The Walking Dead Review: The Next World

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    It was pretty clear from the get why last night’s episode of The Walking Dead was called The Next World. Rick’s clean, manicured hands leisurely piercing a new hole in his belt and the pristine glass dish where his watch and ring lay paint the picture of a place far different from the zombie wasteland we’d witnessed in last week’s midseason premier.

    And the family photo of Carl holding Judith made it clear that time had passed since No Way Out what with his bandaged eye and all. Enough time, apparently, for the gang to have found a mellower existence. That in and of itself wasn’t that surprising. You knew things had to slow down.

    What was surprising, however, was the number of major plot developments the showrunners managed to sneak into this kinder, gentler episode of TWD. Along those lines, this is your one and only spoiler alert should you not want to learn of these developments as the next paragraphs contain Rocky Top Insider’s review of The Walking Dead: The Next World. Let’s start with the obvious bombshell:

    Richonne

    The Next World

    Lotta folks have been hoping Rick and Michonne would hook up. I was not one of them. Still, it was immediately clear that The New World in Alexandria has afforded more downtime. A chance for our friends to take a breath and even bask in mundanity of the everyday, the ordinary. And somewhere therein, Rick and Michonne had grown closer, and I knew it in the first scene.

    I mean, the blue bathrobe, right? It was very dainty. Very un-Michonne-y. But even without it, I still would have been able to tell that they’d grown close. Because Michonne was totally cool with Rick rocking out to Boston’s More Than A Feeling. And that would bug the shit out of most women.

    I’m fine with them hooking up and equally copacetic with the inevitable coupledom that will emerge in the episodes to follow. I just don’t want it to mess up the overall vibe of the group. No couples showers or double dates with Dr. Denise and Nurse Tara, etc… Rick and Michonne both need to continue kicking ass. Not snuggle in a loveseat.

    Parting thought: while Richonne has a decent ring to it, there will never be a better one than Bennifer. (That was the first time we, as a society, did the couple-merged-name-thing, right?)

    Brotime in the Presence of Jesus

    Daryl and Rick go on a run and score big at a barn with a prominent metal overhead door that has SORGHUM painted on it. Preposterous coincidence aside, sorghum, Eugene had taught us earlier, is a grain with a particularly high drought resistance, “the envy of all corns,” in fact.

    Impressive though that may be, the truck loaded with food behind the garage door is probably a bigger deal. Rick and Daryl take it and instead of going back to Alexandria they stop at a filling station. Because taking the truck back to Alexandria apparently made way too much sense. Anyway, they find a vending machine containing chips and soda and soda was on the wish list Denise had given Daryl before he left for the run.

    It’s a love thing.

    It’s here Rick and Daryl (literally) bump into TWD’s newest character, Jesus, which I’d known to expect thanks to this preview. Who, exactly, Jesus is, or if he has any relation to Negan is yet to be seen. But one thing’s for certain: he’s an expert pick pocketer. As such, he makes off with the truck which is pulling the vending machine with a chain (long story that involves jerry-rigging).

    Darryl and Rick run full speed after the truck despite its clear ability to leave them in the dust. And good thing they did because they soon find the vending machine. Daryl breaks into it and puts the soda in his backpack, but not before busting out a can to share with his boy.

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    Don’t mind us. Just a coupla bros shotgunning Orange Fanta before resuming our dozen-mile run via our very fastest sprint on each and every step of the way.

    And good thing because they catch up to Jesus. Damn flat tires. Rick ties him up and they drive off without him, but it turns out Jesus had hopped on the truck roof only they didn’t realize it till later, at which point Rick slams on the breaks and Jesus falls from the sky. The ensuing game of tag was far from divine and most definitely something we could have all lived without.

    The game ends with Rick killing walkers while Daryl fistfights Jesus in the truck where…

    [Cue the Aerosmith]

    Jesus got a gun. Jesus got a gun. Whole world’s come undone.

    Did he wrestle it away from Daryl? Find it in the truck? I missed that part. Regardless, instead of using it on Daryl, he shoots a walker that was about to get Daryl. Not sure about the Lord part, but he most definitely was Daryl’s savior. At least in that instance.

    Daryl thanks him by beating his ass, but in the tussle, Jesus manages to slip the vehicle in neutral. It rolls into a lake (taking all its food with it) but not before Daryl and Jesus roll out, the latter getting slammed by the bottom of the truck door, leaving him (more-or-less) unconscious.

    Though the hints had started to come at the end of last episode, it’s at this point we realize beyond a shadow of a doubt that Rick has done a complete about-face. He’s again trusting of his fellow man and wants to bring Jesus back to Alexandria. Daryl, however, does not. Rick wins that argument, or so we gather when we see Jesus in the truck. Only he was still passed out which I was extremely disappointed with because it ruled out the possibility of the line “Jesus, take the wheel.” Total bullshit, but whatever.

    Speaking of BS, I’m calling it on this sequence because there is literally no way Jesus could have gotten on top of that truck so quickly. Though, on second thought, the man is called Jesus. Who am I to question?

    Carl and Enid

    Really trying to like Enid, but she pretty much sucked this entire show. We can tell from a conversation with Maggie that Enid’s back to being a sulker chick who refuses to help with the day-to-day around Alexandria, opting, instead, to write morose passages in her journal while being all goth and whatnot.

    She does, however, join Carl for a walk in the woods. A footlocker containing snacks and a couple magazines reveal that she and Carl have a “spot” of sorts where one can only presume a relationship was blossoming. Or so I gathered when, while reading, they shared snacks from a baggie with the familiarity of an old couple taking turns at the Werther’s dish.

    Till Enid’s all “I don’t wanna come outside with you anymore.”

    Carl’s like “cool” and puts his mag back in the footlocker and goes about his merry way because PLAYA PLAYA’d rather lose his other eye before begging for any of that shit that Enid’s peddling.

    On their way back, they see a walker, only Carl won’t kill it. Enid tries, but Carl stops her. I thought it was Ron and that some weird, zombie-teen love triangle was about to rear it’s ugly head.

    Boy was I wrong.

    How I Murdered My Mother

    Atop the wall during her watch, Michonne sees Spencer sneaking off to the woods with a shovel. She runs after him and wants to know what’s up only to find Spencer wearing a questionable denim jacket with buttons similar to the ones Paddington the Bear’s so fond of.

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    And don’t even get me started on the faux long johns look with his base layer there.

    Anyway, Spencer refuses to tell her what he’s doing, so Michonne lays down the Mommy Card.

    Your mom told me I had to figure out what I wanted with my whole life. Right now, I just wanna know why her son is walking around the woods with a shovel. 

    Shortly thereafter, we see Carl leading the mystery walker toward Spencer (whom Carl had spied earlier in the woods). Michonne sees Carl doing this, too, but Spencer does not. All he sees is what he’s been looking for. And the reason for his shovel.

    Walker Deanna.

    Spencer does what he has to do, Michonne’s assistance making it more humane. Then Michonne and Spencer give Deanna the proper burial she deserves.

    Through the sequence, we realize that Deanna’s wise counsel has led to Michonne’s compassion. Michonne seems to now know the answer to Deanna’s deathbed question. She essentially blurts it out to Spencer when she tells him that though he’s lost everyone in his conventional family, he now has a new one. And Michonne is part of it.

    Table Set

    That sentiment comes full circle when Michonne finds Carl on their porch. When he’s done playing Cosmos with Judith, Carl explains to Michonne why he did what he did with regard to Walker Deanna. He believed Spencer was the one who should end her. Not him. And sure as hell not Enid.

    So that’s what he facilitated. The fact that he’d risked his life because of his love and admiration for Deanna was poignant. But not as poignant as him telling Michonne he’d do the same thing for her.

    Guh. Carl. I have an eight-year-old you can date. Like in 20 years, but still.

    With that, Carl and Michonne share a transcendent moment which culminates in an embrace unlike any of their previous ones. A moment of profound love. Familial love. That, along with Michonne’s compassionate story arc, and the reminder of Deanna’s dying question which prompted her metamorphosis was enough for this skeptic.

    I’m (reasonably) okay with Richonne. It makes good clean sense. But, Jesus? That’s one couple you do NOT wanna walk in on, my man.

    Till next week.

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