DON’T SPOILERS READ INSIDE
DON’T READ SPOILERS INSIDE
(Ok please read this but it is a spoiler heavy review.)
“Oh look, they found Jesus!”
During the day on Sunday one of my friends sent out a group text to our friend group asking for bets “on whether or not tonight’s Walking Dead was going to be boring”. Being the smartass that I am, I sent back “Boring is a relative qualifier”. The Walking Dead has definitely had some boring episodes and I can easily see where some might list “The Next World” in that category, especially when measured against last week’s incredible “No Way Out”, but I think that is a short sighted way of looking at this episode.
There are really three subplots at play in “The Next World” with 2 overlapping each other – Michonne following Spencer into the woods and Carl and Enid going out into the woods to their hollowed out tree hang out. While on a guard tower, Michonne sees Spencer walking out into the woods alone and decides to go after him and when she catches up to him, he won’t tell her what he’s doing out there. Obviously suspicious of this, Michonne stays along for the ride with Spencer as he continues deeper into the woods. Parallel to this, Carl and Enid head out to their secret spot to read comics and such. As Carl and Enid enjoy their quiet time reading Invincible comics (nice nod to Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman), a walker comes up to them. However this is not a normal walker encounter with someone just dispatching the undead and moving along with their day. No, Carl and Enid argue over what to do, Enid wanting to kill it and Carl saying no, they shouldn’t. Meanwhile, Spencer tells Michonne that she should go back, that he’s out there to do something that only he can do and this is where these two plot threads overlap – the walker that Carl won’t kill is Deanna, Spencer’s mother.
Deanna seemingly died in the mid-season finale when she was bitten and then overrun in a house but we never saw her actually die or get eaten, now we see that she did die but somehow managed to not get torn up too bad. Michonne sees Carl running through the woods and leading Deanna along, probably trying to lead her back to Alexandria so “someone who loved her” could do the deed and that’s the exact reason Spencer came to the woods in the first place. There is a tender moment between Spencer and Deanna as he takes care of her and gives her peace.
This is not the first time, and probably not the last, the characters have had to kill their undead family – Carl and Lorie, Daryl and Merle, Rick and Shane (not blood family but still) – but this one didn’t really have any emotional impact on me. Since I already knew that Deanna was dead and we haven’t seen enough of Spencer to get emotionally invested this scene is just kind of there. I honestly think this scene was more for the benefit of Michonne’s character than for Spencer (and Danai Gurira confirmed as much on the Talking Dead) and that leads to what happened at the end of the episode, which I’ll talk about last.
The other main subplot in this episode, and arguably the best, is Rick and Daryl going on a supply scavenger hunt. From the moment they set out, it felt like a road trip, buddy comedy with shades of Dukes of Hazzard. That whole arc of the episode felt like the writers were let off the leash a bit and could have fun with it. From Daryl objecting to Rick blasting music to Jesus stealing their truck and them standing in the road like idiots and from Rick flopping an unconscious Jesus onto Daryl in the back seat of their car to Rick slamming on the brakes to throw Jesus off the top of the truck, this episode had some much needed levity after the seriousness of last week. I am really happy that the writers and show runner found the space to have some fun before we dive too deep into Negan territory because I think we all know that that will be unpleasant.
A few notes on Paul “Jesus” Rovia. I have no preconceived notion of this character as I have not read that far into the comics. Even though this episode is my first exposure to the character, I already dig him and from the trailer for next week, it looks like we’ll be seeing a lot of him.
And now we come to the end of the episode where something finally happened that has been building for a while. Michonne and Rick are finally together! YAAAAAY! For a while now, Michonne has taken on a somewhat motherly role to Carl and Judith and has been close with Rick and it just felt like it was a matter of time for them to be together. Honestly from the start of this episode, it felt like they were a family unit. I even paused the show and turned to my wife to ask if she was getting the same vibe I was. At this point it just feels natural for Rick and Michonne. Rick going after the blonde lady (whose name escapes me and honestly doesn’t feel worth Googling) never felt natural, it felt forced. As I said previously, the Deanna part of this episode seemed more for Michonne’s benefit than Spencer’s. Deanna told Michonne to figure out what she wants and it seemed like that was directed towards Alexandria as a whole and for Michonne to figure out if she wants a life on the road or to build a life in Alexandria. Turns out it’s not where to build a new life but with who.
WildeBeard’s Rating: RICK GRIMES RE-GROWING A RICK GRIMES BEARD – A beard well on its way but still striving towards it’s full potential.