This Walking Dead review contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead Season 6 Episode 10
Holy mullet, am I about to describe an episode of The Walking Dead as “lighthearted?” Well, “The Next World” kind of is. This is at least, very definitely, The Walking Dead‘s version of a light action romp full of buddy cop fun. Last week, Robert Kirkman described tonight’s episode as “almost like Lethal Weapon.” And he’s not wrong, as Daryl points out at the end of “The Next World,” in a wonderful Murtaugh-inspired moment, that it’s dumb for him and Rick to keep going out on reckless supply runs, just for the two of them to agree that they’re just going to do it again the next day. As the men cheerfully walk out of the door—it’s a shame no sax is playing in the background—I got the sense that both Daryl and Rick had finally embraced their situation, not as the damning thing of past years, but as a challenge they need/will overcome.
It’s more of that “hope for tomorrow” I talked about in last week’s review of the midseason premiere. That sense of hope bleeds through all over “The Next World,” giving us a little more closure in terms of Alexandria’s past and Rick’s growing pains about the new world. And for the first time in a season and a half, Rick’s reaction towards an outsider isn’t to beat the crap out of him and tie him up—even if he eventually does just that. When we meet Tom Payne’s Jesus for the first time, it’s lightweight, not full of the heart attack-inducing tension of past encounters, and the introduction is all the better for it. Jesus isn’t so much a threat as a trickster, and I’m not sure we’ve seen a “foe” like that on this show before.
How great is it to watch Jesus outsmart the gun-toting hotheads without a single weapon…unless you count firecrackers…But he’s physically imposing, too. We’ve usually watched Rick and Daryl overpower their opponents in hand-to-hand combat—except maybe when the Governor beat the shit out of Rick in season 4—but Jesus just won’t go down that easily. Not even being tied up and held captive in Alexandria’s “infirmary” is enough to keep him from interrupting Rick and Michonne’s cuddle session.
Which holy moley. Rick and Michonne cuddled. And kissed. And had sex.
Apparently, this is something fans have been predicting since the show returned back in October, but I never really saw coming. It makes perfect sense, though, but I will say that it wasn’t until the beginning of tonight’s episode that the show really started to sneak in the romance. I mean, well, maybe I started thinking about it last week when Michonne and Rick frantically dropped their plan to get out of Alexandria in order to save Carl. Just look at Michonne’s face, cutting walkers down to make a path to the infirmary, as if she were the boy’s mother—she pretty much is, honestly. Ever since the second half of season 4, Michonne has cared and been there for Carl, especially in the early aftermath of the prison attack, when Carl was at odds with his dad. It was Michonne’s softer touch that allowed him to get past all of the death and devastation of the Governor’s assault. And Carl shows as much, when he tells Michonne how much he cares for her. A family has truly formed here.
So it’s certainly a logical next step for Rick and Michonne, who act like a couple from pretty much the beginning of the episode, as she stands in the bathroom, a towel wrapped around her head, asking Rick to bring back her favorite toothpaste—spearmint and baking soda, if anyone cares to know. That opening scene is strangely suburban, domestic, as Carl throws a ball around, like a boy his age would, and Rick gets ready to go to “work”—and we get those great shots of Rick getting dressed and putting on his watch to the sound of Boston’s “More Than a Feeling,” something dads have been doing since pretty much the beginning of time (as far as I can remember, anyway).
The Michonne end of the equation is just a bit more complicated for me, though. While I love the idea of Rick and Michonne together, I also really loved when they were just friends who really respected each other and could depend on each other. That relationship was almost certainly more complex. It’s not too often that you see a man and a woman work so well and spend so much time together without eventually falling in love. But it’s also very nice to see Michonne get someone of her own. This does also follow her storyline from the comics somewhat. And remixes a bit of Rick’s, too. I guess I only truly feel bad for Jessie here…
Actually, I just spent four paragraphs talking about a romantic subplot on The Walking Dead…Do you see what I mean about “The Next World” being the most Twilight Zone shit ever? And there are actual jokes, too! Like when Rick puts on the terrible music that Daryl hates in the car. Oh man, these guys had time to argue about what tunes to jam to on their road trip, too! The end times are here, ladies and gentlemen. Characters on The Walking Dead are happy. We all know this is going to turn out to be one big cruel joke by the end of the season, though. So enjoy it while it lasts.
There are some somber moments in the episode, of course, because you can’t just turn this into a zombie romp about two buddy gunslingers looking for working vending machines. Enid is still having gloomy feelings about the state of the world, as teenagers have had since before their parents tried to eat them. I have to say that the focus on her non-storyline doesn’t make much sense. Why are we spending so much time with a character who would otherwise be in the background of all the important shit going on if it weren’t for Scott Gimple forcefully willing the camera to point at her face? Although every scene she’s in is pretty much the most boring part of any given episode, we keep spending more and more time with her. It’s like AMC is really about catering to that under 25 demographic, or maybe they’re prepping a teen spin-off or something. It doesn’t make sense. It’s just her sitting there, being apathetic, while people like Maggie and Carl talk to her face. I don’t know. Maybe I’m just slightly intrigued by her growing presence on the show. What’s Gimple’s endgame here?
We also got some closure with Deanna that we weren’t sure we needed. She got a pretty good death in the midseason finale, fighting ’til the very end, so I wasn’t expecting to see her again. But we do, if only to see Spencer put an end to his mother’s suffering. The show really goes for something heartfelt in the Deanna scene, and I appreciate it. That said, I think the scene is more about pushing Spencer’s storyline along, which is sort of silly. He’s more of that fat the show can go on trimming. But if there was going to be an episode to put this in, it’s this one. I’m glad the show distributed this lesser stuff accordingly, which it hasn’t always done well.
“The Next World” is ultimately about characters taking the next step—believing there’s a next step is hard enough—and opening themselves up to the new world that can be. As Rick tells Daryl, who spends a lot of the episode second-guessing himself about letting outsiders into Alexandria, these characters are “finally listening.” Hopefully, their faith will be rewarded. Of course, we all know it won’t be. But we can at least enjoy the ride until then.
– I really liked Denise’s request for “pop.” After last week’s episode, Alexandria’s doctor is definitely allowed a little domestic bliss with Tara. I’m rooting for her.
– We still haven’t seen the Glenn and Maggie reunion, which is really weird. They haven’t been in a scene together for pretty much the entire season (maybe one or two), and this week should have totally been the time to watch these two embrace each other after the hell they’ve both been through. But nope. I suspect there’s something more to this.
– I’m glad we didn’t have to suffer through another cycle of “Carl is healing in bed.” He got his eye blown off, he sorta healed, and now he’s hanging out in the woods reading Robert Kirkman’s Invincible. Nice touch.
– Eugene is funny. He should always be speaking. The mullet cannot be defeated, even when it comes to comedy.