The Whisperers.
Those who watched the preview for next week’s episode may have seen it again in a letter being held by Carol. AMC, however, is wasting no time in revealing the new villains behind that symbol. They’re called The Highwaymen, and they are discussed in this clip from next week’s episode.
The Highwaymen are a new threat seemingly specific to The Kingdom, and an added obstacle outside of the source material ahead of the trade fair. The Highwaymen deliver a letter (with the now familiar symbol) to The Kingdom demanding a ransom before fair-goers can have access to the route. There is some talk in the clip that The Highwaymen are a splinter group of The Saviors led by Jed, but we know that not to be true, because Carol killed Jed and his splinter group.
In other words, it looks like we’ll be seeing a brand new host of characters in next week’s episode, but with the trade fair coming soon, Ezekiel and Company are either going to have to meet their demands or dispose of them quickly. Ezekiel gives away the answer to the question at the end of the above clip: “Gather all the fighters we can spare.”
In this week’s recap of The Walking Dead, we suggested that the back half of season 9 would have to get creative in inventing new storylines to fill a full eight episodes where only six episodes of material from the comics exists. This is clearly one way, while the following episode, “Scars” — expected to take up the X-scars on Daryl and Michonne’s back in flashbacks — is the other. The trade fair will take center stage in the season’s last two episodes, “The Calm Before” and “The Storm,” the latter of which is likely to strategically feature the wire that Alpha used to decapitate a subordinate Whisperer in the most recent episode.
We’ll find out more about The Highwaymen when The Walking Dead returns on Sunday with “Chokepoint,” directed by Liesl Tommy.