WARNING: The following article contains spoilers for The Walking Dead Season 9 episode "Warning Signs," which debuted Sunday on AMC.
The Walking Dead this week provided decisive resolution to one mystery and some disappointing clarity to another. Overall, “Warning Signs” laid bare just how much of an illusion Rick’s “thriving” communities are.
The cold open reveals Justin’s zombified corpse, complete with a puncture wound through the heart. When his body is discovered, tensions erupt between the unarmed Saviors and the rest of the bridge workers. Jed, Justin’s friend in both life and attitude, throws accusations left and right, first at Anne, then at Daryl. He’s clearly bordering on irredeemable, but his insistence that someone is picking off Saviors isn’t wrong. After Arat goes missing, Maggie and Daryl discover evidence that leads them to Cassie and other members of Oceanside. They’ve been killing Saviors who had a hand in the mass murder of the men in their community, and Arat was responsible for killing Cassie’s brother.
Daryl has no problem with that policy, but Maggie offers up a halfhearted recitation of Rick’s rhetoric that this kind of vengeance simply perpetuates more of the same. But after Cassie explains the conditions surrounding her brother’s death -- for all her protestations that she’s changed, Arat admits to taunting the boy and smiling as she pulled the trigger -- Maggie’s bitterness and desire for justice takes over, and she leaves the women to it. With that, she and Daryl agree that they’ve tried it Rick’s way, but they simply can’t arrive at that level of forgiveness, and they head off to see Negan.
It’s not surprising that there are some community members whose thirst for vengeance outweighs their desire for peace, or that Oceanside would be at the forefront of such feelings, given how traumatic and extreme their losses were before the war even began. The only victim that could rival their rage would be Anne, which is why Jed points the finger at her and sets into motion the other half of the episode’s action.