‘The Walking Dead’: Who are the Highwaymen?

The Walking Dead on Sunday reveals a new threat to the Kingdom: the self-named Highwaymen, a band of blackmailing pirates.

In an extended clip from Sunday’s 913, ‘Chokepoint,’ King Ezekiel (Khary Payton) and queen Carol (Melissa McBride) read demands from a letter bearing the same red symbol first spotted in 911, ‘Bounty,’ after the Kingdomers claimed a projector bulb from an overrun movie theater.

Now the Highwaymen are endangering the future of the already crumbling Kingdom, relying on trades to be made at the fair gathering and connecting the communities of Kingdom, Hilltop, Alexandria, and Oceanside for the first time in years.

“Just when the Kingdom thought they had everything on lock for the fair, which they desperately need, here comes this group that basically is like a mob that’s moved into the territory because of the group that Carol took out,” showrunner Angela Kang told EW.

“And now they’ve got a giant obstacle that they’ve got to deal with, and they don’t know exactly what the script is like, or how much danger they pose. There’s going to be some action and excitement that comes out of that.”

Kang also teased this conflict will be settled through unconventional means, matching the Highwaymen’s atypical modus operandi.

“What does it mean when a group decides to write a letter?” Kang said. “It’s like a blackmail letter, and how do you deal with that? The solutions may be surprising.”

Unlike primary foes the Whisperers, the territorial band of savages clad in fleshy costumes made from skinned walkers, the Highwaymen have no comic book counterparts.

Creator Robert Kirkman first touches upon a similar dilemma in The Walking Dead #57, when Rick, Carl, and Abraham encounter a dangerous pack of marauders while en route to a police station Rick hopes to raid for much-needed supplies.

TWD 57 Marauders
(Photo: Image Comics)

While camping for the night, the trio is caught off guard by four scraggy gun-toting and knife-wielding “pirates” claiming ownership of a road, ordering the men to “pay up.”

When the marauders attempt to rape young Carl, a fight ensues, and Rick sinks his teeth into the leader’s throat to free himself and rescue Carl. The remaining marauders are then quickly eliminated without mercy.

Similar beats played out in Season Four episode ‘A,’ when Rick (Andrew Lincoln), Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Michonne (Danai Gurira) encounter Joe (Jeff Kober) and the Claimers, bandits who for a time claimed Daryl (Norman Reedus) as a member. The pack met a similar bloody end when Rick turned primal to save Carl from being assaulted.

The Walking Dead 913, ‘Chokepoint,’ premieres tonight at 9/8c on AMC.

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