|Photo Credit: The Walking Dead / Gene Page|
The Next World opened up a new can of worms: a look what the show might be like if the zombie apocalypse met Dukes of Hazard and if the survivors had a semi-happy life. Nearly two months have gone by since "last week's" events ere. Alexandria is a new kind of safe haven. Two of our leading warriors Rick and Michonne jump into love meanwhile a supply run with Rick and Daryl is full of sideshow antics.
Nicely written by Angela Kang and Correy Reed, the episode was nicely upbeat. At the onset, a complete absence of dread and fear has set in. Lulling us into a false sense of security, we were left to see what happens if the walkers are gone and the character's defenses were softened. It seems that once the massive threat of the undead is vanquished, it's okay to kick back and take it easy.
One of the things that paid off from the Walker Smackdown was Deanna's death. It propelled the community to unite and for Rick to finally accept the Alexandrians. Was this a huge pay-off? With the time jump, the cathartic reward is difficult to gauge. Every opportunity for sensible conflicts or reunions between the group's main or minor members are forgotten about or at least delayed for the time being. We didn't experience reunions between characters like Carol and Daryl or Abraham and Rosita, no seeming struggle for Carl and his injury, or even Rick handling Morgan's betrayal with the wolf. These things will probably come together over multiple episodes, but like the first half of the season, it feels like a lot of stuff was left out of the picture.
As things progress, it's difficult to predict the direction of the next several episodes. Part of me feels like the episode was a prime opportunity for Gimple to knock everyone's expectations out of the park and go right for the happy-go-lucky life the characters have needed. What's coming next will be grim or chaotic, and we'll be settle back into the action that's surely waiting.
Mothers are a huge aspect of the show from Lori and Carol to Maggie, Michonne and Deanna. With Deanna's death, Spencer is the last surviving member of the Monroe family. Though she was bitten and seemed to be consumed by other walkers, Spencer held onto dread that he swore he saw his mother as a zombie. So on his breaks, he's gone into the forest to look for her.
Venturing out into the woods, Michonne joined him. Carl and Enid were outside the walls too - reading comic books and hanging out. By happenstance, Carl and Enid came across a walker who for the most part was faceless to us. After Enid admitted to Carl that she didn't want to go out into the forest anymore, Carl strangely didn't kill the walker right away. He backed it into a corner and on the ground, as Enid ran away towards home.
Spencer and Michonne's time together established some differences. Spencer is at a total loss and not feeling like Alexandria is his home anymore without a family. Michonne, regaining her sense of self and family, is realizing what her heart desires. She's also recognizing how much Spencer needs to know he is needed and cared for just as Deanna requested them to do.
Eventually, we saw Carl lead his walker towards Michonne and Spencer. It was revealed to be Deanna.
What I loved the most about this episode was the subtle connections to Lori. I'd even say, and this is the part that is most meaningful to me, is that it was a nice love letter to Lori. Look, her character wasn't the best and she suffered a from a lot of mistakes aka poor writing and showrunner choices. As the seasons have gone, she's continued to be criticized, etc. this was a nice way to bring her back.
How Spencer treated his mother's passing was a surprising parallel to Carl and Lori, and Michonne respectfully taking her place. As far back as season four with Clear, moments between Michonne and Carl were paralleled to Michonne and Spencer and Carl himself; her trailing behind Spencer as he went looking for his mother just like Carl was looking for a photograph of Lori for Judith; Carl killing Lori just like Spencer killing his mother. One of Lori's biggest fears was something going wrong while she was in labor, and coming back as a walker to hurt the baby or Carl. Now, on the opposite end of the spectrum, Carl didn't Walker Deanna to harm Michonne and Spencer but he couldn't take that closure away from Spencer.
Even though it was disturbing for Spencer and us to see his mother had turned, and to see Alexandria's matriarch become the thing she didn’t want to be, the moment provided essential and beautiful closure to both Carl, Spencer, and Michonne. Both mothers saw their sons for the last time before they had to be killed by them. Michonne being there for both boys after losing her own child takes extraordinary strength and growth. It's a very powerful tone running throughout the show.
The Next World was also a substantial tribute to Lori's fears in season two. When Carl was shot, Rick and Lori discussed whether or not it was good to keep Carl alive. Lori's major fear as Carl growing up to be fearful all the time like they were living with a knife at their throats. "Four years later", or show wise two years later, Carl is a man - he's become brave; he doesn't do the easy thing; he tries to do what's right with Rick and Michonne's guiding him. Who would've known so early on that Carl was going to beat this world - just what his mother wanted and with a new mother-figure to help.
Enid is not without a mother figure and guardians too. Glenn and Maggie are stepping up to the plate. Her interaction with Carl was totally different than the one in season five when they were giddy breaking all the rules and teasing walkers. Sure Alexandria was a different place to be when she first arrived, but she was hardly there most of the time. Now she has people that care about her, which I don't think she felt in Alexandria before Rick's group came along. Leaving Lori's sight was something Carl always did, so Enid continuing down a path of trying to stay within the walls for these surrogate parents is a nice connection between the both of them.
As Rick said, Mom's gonna die, I'm gonna die. No more kid stuff. That just doesn't apply to Carl but Spencer and Enid too.
We've finally entered the next world of the zombie apocalypse, but I don't think it's going to be the one that Rick was promising Carl last week. We all know Negan and his gang is on the way - and this was a good testament to show just how off-kilter our group has become.
Rick and Daryl go on a run and come across a barn with a huge moving truck filled with supplies. Barely making it to a nearby gas station, they got robbed by Jesus - a prominent character from the comic books.
I don't know much about him but he is quite the scrappy fellow. He basically managed to swipe their truck keys, distract Rick and Daryl with firecrackers, and take off with the car. Then they barely managed to catch him before ending up in a meadow of walkers and the truck ending up in a lake.
It was so good to see these two team up again. Like last week's closing with Rick and Carl, I felt like we got some of the earliest season's sass and humor back. They shared so many moments of Rick purposely aggravating Daryl by playing horrible country music, and just the way they talked to each other overall in how to handle Jesus. I don't mind brooding, quiet Daryl but I certainly miss stomp-ass and take-names Daryl.
But, if there's one thing that was the most apparent from their failed encounters with Jesus, it's that they are completely out of practice. In season five upon entering Alexandria, Carl told Rick that he didn't want them to get soft. This is exactly what happened. They didn't know how to make heads or tails out of Jesus' true intentions if he looks/acts like a good or bad guy.
On every other level, Rick and Daryl are brothers, exactly as Rick proclaimed in season four's A. This mini-road trip showed another layer to their relationship. Their level of communication is at a place where they don't have to reason why or why not they think it's a good idea to recruit. They are so much on the same page in terms of just taking a stranger down when they're pushed too far. Daryl has had Rick's back on a countless number of occasions, especially in the earlier seasons when Shane was starting to lose his mind.
Even though Daryl replaced Shane long ago, his and Rick's adventure called back to Rick and Shane's disagreement on what to do with Randall in season two's 19 Miles Out - the whole time they were on opposite pages and arguing their sides. Though Daryl and Rick had their disagreements about Jesus, they didn't resort to beating each other up. Their perspectives, as well as the resolution, to bring Jesus back with them is the same. We don't know if he belongs to anyone else or what his intentions are. Rick wants to wait it out and see if he can become a member of Alexandria, and Daryl doesn't trust people anymore - they're too dangerous.
My only issue with Rick and Daryl's road trip, even though it was pretty funny, was that it almost came across as a flat joke. Their choices and mistakes went against almost all the "survival tactics" we've observed over the years. It was hella funny, but they completely wasted getting anything of use for the camp. I guess this is another way to show just how loose they're becoming - before they were scrounging around for any bit of food or medicine, and now, they can waste a day and just agree to go out and do "better" tomorrow.
Do not be lured by this shows' false sense of security. This is what I keep telling myself. But inevitably, I'm going to. This episode did a good job of that.
After Rick and Daryl's raucous day, Rick settled into his house with Michonne. Some lighthearted gabbing about their day and taking a breath from it all, their hand-holding quickly escalated into kissing and then sleeping with each other....RICHONNE IS HAPPENING. THIS IS NOT A TEST.
As I've said before I don't ship characters that much. I just like to invest in the relationships that are concretely shown like Glenn/Maggie, Aaron/Eric, Rosita/Abraham, etc. I never really play around with what might have been or could be with relationships. I think it makes it easier to process when a relationship ends and a character moves on, or if a relationship I want to happen doesn't go further than my imagination or curiosity, I'm not yearning for what could've been. I'm not against what fans come up with or invest in on their own.
My ship for Rick has always been Lori, or that he's single. I wasn't a Jessick but understood why it happened. I wasn't a Richonner but could see what fans were talking about. Honestly, if there's a relationship in entertainment that took its time developing a good friendship and letting the intimacy grow, it'd be Michonne and Rick. Their moment on the couch was so beautiful, touching, and showed so much development. I didn't really know what canon is, or most of the shipping/fandom terms, until this episode. I'm happy for all the Richonners out there.
I need a few weeks off after realizing that Rick doesn't wear his wedding ring anymore. It was majorly distracting watching The Next World and realizing how many weird angles there were of Rick's left hand; it was always covered by something, at an odd angle so his ring finger wasn't clear, or he used his right hand instead.Lori and Rick's relationship was more complicated than I can put into words, and this recap shouldn't be another thesis paper long going into all of that. But, still. My idea of Rick being single or with Lori was so strong - I need some time.
Rewatching the episode the signs were there all along - them listening to Boston's More Than A Feelin as Rick was getting dressed; the camera pans of Rick putting on his watch but not showing if he put on his ring, etc. It was freaking clever, fun, and even shocking, but it still hurt like hell.
+ Critics are actually criticizing that Richonne happened too soon. And, I thought I was crazy for mourning the downfall of a marriage that happened four years ago. Richonne has been building up that long!
+ Carl got his sheriff's hat back!!!
+ Glenn and Maggie's parents voices are so cute.
+ Also, Rick's five o'clock shadow is back. Boy doesn't have time to shave. Trouble is definitely on the horizon.