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The Walking Dead - The Next World - Review

The Walking Dead, “The Next World,” was written by the team of Angela Kang and Corey Reed and was directed by Kari Skogland whose other credits include Fear the Walking Dead, Penny Dreadful, and The Borgias. The episode continues this season’s focus on some of the most memorable moments and characters from the comic books, introducing Paul Rovia aka Jesus played by Tom Payne. However, the episode will likely remain most memorable for it ending with Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Rick (Andrew Lincoln) taking their quasi-familial situation to the next level and consummating their relationship.

While plenty happened in this episode, if felt like a real respite for the characters after the headlong run of the first nine episodes. This episode was beautifully structured and shot. Chandler Riggs (Carl) delivers another outstanding performance. We have two indications that some time has passed since the last episode. Carl is back on his feet and Rick has a new picture on his dresser of Carl with Judith. Maggie (Lauren Cohen) mentions that they’ve been spending weeks putting Alexandria back together again.

The episode is nicely bookended by beginning and ending in Rick’s bedroom. As it opens, there’s an oddly domestic scene as Rick dresses for “work” with baby Judith playing on the floor. Rick has to literally tighten his belt by adding another hole. We see that while he is still wearing that all important watch – the thing that symbolizes civilization – he isn’t wearing his wedding ring any more.

Michonne appears in her robe and with a towel on her head. She’s out of toothpaste and tries to borrow some from both Rick and then Carl – but she’s already used all of theirs. It’s a nice nod to her obsession with brushing her teeth that we saw when they first arrived in Alexandria.

We hear a ball bouncing off a wall. It’s Carl, and it’s irritating, but it’s physiotherapy that Denise (Merritt Wever) has prescribed – no doubt to help his depth perception adjust now that he only has one eye. It’s unclear who is playing music, but it seems likely that it’s Rick given his predilection for playing it throughout the episode. Here is yet another indication that Rick is getting comfortable, that he’s allowing himself to live again. Whether this is a good or bad thing still remains to be seen. The song is Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” and it’s utterly perfect. The song is about learning to dream again after loss – “so many people have come and gone” – and especially watching his love – Marianne – walk away. Rick is finally able to let Lori go. I loved the shot of Rick and Michonne telling each other to have a good day, and how packed it was with unsaid feelings with just a low five in passing.

Meanwhile, Daryl (Norman Reedus) is going over Denise’s list. They very carefully talk around that last item on the list. Denise is clearly embarrassed to even be asking, and Daryl’s curiosity has been sparked. Daryl finally just concludes, “so you like it.” And Denise answers, “No. I don’t pop.” And here’s the beauty of that one simple line – that if you aren’t American and aren’t in the know, will have confused you. Daryl asks “what the hell is pop.” And Denise clarifies, “I’m originally from Ohio.” Whether you call it pop or soda delineates where you are from in the US as it’s very much a regional reference – pop in the north, soda – as Rick refers to it later in the episode – in the south. If you are from Texas, it’s all coke. Clearly, for trademark reasons, they couldn’t go there! Anyway, it was a nice little touch to draw a line between north and south and underscore how different our townsfolk are in some ways.

Denise finally confesses that she wants the pop for Tara (Alanna Masterson). She says that Tara talks about it in her sleep – letting us, and Daryl, know they are sleeping together. Denise doesn’t even really know if Tara likes it, she just thinks it will be a nice surprise, and she wants to do something nice before Tara heads out on a two week trip with Heath. And that’s all Daryl needs to know. He’s completely on board to help someone do something nice for someone else, especially if it’s in the name of love!

Daryl and Rick are scouting together – and I think I speak for virtually everyone in saying how much of a treat it was to have the two finally spend the majority of an episode together! The friendship the two have in real life just enhances the chemistry between these two characters. Rick and Daryl are from such different backgrounds, yet both are so very similar at heart and really help to ground each other.

The two are met at the gate by Eugene (Josh McDermitt) who is there to let them out. McDermitt is terrific even in such a short scene. Eugene is just so earnest! He tells the two that he’s mapped out the agricultural stores nearby and admonishes them to look for sorghum. He tells them that it’s a “criminally underrated grain that could change our food situation from scary to hunky-dunky.” Rick and Daryl don’t know what to make of him, but nod and take the advice.

The two head out and there’s a gorgeous long shot of the car going up the empty road. Rick tells Daryl, “Today’s the day. Gonna find food, maybe some people. Law of averages gotta catch up.” Of course, they do find food and one person… they just don’t necessarily get to bring it back. Daryl muses that maybe it’s a good thing if they don’t find anyone. There positions have flipped since the first episode this season. Rick continues with his music and puts in Ronnie Dawson’s “Action-packed” over Daryl’s “Please. Please don’t!” The song is a fun shout out to Rick’s Georgia roots, but the song’s lyrics say that if the singer got rich, he’d still want action. It certainly seems like Rick is never going to have a life that is anything but action-packed – and certainly, his day is!

I loved the shot of the car doing a double take as the two almost drive past a barn with SORGHUM written on the roof. They come roaring backwards, back into frame, before turning down the road and going to the barn. I loved the easy way in which the two worked together to make sure that the barn and then the van were clear and safe. And lo and behold, the van is sitting there, unlocked, full of food and with a crate of toothpaste for Michonne! And naturally, it starts right up! Rick can’t help but gloat – “How bout that? Law of averages…”

The two pull into a gas station, and Daryl is drawn to the vending machine lying face down. They use the van and a chain to roll it over. Rick asks, “Soda and candy – why the trouble?” Daryl responds that it’s no trouble. And it actually does end up being the root of their trouble. However, candy plays a big role in the episode – as it has in the past. Candy has been a real source of comfort and connection in the past – even Carol (Melissa McBride) takes chocolate from the pantry. More importantly, Michonne and Carl used to wager with chocolate bars. In this episode, we see Rick and Daryl sharing a chocolate bar later in the episode, and Enid (Katelyn Nacon) and Carl share candy. And of course, Rick brings Michonne a package of lifesavers… get it? Life savers?

However, it’s while Rick and Daryl are looking at the vending machine that Jesus runs into Rick and steals the van keys. Daryl and Rick both pull their guns on him – and this was another great shot as the shot is somewhat distorted, emphasizing their guns. He tells them he was just running from the dead – there were 10, maybe more. Interestingly, in the Bible, Jesus healed 10 lepers – he also tells several parables that focus on tens – ten minas, 10 virgins, and 10 coins. Jesus also tells Rick and Daryl that they have about 11 minutes to get away. There were 11 apostles left after Judas’ betrayal.

Jesus asks them if they have a camp, and both deny it. Jesus says he doesn’t have one either, but Rick has noticed that he’s clean and his beard is trimmed – there’s more to him. He tells them, “This is the next world. Hope it’s good to you.” After Rick introduces himself and Daryl, Paul Rovia does the same, spreading his arms – cross-like – and explaining his friends used to call him Jesus – their choice. Daryl doesn’t want to bring back a guy who call himself Jesus and stops Rick from asking him the three questions.

Jesus steals the truck by setting off firecrackers which lure the two away. They take off in pursuit on foot. And I have to say that the close ups of Daryl’s biker boots and Rick’s cowboy boots did not make me envy the running they had to do!

The two stop once when they find the vending machine and take what they can out of it. The two split an orange crush – which seemed to be the only pop/soda left. Daryl finally admits it was a special request from the Doc. Rick is totally ok with that because she saved Carl’s life. Rick points out that they didn’t know her and she turned out to be alright. There’s still people out there that they can bring in – but by now, Rick agrees, “Not this guy.”

They come on Jesus fixing a flat, and Rick gets the jump on him, but he’s got some serious fighting skills. Jesus throws Daryl into the van – back first so the cans in his backpack are almost all crushed – orange crush remember! They finally get him down and both pull their guns on him again. This scene had me totally flashing to Reedus’ Boondock Saints part. Jesus questions whether they even have ammo, and the two simultaneously shoot a walker in the head that’s approaching from the woods.

Jesus tries to reason with them, saying, “I think you know I’m not a bad guy,” but Rick is having none of it and returns, “Yeah? What do you know about us?” Rick can be downright scary! He leaves Jesus “loosely” tied, and Rick and Daryl are on the road again in the van. Daryl has one pop left, and gives Jesus the one fingered salute (also a Boondock Saints reference) in the mirror and tells him, “so long, you prick!”

Rick and Daryl share their chocolate bar as “If My Heart Were a Car” plays. Rick insists it still worked out. Today is the day. They are about to check out another barn, when they hear something on the roof and realize it’s Jesus! Rick slams on the brakes and Jesus hits the ground in front of them. When he gets up and runs, Daryl bales out of the van and runs after him. There are walkers tied to a truck that break free, and Rick tries to take them out after parking the van.

        Jesus jumps back into the van, and Daryl goes after him. Daryl doesn’t see the walker coming behind him, but Jesus does, telling Daryl to duck – which he does – and shooting the walker. Daryl says “thanks” before punching Jesus and pointing out that Jesus was using Daryl’s gun! As they tussle, the van gets knocked into reverse and slowly – and painfully! – rolls into the lake and submerges. Rick and Daryl watch, and Daryl says, “Law of averages. Bullshit, man.”

Daryl knocks out Jesus and wants to leave him. His only concession is that they can put him up a tree. Rick points out that Jesus helped Daryl. Daryl replies, “maybe.” And then Rick asks if Jesus ever pulled a weapon on him. In the end, as we knew he would, Daryl agrees to bring Jesus back, even if only to let Denise look him over.

I loved the scene of the three driving back to Alexandria. Was Jesus really asleep/unconscious that whole time? I have to wonder. I loved Rick continuing to bump the wheel so that Jesus’ head fell on Daryl’s shoulder! We return to the discussion of whether they should be looking for more people. Rick tells him, that Daryl, Michonne and Glenn all got it as soon as they got to Alexandria – the possibility of a “next world.” Daryl looks thoughtful as Rick tells him, “So shut up. I’m finally listening.”

As they arrive back at Alexandria, we see that there is a new sign: “Welcome to the Alexandria Safe Zone. Mercy for the Lost. Vengeance for the plunderers.” Daryl says he was thinking about what Rick said the morning before the quarry, that they shouldn’t be looking for more people. Daryl has decided that Rick was right, but Rick tell him, “Nope. I was wrong. You were right.”

The two take Jesus to Denise, who opens the door, groggy with sleep and with Tara right behind her. Daryl tells her “Sorry. That thing didn’t work out. It’s this asshole’s fault.” They end up leaving him tied in the safehouse with a glass of water and a note. Daryl is left to watch him until he’s relieved by someone else. I loved the exchange between Rick and Daryl as they leave. Rick comments that it’s pretty stupid for them to go out there. Daryl replies, “Do it again tomorrow?” And Rick says, “yep.

While Rick and Daryl are away, life goes on in Alexandria. It’s clear that Maggie has pretty much stepped into Deanna’s (Tovah Feldshuh) role. She goes looking for Enid, who she finds alone, writing in a journal. Maggie wants to know where she’s been. Enid tells her nowhere. Maggie tells her that Enid helped get Glenn home and helped save her. There are better places for Enid to be – Maggie clearly wants to integrate her. Maggie is used to being the big sister too. She tells Enid that she’s around and that Enid should come talk to her.

Michonne is on watch tower duty when she sees someone slip off into the woods. It turns out to be Spencer (Austin Nichols) with a shovel on his back. It’s totally Michonne to follow him, but why didn’t she notify anyone that she was leaving? Who’s on watch now? Are they already getting too comfortable again? She catches up with Spencer when he’s confronting a walker and steps in to take its head off for him. Because she has a sword. Another perfect Michonne line. When she asks him what he’s doing, he says he walks after his shifts. He’s been doing it for a while, and she’s the first to notice. How bad are their lookouts!?!

Michonne tells him that his mom told her that she had to figure out what she wanted for her whole life. Spencer asks if she has. She tells him that she’s working up to it. It requires a commitment after all, and none of them really want to commit to this being the next world – that there’s no going back to the way things were. As it turns out, Spence himself has no idea where he goes from here. He walks off, and Michonne follows. He doesn’t tell her to go away just yet.

Enid and Carl are also in the woods, something they’ve done since they met. Enid finds a deflated balloon that had a message tied to it. It’s a nice reference to the other balloons she found and she identifies it now in the same way. Like the other characters in this episode, especially those in the woods, she is at a crossroads. Where does this next world take her?

The message is gone because the paper got wet, but Enid tells Carl that just by doing it, the person was saying something. They are – or were – alive. Enid points out that they aren’t alone – and that’s important to her now. Carl dismisses it saying they already knew there were other people out there – referencing the wolves. People died. And that’s really Carl’s experience of meeting others before Alexandria – the Governor and Terminus.

Enid questions why they are still coming out to the woods. Carl responds, “Because we’re kids. It’s what they do.” He says they are kids, but then he identifies kids as “they” – separating himself and Enid from them. Carl hasn’t believed he’s a kid since he shot that boy outside the prison – in the woods. Enid flat out tells him, “We’re not kids.” As teenagers, even in a normal world, they would be at that crossroads between child and adult, but in this next world, they really don’t have the option of lingering in childhood.

The two are simply sitting together reading and sharing a snack – something you’d expect any teenagers to do in their spare time. Enid, however, is still trying to decipher that note and let’s not forget her own writing at the beginning of the episode. Carl is reading a comic – it’s Invincible which was written by and created by The Walking Dead creator Robert Kirkman! This is also a shout out to Michonne’s bringing Carl comics back from some of her very first runs at the prison. As the two are sitting in companionable silence, they hear someone moving through the woods. Carl leaps up and draws his gun, already in fight mode. Enid, however, flees to the hollow tree. It’s Michonne and Spencer, so Carl relaxes though he’s curious as to what they are doing.

Enid emerges from the tree and says she doesn’t want to come out there anymore. Carl says ok. He puts the comic back in the container they have by the tree – is it like a toybox and he’s putting away his childish things? He puts his hat on – he’s real sign of adulthood. He doesn’t seem bothered by her statement. Has he simply been coming out to humor her and keep her safe, waiting for her to accept Alexandria as her home?

The two see a walker and Enid says to just leave it, but Carl says Michonne is out there, so he’s not leaving it as it puts her in danger – it’s interesting that he doesn’t mention Spencer. We don’t see the walker’s face, but something about it clearly rattles the two. Enid wants to kill it, but Carl tells her to leave it and just go back. Even when the walker goes for Enid, Carl merely knocks it down and says that he’s not killing it. I like how they set us up to wonder about Carl’s state of mind here. But he hasn’t lost his nerve and his humanity is as strong as ever.

Meanwhile, Spencer finally asks Michonne why she’s still following him. She tells him that she liked his mom and doesn’t want him to die. She suggests that they go home. Spencer tells her that his family is dead, he doesn’t have a home any more. He’s not completely giving up and shutting the door on the next world, however. He tells her that he has something he has to take care of before he can decide what’s next. Michonne asks him to let her help, and he tells her she can’t.

It’s at this point that we get the terrific parallel to Carl spotting Michonne in the woods as she spots him. He’s lead the walker to them. Spencer finally admits that this is why he’s been in the woods – he thought he’d seen her the night they fought back the walkers. And we finally get the reveal that the walker is Deanna. Michonne holds her while Spencer drives the knife into the back of her skull so that he can look in Deanna’s eyes as he does it. The two bury Deanna in the woods and Michonne carves a D into the tree overlooking the grave.

Spencer tells Michonne that Deanna left him a note – which we know. He tells her that she told him he still knew his way. Spencer insists that he never knew his way. Michonne asks him if he loves his family. Spencer says yes, and Michonne says, “then you know your way.” Spencer points out again that his entire family is now dead, which forces Michonne to point out that she’s been out in the woods chasing him all day. “You’ve still got family. A home.” And once again, she’s proven it by her actions – it’s not simply empty words.

Perhaps my favorite scene – and not only in the episode – is the one between Carl and Michonne. Carl is sitting with Judith in his lap showing her the stars. He’s teaching her how to find her way if she’s lost at night – much as they all have been. And a nice echo of the entire theme in this episode of finding your way.

Michonne arrives and asks him if he had a good day. She tells him she saw what he did with Deanna. She’s afraid for him for putting himself in danger and misunderstands why he did it. She tells him he should have left Deanna or killed her. Carl tells her that’s stupid. Michonne is afraid for him and again insists that’s what’s stupid is him going out when he doesn’t need to and putting himself in danger. Carl points out that that’s exactly what Michonne and Spencer were doing. She insists that it’s different, but Carl is right in insisting that it’s not. He’s every bit as capable as they are – likely more so than Spencer even if with only one eye.

Carl insists that he wasn’t going to leave Deanna out there like that, and he knows Michonne wouldn’t have either. But he couldn’t kill her. Michonne wants to know if it’s some kind of game. But games are for children, and Carl is by no means a child. He tells Michonne that it needed to be someone who loved her, someone who’s family who put her out of her misery – as Carl did for Lori – to give them closure. Carl tells Michonne that he’d do it for her, and there’s no greater thing he could have said to prove how much he loves her. She hugs him and says she’d do it for him too.

Michonne and Rick meet on the couch at the end of their day. Michonne joins Rick to show him Judith on the baby monitor – and again it’s such a normal kind of nuclear family thing. They’ve both had tough days but neither really wants to talk about it, they just want to be in each other’s company. Rick gives Michonne the mints and then tells her the crate of toothpaste is at the bottom of the lake. She laughs and says, “So, you had a DAY!” He puts the lifesavers in her hand and they hold hands. The look at each other – clearly to confirm they are thinking the same thing – and then they take their relationship to the next level. I thought there was both a joyfulness and gentleness in this scene that was perfect.

I loved the shot of the two of them in bed – yin and yang. And then Jesus is at the foot of their bed – “Rick? Wake up.” Both Rick and Michonne are out of bed in a flash, him with his gun and her with the katana – and both buck naked and completely unselfconscious. Jesus goes on, “We should talk.” Clearly he’s broken out – and if he’s taken out Daryl, Daryl will be pissed! But he still has no weapons.

I thought this was another terrific episode in what is fast becoming my favorite season. What did you think? Favorite scene? Line? What about Rick and Michonne as a couple? Who is right about letting people in – Rick or Daryl? Should they trust Jesus? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below!

About the Author - Lisa Macklem
I do interviews and write articles for the site in addition to reviewing a number of shows, including Supernatural, Arrow, Agents of Shield, Agent Carter, The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, The X-Files, Defiance, Bitten, Killjoys, and a few others! I'm active on the Con scene when I have the time. When I'm not writing about television shows, I'm often writing about entertainment and media law in my capacity as a legal scholar. I also work in theatre when the opportunity arises. I'm an avid runner and rider, currently training in dressage.
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