This week’s episode of The Walking Dead continued the series strong work this season, proving that Angela Kang can still run a strong and successful season of television with neither Rick Grimes nor the mysteries on the other side of a time jump. “Stradivarius” succeeded in spite of not being an episode that features a major death, a cliffhanger, or a signature moment from Robert Kirkman’s source material. It’s just a good solid, character-developing episode, the sort that we’ve come to expect during the ninth season of The Walking Dead.
The episode also made great use of its three ostensible leads, Michonne, Carol, and Daryl. We finally found out what Daryl has been up to for the better part of the last six years, too. After Rick’s “death,” Daryl has been spending his time out in the woods searching for Rick’s body, hoping for a sense of closure (good luck, buddy) He grew accustomed to living alone out in the forest. He found himself a dog, which he named “Dog,” because of course that’s what Daryl would name him, and there’s a metaphor in there, too, about Daryl wondering around like a lost puppy trying to find Rick; he occasionally eats (snake, apparently), and he set up booby traps for walkers. He’s essentially living as a morose, grieving hermit.
Carol’s decision to take a side trip to meet Daryl en route to taking Henry to The Hilltop seems to be as much about Daryl as it is Henry. Carol says that he wants someone to watch over Henry at The Hilltop — rid Henry of some of his idealism — but I think Carol really just wants Daryl to reconnect with the world. She’s worried about him, and she’s using Henry as an excuse to push Daryl back into society. The gambit works, too, and Daryl follows them back to The Hilltop after bonding with Henry, who saved Daryl from a walker.