This review contains spoilers.
6.10 The Next World
In last week’s review of Teen Wolf, I complained briefly about how the show has taken a turn away from its roots as something of a horror comedy and gone to something more akin to a straight action horror show. When that show began, it actually had a pretty strong, pretty consistent vein of humour that it minded to great effect. Sometimes, there’s only so much bad and evil and violence that a person can take without a little laugh to lighten the mood and release some of the tension. Good horror movies do this, usually with a cat scare or a comic relief character.
Traditionally, The Walking Dead hasn’t had this kind of relaxation. You might get a few chuckles during an episode from an Abraham one-liner or something, but rarely does The Walking Dead attempt to be funny. Typically, the show takes a break by digging into some kind of personal drama, taking the foot off the gas in lieu of relaxing with some character humour, but this week’s episode actually has some fairly funny moments from a character that I don’t know that we’ve ever seen really crack a joke.
That’s right, gang; Rick Grimes and Daryl Dixon have differing tastes in music, and Daryl hates Rick’s choice of travelling songs. It’s actually a really weird scene, because I’ve rarely seen someone on the show go out of their way to make a joke that isn’t some kind of action-movie quip. Maybe Eugene or Abraham might be considered “comic relief” characters on this show, but Rick Grimes? He’s brooding or crazy or violent, not needling a friend with some odd musical choices for their road trip (the episode opens with the greatest rock song of all time, Boston’s More Than A Feeling, the road trip song is Action Packed by Ronnie Dee, and it’s definitely the Old 97s later in the episode when the song is, ahem, better).
The pairing of Daryl and Rick work well in the hands of Angela Kang and Corey Reed, who are credited with this week’s episode. Michonne ends up paired off with Spencer, Deanna’s son, as they also have what could be charitably called a crazy day. Spencer is a character in need of development, particularly if Austin Nichols is going to stick around much longer and become a more integral part of the group. The Daryl and Rick segments work the best, if only because of the presence of the new character Paul Monroe AKA Jesus (Tom Payne), who is clearly an antagonist from the get-go, because this show rarely has tense introductions with innocent characters.
Carl is also roaming around in the wilderness this week, with the show having made the intelligent decision to jump ahead several months to have Carl recovered from a traumatic brain injury and walking around like nothing ever happened. I have no qualms about cutting past Carl’s presumably extensive recovery period, because there’s nothing really entertaining about that, and there’s no real joy in watching Alexandria rebuild. The most fun comes from Daryl and Rick’s interactions with Paul/Jesus, while Carl and Michonne provide the occasional bit of sweetness with their budding relationship.
Unfortunately, the episode itself looks to be a bit of a mess. After last week’s skillful craftsmanship, this week’s episode from Kari Skogland suffers by comparison. It can be visually muddled at times, and parts of the Carl/Michonne/Spencer B plot are left deliberately muddled to preserve a surprise twist that, upon examination, makes little sense. I’m not quite sure just how the zombie of Deanna A) came back to life as a zombie and B) left the city and the Rick-guided killing field that it became last week, but I guess these kind of things can be ignored for dramatic purposes
The other big twist has been something that the show has done a much better job of building. Rick and Michonne has been simmering for a while now, and it’s nice to see the sparks finally begin to fly for Rick, even if it does seem fairly sudden after the death of his last girlfriend at the hands of zombies. That said, it has been months in-universe, which makes it a little less troublesome, plus it’s Michonne, who has been destined to break the Rick curse for some time now, and whose relationship with Rick feels pretty natural. Michonne is already mothering Carl and Judith, and she’s one of the few people who is a match for Rick both in terms of personality and in terms of martial prowess, so it makes sense that strength would be attracted to strength.
While there is a lot to recommend in the episode, particularly everything involving Rick, there’s a sense of fogginess that’s distracting. Things seem to be edited in a choppy manner this week, and the deliberate obscuring of the Deanna zombie is really annoying in retrospect, making the Carl/Enid conflict unnecessary. It also robs Spencer of some of his agency, which is another disappointing development. Yes, it sets up a cute moment for Carl and Michonne, but it wasn’t a necessary. We know they’re family; we don’t need a walk in the woods to spell it out for us.