‘The Walking Dead’, Season 9, Episode 6

Nadia Hilker as Magna in Stradivarius, Episode 6 of The Walking Dead, Season 9. (Gene Page/AMC)

The episode begins in a terrifying manner with the indomitable Rosita bloodied and injured, near death. Eugene is no longer with her. It’s a startling intro and finally gets the series back on track. This is the strongest episode of the season, and it was directed by fan favorite Michael Cudlitz, aka Abraham. This was actually the first episode of anything directed by Michael Cudlitz, and it also marks the first time this season when I was truly disappointed the hour was over.

At Hilltop, a reluctant Jesus has taken control for Maggie. Maggie and her baby have left the community and Jesus keeps finding ways to leave it as well. He’s burdened by the petty concerns back at Hilltop – requests for land, complaints about a noisy kazoo – and Tara seems likely to take over for him. It’s during one of Jesus’ trips outside the walls, where he trains with Aaron, that they find Rosita and rescue her.

Back on the road, Michonne has a group she is transporting out of Alexandria. Last week, these newcomers were rejected from Alexandria, but Michonne decided to bring them to Hilltop. The new group brings fresh energy to the show, and their journey is a clever way to show how divided the communities have become. As Michonne approaches Hilltop, her unease grows. She overreacts and attacks Luke as he’s cradling a treasure, a Stradivarius he’d rescued in Philadelphia. In a classic Dead moment, Luke gives a pretty interesting speech about the importance of music, linking the discovery of a 40,000 year old flute to how humans survived the Neanderthals.

There were plenty of contenders for best moments in Stradivarius, from Luke’s speech to Carol’s long-awaited reunion with reunion with Daryl. Daryl has been in the woods for years, still searching for Rick. Plus he now has a dog who helps him spot walkers and guards the camp. Carol asks Daryl to rejoin the community and go with her son Henry as he begins an apprenticeship at Hilltop. It’s lovely when Carol cuts Daryl’s overgrown hair, and surprising when we see that Daryl has the same X scar as Michonne. Something happened in the six years with the group, and perhaps it’s connected to the disquiet that settles on Michonne as her group approaches Hilltop. Even when she learns that Maggie is gone, Michonne doesn’t want to go to Hilltop. A violent encounter with a huge herd of walkers changes her mind. As Daryl mentioned to Henry, there seem to be more walkers than ever.

By the end, the Alexandria group and the abused violin head to Hilltop, but it’s clear someone is watching them from the woods.

Back at Hilltop, a group forms to search for Eugene. We’re left wondering about the X scars, where Eugene could be, and why Maggie left.

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Rebecca Kurson

Rebecca Kurson writes about literature, pop culture, television, science fiction and music. Her work has appeared in Publishers Weekly, Kirkus, Observer, The Federalist and Rodale's Organic Life.

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