In my notes this week, I wrote “Spencer kills zombie mom.” It made me laugh out loud when I realized I did so. Sure, the topic is morbid, but The Walking Dead has proven to be a show where the situations can only generate the desired emotion so often. Perhaps if I had more of a reason to care about Spencer I would have felt more for a plot about his mourning, but I was much happier dealing with the Rick and Daryl plot, which almost felt like a Looney Tunes episode.
To the show’s credit, ‘The Next World’ is the kind of episode I generally like. It’s character-focused with low stakes and I actually enjoyed spending time with Rick. Seriously, as much as I enjoy praising the Darth Rick angle of this season, seeing him lighten up makes me not only enjoy the character, but want to have fun with him. Fortunately we got to have an entire episode that modeled its main plot on a buddy movie.
After some quick details that establish how The Walking Dead made the best decision possible by jumping forward a couple weeks from last week’s mid-season premiere, we’re off and running on a supply mission. It may be a bit questionable to see Rick and Daryl team up, but these two generally play well with each other. Daryl gets to be himself, without having to sugar coat it for people he is either trying to impress or not scare off and Rick gets to play old country music that Daryl hates. The two are a wonderful match.
This pairing leads to two developments. The two find a truck full of all the supplies they happen to need and they meet Jesus (a nickname). Just as in the comics, Jesus is a clever guy and while things will certainly heat up next week, as we learn more about him and where he comes from, for now you can just take comfort in knowing he’s nimble. Yes, after RPG-crazy Daryl slaughtered evil bikers last week, he was proven to be mortal by Jesus, who was able to get a few hits in.
Honestly, given how bleak this series is, it was nice to enjoy the back-and-forth going on between Jesus and the guys, as the truck became a prized item both sides were after. Given how neither side wanted to actually hurt the other, it was fun to see this silliness play out. It did have to come to an end, but it led to a great wrap up for the plotline and a perfect setup for next week.
Before we get there though, there is the matter of all these people walking around the woods. We’ve known about Enid’s ‘over the wall’ treks for some time now and one-eyed Carl has been happy to come along. This week it finally led somewhere, as the two dealt with whether or not these field trips were still worth it, along with the walker corpse of Deanna. There is some good writing here and it helps provide a balance to the other grouping walking around the woods.
Earlier in the episode, Michonne spotted Spencer heading into the woods with a shovel. Once catching up with him, the two spend the time walking around. Some may have been able to put things together quicker than others, but it all leads up to Spencer putting the zombie corpse of his mom out of her misery. Again, there is some morbid humor to be found in that phrasing, but perhaps blending this story with the zanier antics involving Daryl and Rick was bound to lead to a less serious attitude for this subplot. Keeping this in mind, perhaps we can all take solace in not having to deal with Rick sob over Jessie and her sons dying in last week’s episode thanks to the time jump.
Skipping over that mourning process (which I basically assumed would happen last week) led to new ground being covered, as the seemingly inevitable love connection between Rick and Michonne finally jumped to a new level. Whether or not we really needed Rick to have another love interest so quickly, it helps that the groundwork had been laid so effortlessly (largely thanks to the chemistry between Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira). Ideally this show doesn’t make too much of a deal out of these two being together, especially as we are left with bigger things looming over the horizon.
‘The Next World’ is a nice break that has wisely come after so many episodes that ride the line of constantly moving and constantly dwelling on what it takes to live. Sure, the world may have ended and a new (or next) world is upon Rick and the people of Alexandria, but this show does sometimes have the time for fun and games. And since we still have a Negan lurking out there, let’s hope there is a little more fun with Jesus to be had, before we have to deal with more characters having to kill their zombie moms or whatever.