When “The Next World” opens it’s been two months since Alexandria was overrun by the walker herd. They’ve been working to rebuild the community–disposing of bodies, gathering supplies, repairing buildings, and recovering physically and emotionally. With “The Next World,” The Walking Dead gives us a thoughtful episode, with some moments of humor and foolishness thrown in for good measure.
Rick wakes up to Boston’s “More than a Feeling.” Wonder how Rick is recovering from the deaths of the Anderson family? He seems to be doing pretty darn well. Who’s Jessie?
It looks like Carl is recovering from his eye being shot out by Ron. Michonne and Rick listen to Carl throw a ball up against the wall again and again. He’s not just an annoying teen, well, maybe he is an annoying teen, but the ball throwing things is part of his physical therapy. Michonne wants some toothpaste, one of her favorite things about Alexandria, but they’re all out. Luckily, Rick is heading out for a supply run. It’s good to live with the King.
Rick and Daryl Take a Road Trip
Daryl gets a supply list from Doctor Denise. She has an item on the list he has a question about. He asks, “What the hell is pop?” and she responds, “Oh I’m originally from Ohio.” The localism of whether someone says “soda” or “pop” is one of those mundane conversations that people don’t usually have in the zombie apocalypse, which is one of the things that makes this exchange interesting. It feels like a regular life conversation for a second, up until we remember it’s about a supply run in a world overrun with zombies. Denise wants the pop because she heard Tara talking about it in her sleep and she thinks it might be a nice surprise for her gal. Pretty sweet. Sounds like Denise and Tara have coupled up, which also feels like regular life.
When Rick and Daryl drive up to the gate, Eugene gives them a map with locations for agricultural stores. He wants them to pick up some sorghum, which he describes as a “criminally underrated grain that could change our food situation from scary to hunky dunky.” He tells them it’s the envy of all corns. More Eugene, please.
Rick and Daryl drive out for their supply run, and we’re pretty excited for these guys to get some bro time together. Rick is hopeful they will find some food and some people, telling Daryl they’re bound to with the law of averages. Daryl suggests it might be better if they don’t find anyone. Rick insists on playing old music in the car, despite Daryl’s pleas otherwise. Rick sings along to “Action Packed” by Ronnie Dee as Daryl cringes in the passenger seat. We’re not used to this new optimistic, music-lovin’ Rick.
Daryl and Rick find a sorghum store. It’s very clearly marked. Daryl has learned his lesson about trucks and storage containers, and carefully opens the doors. He’s not taking any chances after he and Aaron were trapped in “Conquer.” They open the truck and find it stuffed with food. Rick tells him it’s the law of averages. On the way back, they stop at what was once a gas station. Seems like they should just hurry home. Daryl has spotted a locked up soda machine. Rick asks, why all the trouble for some candy and soda, and Daryl tells him it’s no trouble. Hmmm… seems like a little bit of trouble. Shouldn’t you be heading home with the truck?
Suddenly, Rick gets knocked into by a man who has appeared out of nowhere. The man claims he was running from walkers. He warns them that the walkers are a couple minutes out. When Rick thanks him for the information the man says, “There’s more of them than us. We gotta stick together. Right?” He introduces himself as Paul “Jesus” Monroe. Daryl asks if he has a camp and Jesus says not, they respond in kind when he asks them. They are clearly suspicious of each other. Despite this, Rick is about to take a chance, starting to ask him the three questions, but Jesus is already leaving. He yells to them, “If this is the next world, I hope its good to you guys.”
Daryl isn’t interested in joining forces with Jesus, but Rick is more open. Jesus didn’t have a gun and was clean. Rick notes that there’s something going on with him and wonders if they should follow him. Before they can determine a course of action, Jesus diverts them with firecrackers and takes their truck full of supplies.
A Walk to Remember
Maggie comes to visit Enid, who appears to be journaling. While everyone has been working together to rebuild Alexandria, Enid has still been disappearing. Maggie is appreciative of what Enid did for her and Glenn, and tells the troubled teen that she’s there for her. Looks like Maggie’s mothering instinct is kicking in.
Michonne is standing watch on the wall and sees someone walk into the woods. She decides to follow. Michonne finds Spencer facing down a walker, and kills it. He tells her that he walks through the woods after his shifts. She insists on following him.
Michonne: “Your mom told me I have to figure out what I want for my whole life.”
Spencer: “Have you?”
Michonne: “I’m working up to it. Right now I want to figure out why her son is wandering around the woods with a shovel.”
Michonne and Spencer aren’t the only ones outside the walls. Enid and Carl are wandering in the woods. Enid isn’t sure why they keep going outside the walls. Carl tells her it’s because that’s what kids do. We can’t help but wonder how Carl, who only recently met other teens, even knows what kids do. Enid tells him, “We’re not kids.” Share your truth, Enid. But she doesn’t say more because no one in The Walking Dead talks much about their feelings, or anything for that matter. Apparently all the talkers died early in the zombie apocalypse.
Carl and Enid hang out in the woods, eating snacks and reading comics. They see Spencer and Michonne pass. Enid tells him, “I don’t want to come out here anymore.” Carl acknowledges her with an “Okay,” then he packs up, and they start walking back. As they head back, they hear a walker. Carl checks it out, not wanting Michonne to be endangered. Will it be Ron? It’s someone they are both shocked to see. He knocks the walker down, but doesn’t want to kill it. When Enid questions him, he tells her she wouldn’t understand. He yells at her to go back. What’s up with Carl?
Daryl and Rick aren’t the type to give up, and they sprint down the highway after the truck. They find the soda machine left in the road. Daryl smashes the glass and puts the pop in his bag. Rick believes there are still people they can bring in to Alexandria. Daryl asks, “Like this guy?” to which Rick answers, “No, not him.” Daryl and Rick have changed positions in terms of bringing people into Alexandria.
After running a mini-marathon, Rick and Daryl have caught up with Jesus who is fixing a flat tire. Jesus puts up a surprisingly good fight, but eventually Rick and Daryl pull their guns on him. When Jesus questions if they even really have bullets, they shoot a nearby walker in tandem. Loving the bro road trip. Jesus tells them, “I think you know I’m not a bad guy,” and Rick responds menacingly, “Yeah. What do you know about us?” They tie him up, but leave the ropes loose enough so he can eventually escape. Jesus doesn’t seem to think leaving him in the road tied up is the right thing to do, but, dude, you just tricked them and stole their truck!
The good news is that Daryl found one last undamaged can of soda in his bag, which he sets aside in the drink holder for Dr. Denise. As they drive, Rick and Daryl are celebrating with some food and music (“If My Heart Was a Car” by Old 97’s). Rick points out that everything worked out and he’s is convinced today is still the day. But the writers decide to make Rick look like a chump, because Jesus has miraculously made it onto the roof of the truck. You gotta kill him now, don’t you?
Rick pulls into a farm and slams on the brakes, causing Jesus to tumble off the roof. Daryl jumps out of the truck and proceeds to chase Jesus around the field in a Benny Hill sort of way. We’re not clear why Daryl didn’t just take out his gun and shoot Jesus. Instead Daryl chases Jesus around the truck, while Rick kills walkers in the field. Jesus manages to get Daryl’s gun, and rather than killing Daryl, he shoots the walker lumbering up behind Daryl. Daryl irritably tells him, “That’s my gun,” and grabs it away. As they continue to struggle, the truck begins to roll
Jesus manages to get Daryl’s gun, and rather than killing Daryl, he shoots the walker lumbering up behind Daryl. Daryl irritably tells him, “That’s my gun,” and grabs it away. As they continue to struggle, the truck begins to roll backwards. Daryl and Jesus fall out of the truck, and Jesus is knocked unconscious to the ground. The truck, and all its supplies, slides into a pond and sinks.
Rick wanders back from killing walkers, and Daryl tells him, “Law of averages. That’s bull$&!#, man.” We think so too. Couldn’t you have given us this one triumph? We didn’t even get the soda. They debate what to do with Jesus. Daryl suggests leaving him in a tree. We’re still surprised no one is talking about killing him, but the moral compass can swing wildly in The Walking Dead.
Rick and Daryl take Jesus with them back to Alexandria. As they drive, the unconscious Jesus keeps dropping his head onto Daryl’s shoulder, annoying him to no end. Rick insists Daryl never would’ve left Jesus, but Daryl says he would have been happy to leave him in a tree. Rick responds, “No. I know. Almost as soon as we got to Alexandria, you got it. You saw. You and Michonne, Glenn, you all tried to tell me. So shut up. ‘Cause I’m finally listening.” But are you listening, Rick? It sure seems like you aren’t hearing what he’s trying to tell you about his experiences outside of Alexandria.
As they approach Alexandria, Daryl expresses how his own position on bringing in others has changed.
Daryl: “You know, I was thinking… back before we went out to the quarry. The morning after Reg and Pete. You said we shouldn’t be looking for people no more. You were right.”
Rick: “No… I was wrong. You were right.”
Since he’s been spending time outside of Alexandria, Daryl has gotten captured or held at gunpoint on three separate occasions. Meanwhile, Rick’s efforts training the people of Alexandria paid off when it came down to the wire. It’s understandable why their positions would’ve changed.
They bring Jesus back to Alexandria and wake Dr. Denise to treat him. Daryl tells her he couldn’t get the thing, blaming their still unconscious burden. After she treats him they bring Jesus back to the cellhouse and lay him down. Rick leaves a note and some water for when Jesus comes to.
Rick: “It is pretty stupid of us to go there, isn’t it?”
Daryl: “Yup. Do it again tomorrow?”
Michonne tries to convince Spencer to come back home with her. He tells her, “My family’s dead. That’s not home. It’s just where I live.” He tells her that there’s something he’s got to do. Michonne wants to help him, but he says she can’t.
Just then Michonne and Spencer see Carl with a walker following along behind him. The walker turns out to be Deanna. Spencer has been looking for his mother all this time. At least someone is showing some sadness about all the Alexandrians who died in the first half of Season 6. Michonne holds walker Deanna while Spencer puts a knife in the base of her skull. They bury Deanne because, of course, he’s been carrying a shovel around with him all this time. Spencer feels lost because his family is gone. Michonne tells him, “I’ve been out here chasing you all over the woods. You still got family. You still got a home.”
Back in Alexandria Carl is showing Judith the stars. He tells her that if she gets lost at night, she just needs to find the North Star. Michonne arrives and tells Carl that she saw what he did. She scolds him for not killing or leaving Deanna. He tells her that he wasn’t going to leave her out there, and he couldn’t kill her “because it should be someone who loved her, someone who’s family…” After having to be the one kill his own mother after she died giving birth to Judith, Carl wanted to give Spencer the opportunity to be the one show his own mother that mercy. Carl tells Michonne that he would do the same if she turned, and she says she would too. So offering to kill each other if they turn is how people acknowledge they love each other in the world of The Walking Dead.
It’s all Happening
Rick returns home and Michonne shows him Judith on the baby monitor. Rick says he’s glad to be home. They ask about each other’s day, but neither wants to talk. They just want to sit together. He got her some mints instead of toothpaste. They hold hands, look at each other, and then begin to kiss. All the Richonne shippers rejoice. Who’s Jessie?
Daryl and Michonne wake up to find Jesus standing in the bedroom. Despite their post-coital exhaustion and full nudity, they immediately grab their weapons and stand ready. Jesus tells Rick they need to talk.
The Walking Dead knows what we want, so they gave it to us in “The Next World.” Sure the road trip is more of a bogus journey than excellent adventure, but we love seeing these two favorites together. It provides an opportunity to show how the different experiences of these two men have changed their outlook on dealing with outsiders. Not so radically that either even discuss killing Jesus, despite him causing them to lose a truck of supplies, but enough so that their expansionist/isolationist positions have reversed. Michonne and Rick finally come together. Sure, it could have waited one episode until the audience feels like Rick has actually mourned for Jessie, but they did indicate that some time has passed. Life is short if the world of The Walking Dead. “The Next World” does provide the audience a chance to mourn along with Spencer through the heartbreaking scene with his mother. Though there were moments we had to suspend our disbelief in “The Next World,” it was a lighter episode that creates a bridge to something new.