Welcome to another episode of The Walking Dead, sponsored by Orange Crush! The only soda for surviving the zombie apocalypse and losing all your supplies in a lake. "The Next World" was all about those people remaining in Alexandria mourning the deaths of Sam and Ron Anderson from the Season 6B premiere, and it was a cathartic journey for viewers as well. Just kidding! Ron and Sam (and Jessie) weren't even mentioned once, because the show couldn't get away from those two dopes fast enough either. Here's hoping that the zombie versions of them show up so we can watch them get killed all over again.
Instead, "The Next World" jumped forward in time a few weeks to erase all the horrors (and schadenfreude) from the zombie assault on Alexandria and get on with business. And that business involved bromance and romance!
It's absurd that The Walking Dead hasn't incorporated more Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) adventures in its previous 76 episodes. Absurd, I say! They are the two biggest badasses on the series (though Carol and Michonne might kick my teeth in for saying that), so cordoning them off together to let them do their thing seemed like something that should be on the top of The Walking Dead writers' room whiteboard every single week. Thankfully, this episode featured the two of them on a supply run front and center, and it was 1 million percent amazing.
With the terror of the zombie horde behind them and the streets of Alexandria magically cleaned up from the walker genocide of last week's episode (so glad we didn't get a "cleanup" episode of confused Alexandrians dragging corpses that split in two when pulled — wait, actually that sounds pretty cool), Daryl and Rick be shopping! Denise (Merritt Wever) wanted some "pop" — which is how weirdos say "soda" — because Tara (Alanna Masterson) mumbled about it in her sleep and Denise wanted to give her a treat. Eugene (Josh McDermitt) wanted some sorghum and Michonne (Danai Gurira) wanted some toothpaste because... well, you'll see why. Basically, the need for toiletries, organic produce and sugary drinks instead of bazooka ammo and pointy sticks meant that life was returning to normal in their little 'burb, just as Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) had promised Rick.
Rick and Daryl eventually came upon a truck loaded with supplies and snatched it up quicker than you could say, "Oh, they're not going to have this for too long because something bad is going to happen." On their way home, Daryl stopped to get some of that "pop" and the two ran into a lone survivor. Or should I say the lone survivor ran into them. The man's name was Jesus (Tom Payne), who fans of the comics will know. But for us who didn't, we couldn't have seen the slick con he would pull when he stole Rick's keys, created a diversion with some firecrackers and a lie about incoming zombies, and then hauled butt out of there with their truck.
Thanks to a flat tire (convenient!), Rick and Daryl caught up to Jesus and took their truck back, tying up Jesus on the side of the road. But Jesus must be part Houdini and part Spider-Man, because he managed to surf the top of the truck like Teen Wolf, starting another struggle between the trio and ending with the truck slumping into a lake.
Much of Rick and Daryl's conversations that weren't for comedy (seriously, this was the funniest episode of The Walking Dead ever — more on that later) were about Rick's change of heart with regards to saving other people. I talked some about this last week and vented some frustration with it, mostly because I prefer the Rick who survived at all costs because he made me believe in his ways and the show did so much fantastic heavy lifting to convince me, but it looks like we're definitely getting the old Rick who wants to save everyone and their mother, so his plan was to bring Jesus back to Alexandria and get him fixed up. Yes, the same guy who stole their truck and left them for dead. But in Jesus' defense, he did save Daryl's life by shooting a walker. Perhaps he's a lovable rogue and not the cold-hearted villain we thought he might be? Meanwhile, in contrast to Rick, Daryl was coming around to the idea of NOT saving people, like Rick said before. OK, The Walking Dead, if your idea of character development is sliding your characters back and forth on the morality spectrum, then fine.
Sliding over to the side of compassionate this week was Spencer (Austin Nichols), whose mysterious treks into the woods caught Michonne's eye. Turned out that Spencer was searching for zombie Deanna (his mom) in order to finish her off, because he needed to after spotting her walking away during the great scrum in Alexandria from last week's episode. That's a noble gesture, but let me just say that if my mom, cousin thrice removed, pet cat or anyone in between becomes a zombie, do not worry about leaving them for me to kill. Go ahead! Do whatever you want with them, I really do not care. Stab them in the face, dress them up like 1920s babies in sailor outfits, I don't care. I do not understand this show's obsession with family members needing to kill zombified versions of family members. Carl (Chandler Riggs) would later say that he couldn't kill Z-eanna because he felt someone close to her should do it. Nope! In the case of Andrea and Amy from Season 1, I get it. Andrea was with her as she died. THAT made sense. After a few weeks, I don't need closure badly enough to walk around the woods by myself in the hopes I can give mommy a goodbye shank. (Also, Mom, if you are reading this, I am sorry!)
Also, WHY are people walking around the woods for no real good reason? In addition to Spencer going on walkabouts, Carl and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) would go into the forest and just hang out? Everyone say it with me: STAY IN THE HOUSE, CARL! Especially since your depth perception is all kind of whacked.
However, maybe it's good he doesn't hang around the house because otherwise he might walk in on what everyone will surely be talking about. Rick and Michonne did the nasty. When this show wants Rick to change, it does it with gusto. I mean, it was just an episode ago that he was in a living nightmare watching his girlfriend getting eaten, complete with "remember the good times" flashbacks. There are definitely a few problems with this. Where did this attraction come from? What happened during the time jump to bring them so close together? Why isn't Rick mourning the loss of Jessie? Would he jump right on Michonne so soon after his last girlfriend died? Why wasn't any of this set up for more than a single episode? Do any of us actually want this? On the flip side, a zombie apocalypse can be awfully stressful, and nothing relieves stress like a romp in the sheets. And that's the only excuse I can think of for this to happen.
Personally, I'd rather 'ship Daryl and Rick. Did you see the way Daryl fed Rick chocolate? That was adorable. In fact, the chemistry these two showed together was probably the most fun interaction any two characters on this show have had. The Walking Dead has problems developing its characters because it usually has no choice but to feature them in tragic circumstances, and the series ran out of things to say about that several seasons ago. But by putting Rick and Daryl in a relaxed situation — which still fit into the apocalypse survival of it all by having them bond during a supply run — both of them really popped and came alive. This was great stuff. I know the show's DNA doesn't allow much fun to be had, but here's evidence that it should make way for it.
But before I wrap things up, let's talk about that ending! As Rick and Michonne lay naked in their bed after a bout of mattress testing, Jesus entered the room (ummm, knock?) and said, "Rick, wake up. We need to talk," while Rick and Michonne stood buck naked, armed and ready to kill. What does Jesus have to say? And how awkward was that?
"The Next World" was largely successful because of Rick and Daryl's excellent adventure. But let's hear it for Jesus, who appears to be a welcome addition to the show. That's not an easy thing to say, given how many forgettable characters have come and gone, but he's already showing more personality than most of the other zombie chow ever did. And as we near Season 7, fresh blood — not forced hookups — is exactly what we need.
What did you think of "The Next World"?
The Walking Dead airs Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.