The Walking Dead “The Next World” Review (Season 6 Episode 10)

Previously on The Walking Dead . . .
– Daryl wiped out The Sons of Anarchy with a grenade launcher.
– Glenn, once again, narrowly escaped death by zombie herd while trying to save Maggie – thanks to Sasha and Abe.
– Eugene and Father Gabriel knuckled up and kicked some zombie butt.
– The remaining members of the Anderson family became a family style dinner for the walkers.
– Ron threatened Rick, which earned him a sword through the chest. Before he became the desert to the Anderson family 3-course walker dinner, he got in a few parting shots, one of which caused serious damage to Carl’s eye.

On to this week’s episode!

In “The Next World,” we picked up with our favorite survivors roughly 2 months after the events in the mid-season premiere. Much of what was destroyed by the herd had been repaired, Carl was doing much better and as a whole, life had moved on for many. The episode focused mostly on various pairings that were all entertaining.

One of the highlights of this episode was getting some quality time with Rick and Daryl. I absolutely LOVE the bond between these two and thanks to the termites, the Alexandria drama and Daryl’s very long trip with Sasha and Abraham, it had been awhile since we had a really good Rickyl moment. I still get chocked up when I watch the Season 4 finale (“A”) and Daryl and Rick are quietly talking after the whole kerfuffle with the “claimed” group and Rick went bonkers on the group leader. Rick telling Daryl that him being back with the group was everything and that he is his brother was my everything. There are few pairings on this show more electric than Reedus (Daryl) and Lincoln (Rick).

Although this week’s episode was not the emotionally-driven exchange we saw in “A,” it still had really lovely moments of bonding between the pair. I loved them sharing the orange Crush soda and Daryl breaking off a piece of a chocolate bar for Rick and then himself. I LOVE these two so much!!! Okay, enough fangirling. I’m lying, there will be more – I freaking loved this episode!

Daryl and Rick were supposed to be on an ordinary run to get supplies, including toothpaste for Michonne and pop for Denise. Speaking of pairs, we learned that Denise and Tara are either living together or spending a lot of nights together. Denise overheard Tara talking about pop in her sleep and wanted to give some as a gift to Tara, who was preparing to go on a 2-week run with Heath. I quite like Denise and Tara together, so I hope that we’ll get to see the couple spending time together on-screen. It was nice, however, to know that the two were still together after the time jump.

The law of averages appeared to be working in Rickyl’s favor, as the pair stumbled upon a truck that was full of supplies that would have gone a long way back in the safe zone. Unfortunately, things got a bit tricky when a bearded stranger showed up . . .

Enter Jesus
While trying to get Denise’s pop from a vending machine, a stranger in a duster, skull cap and scarf approaches Rickyl. He advises the pair that he is running from a group of walkers and before he rushes off, he introduced himself as Paul Rovio – but his friends call him Jesus. Although Paul claims that he is not with a group, Rick notices that Jesus’s well-groomed beard and clean clothes would suggest otherwise. Rick begins asking the three questions and Jesus pulls a “gotta go, walkers close, thanks, buh-bye.”

Taking a step back, it is worth noting that as DJ Khaled would say – Daryl was all in “[n]o new friends, no new friends, no new friends, no, no new” mode. This was a perfectly acceptable reaction, considering his recent show down with the Sons of Anarchy and their threats of killing someone and taking the group’s stuff. Daryl had also had the run in with the couple that took his stuff before he found the oil tanker. We spent much of last season with Rick in “no new friends” mode; however, his words to Carl at the close of the mid-season premiere signaled a change that we saw this week in Rick. While Daryl has shut down, Rick is now very open to taking new people in and has finally realized that Daryl, Michonne and Glenn were right about the benefits of letting others into the group.

Although I was completely fine with the time jump, I hate that we did not have a sense as to whether Daryl, Sasha or Abraham had shared their close call with the Sons of Anarchy. I’m absolutely certain they had and that Rick understood why Daryl was not feeling very welcoming. I will be curious to see what, if any, changes the group has made to how they do runs in light of the threat posed by the Sons of Anarchy and this Negan person they went on and on about. I also found it somewhat unsettling that Rick and Daryl had not run across anyone outside their group in a few weeks. Sure, the Alexandria area may be more settled than Atlanta, but that revelation still piqued my interest. I suspect we’ll get a better sense as to why the area has been a bit of a ghost town soon.

Given Daryl’s recent experiences with people outside the group, he was in no mood – and I mean no mood – for the cagey, somewhat ninja-like stranger named Jesus. Daryl’s frustration only increased after he realized that the bearded one stole the keys for their truck from Rick and was making off with their supplies. Rickyl appeared to have the upper hand after catching up to Jesus, but somehow the guy – who was clearly tied up – managed to get free and get on top of the truck. I saw some people on Twitter complaining that it made no sense for Rickyl not to just head home immediately after finding the truck. I get that, but I don’t mind a minor plot contrivance here and there when what we get in return is so darn funny and entertaining.

After some hilarious cat and mouse hijinks, some tussling around on the ground and a sunken truck, Rickyl is down one truck of supplies and up one bearded stranger. Over Daryl’s objection (and his suggestion to just leave Jesus in a tree), the pair bring Jesus back to Denise for some medical attention. More on Jesus later . . .

Michonne/Spencer and Carl/Enid
While Rickyl roamed the Alexandria streets in their own buddy cop comedy, we saw Michonne, Spencer, Carl and Enid proceed with their days. Michonne followed Spencer after observing him venturing into the woods with a shovel. Carl and Enid set up outside to read comics and do adolescent stuff and thangs.

Zombie Deanna was not among the walkers taken down by the group when they got rid of the herd in the mid-season premiere. Instead, we saw her this week in the woods by the safe zone, as she approached Carl and Enid. Once it was clear that the walker was Deanna, I understood why Carl was adamant that neither he nor Enid put her down. What I did not understand, however, is why Carl would not simply tell Enid what he was doing and why. Enid also lost her parents and I think that she would understand. I hope that the two revisit that at some point and it looks like Carl still has quite a bit to reveal about himself to Enid.

Against Spencer’s repeated objections, Michonne followed him on his mysterious errand. Thanks to Carl, zombie Deanna eventually makes her way to Spencer, whom we learned was looking for his mother after he thought he saw her during the showdown with the herd. This was a great character beat for Spencer, who admittedly has not been my favorite given his propensity for stealing snacks and making risky moves – like that botched zip line over the zombie herd move he pulled in the first half of the season. Unlike our core group of survivors, Spencer had led a pretty charmed zombie apocalypse life with his family at his side. In just a matter of weeks, we saw him lose all of them, so I’m willing to cut him a little slack for some of his erratic behavior. I hope that his closure with Deanna and his time with Michonne will result in lasting character growth.

Like Reedus (Daryl) and Lincoln (Rick), the Gurira (Michonne) and Riggs (Carl) duo also ranks very high among my favorite actor/character pairings on The Walking Dead. The relationship between Carl and Michonne has been wonderful to watch over several seasons from “Clear” in which we saw Carl proclaim Michonne as “one of us,” to “Claimed” in which Michonne opened up to Carl about her son, to “A” in which the pair played games on the railroad tracks en route to Terminus and later in that episode when Carl opened up to her about his fear of being a monster. I was a bit disappointed not to get more scenes between the two in Season 5, so it was refreshing to get back to their bond this week.

After returning from the woods with Spencer, Michonne confronted Carl about leading zombie Deanna towards them. Carl shared that it had to be Spencer that put zombie Deanna down because she was his mother. As Carl very sweetly put it, putting someone close to you down when they’ve become a zombie is what you do because they are family and you love them. And then, my room must have gotten super dusty because when he said he’d do it for Michonne, my eyes got a little teary. It was both touching and saddening to think about this act as being an expression of love in the zombie apocalypse.

And just when I thought the writers could not make me any happier with the episode’s pairings, Richonne happened. *squee* I am not a huge fan of shipping on shows. In fact, it kinda creeps me out on The Walking Dead because I always get carried away with thoughts about hygiene and how people smell. I guess being that picky is a luxury of living in a world without zombies.

That aside, I am absolutely a fan of good storytelling, so I am always on board with relationships when they feel earned and like a natural progression in the storyline crafted by the writers. For example, the moment Maggie rode up on the horse like a bad ass and saved Andrea from becoming a zombie snack, I wanted to know what would become of the shock, awe and admiration very obviously apparent on Glenn’s face when he saw his future wife. I liked the two growing closer and I thought that Maggie was important in helping Glenn assert himself a bit more and not allowing himself to always be the zombie bait. Full disclosure, I don’t love some of the more recent changes in Glenn and Maggie as a couple, but I’ll touch on that after I have yet another fan girl moment over Richonne.

Like her bond with Carl, the friendship between Michonne and Rick has been one of my favorite developments over the course of the entire series. I’d put it right up there with Carol’s transition into a fearless bad ass and Daryl’s emergence as a leader from the very large shadow cast upon him by Merle. Like Carl and Michonne, this pair benefits from the chemistry of Lincoln (Rick) and Gurira (Michonne) and really good writing. When Michonne told Rick that she knew he saw “thangs” and that she used to talk to her ex-boyfriend in “Clear,” I knew that – at a minimum – I wanted these two to be the best of friends.

The writers continued to build on that bond, even in quick, subtle moments like “Welcome to the Tombs,” in which Michonne thanks Rick for taking her in and tells him that she understood why he had to give the Governor’s deal some consideration. I loved the moment in the Season 4 premiere, “30 Days Without an Accident,” where we saw the Grimes boys enthusiastically hurry over to the gate to open it when Michonne returned on her horse with comics for Carl and an electric razor for Rick’s beard. Of course, conflict driven by zombies and people intervened and we did not get to revisit the bond until “After” where we saw Michonne looking as though she was ready to give up and then invigorated when she saw that she was on the trail to find the Grimes. The scene in which Michonne arrives at the house and sees Rick and Carl was spectacular. Both Gurira and Lincoln are brilliant at conveying powerful emotions without uttering a word. Of course, that moment was made even sweeter when she knocked on the door and Rick – after seeing that it was Michonne – looked relieved for the first time in a long time and told Carl that it was for him. The bond deepened in “Claimed,” in which Rick thanked Michonne for being such a good friend to Carl and told her flat out that Carl needed her. In “A” there was a really great moment on the train tracks when Michonne told Rick that she was good and that she knew she was good because he was.

I would be remiss in how much I also love the ongoing bit that, if you point a gun at Rick intending to kill him – you might just find a sword through your chest. Looking at you Governor and Ron.

And then came Season 5 and with it, the introduction of Jessie. I was not upset at Jessie’s introduction as a love interest for Rick because of any implications it had for Richonne. The writers clearly demonstrated that Michonne and Rick would have obviously remained good friends, regardless of whether or not it ever evolved into anything romantic. I liked Jessie as a character, but it did feel like a bit of a regression for Rick as a character to have him smack dab in the middle of yet another love triangle in which one of the characters is married. I wanted to believe that he learned something from the whole debacle with Shane and Lori. In hindsight, Jessie was an important step in Rick realizing that he could open himself up to love again.

I was curious to see what implications, if any, Jessie’s death would have for Richonne. Comic book fans know that Michonne had relationships with Tyrese and Morgan. It was pretty apparent to me that the writers were going down a different path with Tyrese and although Morgan is still around, he and Michonne have barely interacted since his return to the show. Typically the death of one love interest would not prompt me to speculate about a new relationship, but there were some really good standout moments in the mid-season premiere that were hard to ignore. I loved the head nod from Rick to Michonne after she killed Ron. I also loved that for what I think may have been the first time since we first met Michonne in Season 3, we saw panic and worry from her, as Denise worked on Carl and she wanted so desperately to get out and fight alongside Rick. I also thought her removing Rick’s zombie guts cape from him when he first entered the medical station was a very nurturing gesture. It’s always the little things with those two.

Much to my surprise, this episode opened up with a very family-like dynamic between Rick, Michonne and Carl. The writers do not exactly embrace subtlety, so with Michonne in a robe, “More Than A Feeling” playing in the background and the cute little hand slap as Michonne told Rick to “be good,” it was hard not to feel as though something was on the horizon.

Despite all of those signs, I was still as shocked as everyone else when a baby monitor, mints and hand holding turned into to full-on sexy times between the two. In a show that has a reputation for shocking deaths, it was nice to experience something that was equally surprising and way more pleasant. I also love everyone who made the joke about the sex being so good between Rich and Michonne that they saw Jesus. Ha! More on Jesus in a bit.

Some may disagree, but in my opinion, The Walking Dead writers accomplished what very few shows have proven capable of doing – introducing a well-written, well-earned and well-timed romantic pairing. What I like about this pairing is that, if the writers stay true to who these characters are, the interests of Richonne as a couple should not conflict with the interests of the group. This is one of the minor issues I’ve had with Gleggie. Although I love Gleggie as a couple, I was a little frustrated with them in Season 3 when both of them decided to stay back at the prison, rather than heading over to get the Governor with Daryl, Rick and Michonne. Don’t get me wrong, I think it is completely normal and reasonable to be concerned about your spouse and for that concern to take priority. I also think it’s a great dynamic for the writers to explore. However, I am also excited about an alternative to that approach and I think the Rick/Michonne pairing could represent that.

I know that some are not excited about this pairing for a variety of reasons. Admittedly, I get a little frustrated at the “strong woman” excuse. I’ve read some reactions where people have stated that Michonne does not need a love interest because she is so strong and independent. I respectfully disagree. Look, does a show about zombies need love interests? Maybe not, but the human element is undeniably part of the fabric of The Walking Dead. For me, it is one of the things I love most about the show and I think, thus far, the writers have handled the dynamics between humans in a way that does not make the show feel like a soap opera. So if relationships are part of the show, I do not think a woman being a strong, independent character should exclude her from romance. I’ve seen the same excuses made about Carol and I just don’t buy it.

Sure, they could have chosen to leave the two as platonic friends and I think platonic friendships are also important to a show as well. However, I think this shift in the relationship between Rick and Michonne feels right because the characters are at a juncture in which they have a little peace and stability. When you finally take a moment to catch your breath and relax, you might just take notice of the person who has been by your side, saved your ass repeatedly and seen you at your worst. Even though the prison was secure, it was still a prison and it was still largely surrounded by walkers at all times, which is not so conducive to relaxation and reflection. In the safe zone, the characters are closer than they’ve ever been to their pre-apocalyptic life, so it comes as no surprise to me that we see a rise in coupling – hence Michonne/Rick and Denise/Tara.

Stuff, Thangs and Other Observations . . .
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– It’s not exactly a nitpick, but it was pretty incredible that zombie Deanna had managed to wander around for nearly two months and be relatively close to the Alexandria Safe Zone. Although I’m not really sure about the rules of zombie decay and whatnot, it was also pretty convenient that she was still recognizable and in pretty good shape by walker standards. Although these details were a wee bit hard to swallow as realistic, I’m totally willing to accept them because I like how the writers used zombie Deanna to create wonderful character beats for Spencer, Carl and Michonne.

– Overall, I thought the music in this episode was really well chosen. In particular, the scenes in which Daryl and Rick chased down Jesus – at times in comedic fashion – were perfectly scored. The only scene where I wish the music had been softened a bit was the one between Carl and Michonne when they discussed Deanna. The music was felt somewhat distracting in that scene and it really was unnecessary, as both Riggs and Gurira did wonderful jobs at bringing the emotion and feeling to such a poignant conversation.

– It was nice to see that the group learned a few lessons from the zombie herd. The placement of cars and other obstacles around the walls is a really smart way to hopefully prevent the same thing from happening again – should another herd arrive. I also liked that Rick was using the loud rockabilly music in the car to draw walkers away from the ASZ. Another smart move, albeit a bit risky if they find themselves surrounded by more walkers than expected.

– I’ve been debating with a few friends as to whether last week’s episode should have been the mid-season finale and this week’s episode serve as the mid-season premiere. I think both options worked just fine. The Walking Dead usually likes to return from hiatus with a bang, so I can appreciate the choice not to lead with an episode that was a little more laid back than the adrenaline rush from last week. Putting space between the two, however, may have helped to really emphasize the time jump.

– Moments when Daryl gets to have brief, funny interactions with characters outside the core group are always fun to watch. His conversation with Denise and the very awkward exchange with Eugene about grains were both great. It would be nice to see more of those moments.

– I LOVED that the show runners really committed to having Jesus look just like his comic book counterpart. It reminded me of when we were first introduced to Abraham, Rosita and Eugene and how much that trio looked like they’d just walked out of the pages of Robert Kirkman’s comic. However, I could not help but laugh at how Jesus’s outfit raised some serious questions about the weather in Alexandria. When we met Jesus, he was rocking a nice, shiny black duster and a skull cap. Daryl and Michonne, on the other hand, spent the entire episode in sleeveless attire. Someone was either hot or cold – I’m just saying. LOL.

– Can we talk about Rick’s feet for a moment? Episode after episode we see Rick Grimes out in the streets running half marathons and 5k races in cowboy boots like a champ. It tickles me to no end and I can only imagine how bad those puppies look and/or smell once he finally takes the boots off.

– I’d love to know your thoughts about the final scene in which Jesus shows up and startles a very naked Rick and Michonne in bed. Do you think that was real time or are the writers playing with a time jump again? If that was real time, how do you suppose Jesus got past Daryl? I hope the writers do not skip over that.

Until Next Week!
What did you think of this week’s episode of The Walking Dead? Sound off below and keep it spoiler free! I had a lot of stuff and thangs to say about this week’s episode, so I’m skipping survivor of the week.

*Gif from giphy.