Have you ever imagined The Walking Dead as a comedy? Not in the same vein as the Bad Lip Reading interpretations, but an episode where there was genuine humor throughout without feeling contrived for the sake of getting a laugh.
“The Next World” could be the show’s funniest episode yet, but it’s not just a break for comedy. It advances the plot with Rick and Daryl going on a supply run and meeting a brand new character on the way. A character that proves craftier than expected.
The episode begins with Rick, Carl, and Michonne getting ready for the day. Carl, now sporting an eyepatch, is out of toothpaste for Michonne to borrow. She asks if Rick can procure some spearmint and baking soda when he’s out on his run. She should just make a list while she’s at it.
Daryl also has a list and runs it by Denise, who just needs any available medical supplies and, if possible, back some pop. Yes, because Denise is from Ohio, she says ‘pop.’ Though Denise isn’t a fan, Tara apparently talked about it in her sleep, and since she and Heath are going on a two-week run, some pop would be a nice surprise. Denise and Tara appear to be a couple now. So that’s a thing.
Eugene then gives Daryl and Rick a list of agricultural supplies to help with the food situation. Daryl and Rick then leave the Safe Zone to do everyone’s shopping. On the road, Rick says that this is the day for them to catch up and maybe find more people. He then inserts a CD, against Daryl’s wishes, as it draws walkers away from home. Fair enough, but still a dick move.
Back at the Safe Zone, Michonne takes her spot atop the wall and keeps a look out when she spots Spencer heading into the woods. She soon follows him.
Maggie inquires where Enid has been as of recent. Everyone has been working to get the place back together, but Enid just disappears. Enid claims she didn’t go anywhere. Maggie reminds Enid that she helped Glenn get home and saved her atop that guard post, so maybe there are better places she can be besides nowhere. Like somewhere.
Back on the road, Rick and Daryl arrive at a small warehouse. They open the door and find nothing inside, but when they check the truck inside, they do find the motherlode of food and supplies. Well, law of averages.
Now riding in the truck, the two stop at a gas station. The two attempt to turn over a vending machine, but it doesn’t budge. They then chain it to the truck and manage to overturn it. Given that it’s filled with soda and candy, it might not be worth the trouble. However, the two are then ambushed by a man who makes no attempt to be stealthy.
The man explains that he was running from 10 or so roamers half a mile back. He then asks Daryl and Rick the two if they have a camp, which they deny. Okay. The man introduces himself as Paul Rovia, played by Tom Payne, but his friends call him Jesus. He advises them to be ready for the new world.
Rick prepares to ask the prerequisite questions, but Jesus runs off, warning the two to avoid the incoming walkers. He and Daryl two plan to trail him and see if he’s really alone, but they’re distracted by gunshots that turn out to just be firecrackers. Not only that, but Jesus swiped Rick’s keys and made off with the truck. Well, shit.
In the woods, Michonne takes Spencer’s job of killing the walker he wanted. He wonders if she thought he couldn’t get it, but keep in mind that Michonne does have a sword. Spencer explains that he walks after his shifts, but Michonne is the first one to notice. As for the shovel, Spencer refuses to explain. Michonne mentions that Deanna said she had to figure out what she wanted. She hasn’t yet, but she’s working up to it.
Elsewhere in the woods, Enid shows Carl a wet map that’s of little use now, so the two keep walking. Enid figures the map is still useful and shows that they’re not alone. So why are the two out there? Well, because they’re kids, but Enid doesn’t seem as enthused as Carl.
Rick and Daryl continue their marathon to find the truck that wasn’t theirs, and they do manage to find the vending machine. Daryl at least manages to snag a few cans of pop. Rick says that, like Denise, there are still people they don’t know who may prove to be trustworthy, but not this Jesus guy. Different circumstances, don’t you think, Rick? Denise was already in Alexandria. You just got there.
So what else do kids do? They read comic books and eat snacks, as Enid and Carl do. Well, Carl is reading a comic. Enid is still trying to make something out of her map. The two hear a noise that turns out to just be Spencer and Michonne on their separate walk. Carl returns to his comic book while Enid says that she doesn’t want to come outside of the walls anymore. The two then leave.
They spot a walker and Carl manages to get its attention. While Enid tries to kill it, Carl urges her to go home, as she did say she didn’t want to be out there. Carl knocks the walker down, but he does not kill it. It’s worth noting that we don’t see the walker’s face at this moment.
Rick and Daryl continue following the tire tracks and soon find Jesus working on the truck. The two ambush him from the woods, but he puts up a hell of a fight. However, the law of averages still means two is better than one, so the two eventually overpower him. After Rick gets the keys, he ties Jesus up in loose knots. Jesus claims to not be a bad guy and just wants to talk, but no dice. The two pack up and drive off, leaving Jesus on the road.
So Rick again elects to play music, declaring this to be the day. Rick, don’t tempt fate. The two pull over and spot a barn, but upon hearing some noise, Daryl thinks that Jesus is on the roof. Indeed, when Rick slams on the brakes, Jesus rolls off the truck and hits the ground. He’s nimble, I’ll say that.
The two give chase, with Daryl hopping out of the truck to chase him on foot. Rick is soon forced to leave the van and takes care of a few walkers. Jesus attempts to swipe the van again, and even saves Daryl’s life when he kills a walker creeping up behind Daryl. Noble, but he did it with Daryl’s gun, so Daryl punches him for that.
But bad news bears: the truck wheels backwards into the water, the door managing to clock Jesus on the head. Rick doesn’t want to leave Jesus behind, as he did help Daryl. It also doesn’t help that Jesus never pulled a weapon on Daryl.
Spencer asks why Michonne is still following him. His family is dead and he doesn’t want to return to his home right now, but Michonne still has a life. Before he can think of that, he needs to try to take care of something, first. Michonne offers to help. They soon spot Carl leading the walker he spotted earlier.
That’s when we finally see her: a reanimated Deanna, who somehow managed to get out of the Safe Zone, even though we saw everyone killing walkers left and right during “No Way Out,” but whatever. Michonne holds Deanna tight while Spencer, after a long pause, puts his mother out of her misery. He tells Michonen that this is why he was out in the woods.
Spencer finally lays his mother to rest. She left him a note that said he still knew his way. Spencer maintains that he never knew his way. Michonne counters that he did since he loved his family and he still has a home. Spencer, though, believes that his family is gone.
Now in a new vehicle, Rick, Daryl, and a restrained Jesus head back to Alexandria. Daryl says that he would have left Jesus, but Rick disagrees. He’s finally listening to what everyone told him.
That evening, Carl shows Judith some star constellations so she can find her way home if she ever gets lost. Michonne soon joins and tells Carl that she saw what he did with Deanna. He should have left or killed her and it was stupid for him to be out there when he didn’t have to be.
Carl disagrees, saying that Michonne wouldn’t have left her. Plus, he’s adamant that he would not have killed Deanna. In his eyes, it should have been someone who loved her. Hell, Carl admits that he would have done the same for Michonne. That’s true love.
Rick, Daryl, and Jesus arrive at the Alexandria Safe Zone. Daryl says that he’s been thinking about what Rick said about not looking for people anymore. He now agrees, but Rick has changed his tune and admits that he was wrong. How often do you hear that from Rick Grimes?
They bring Jesus to the infirmary, though Daryl maintains that Jesus isn’t staying. They leave him with a note and glass of water, with them electing to go out again on a run tomorrow. Even when they acknowledge that going out today was a stupid idea.
Michonne shows Rick that Judith has been practicing rolling in her sleep. Rick isn’t ready yet to talk about his crazy day. He’d rather turn his brain off for a moment. Same with Michonne, but at least she didn’t find a guy. Rick then pulls out some spearmint that he swiped, since the toothpaste is at the bottom of a lake. All on account of Michonne’s dental hygiene.
The two then lock hands. And since Jessie is gone, I suppose it makes sense for Rick to dip into the chocolate.
Next morning, Jesus wakes up a nude Rick and Michonne to talk. How rude. Though it’s cool that Rick and Michonne sleep with their weapons right next to them.
It’s a testament to the writing quality of The Walking Dead that, coming off the residents battling a massive walker herd, we can have a light-hearted, even funny episode where the humor doesn’t feel forced. And what’s more, this episode brings us up to speed with some characters while still expanding the world with the introduction of Jesus and the prospect of a larger world beyond Alexandria.
But sticking with the humor, The Walking Dead is hardly known for its comedy. What humor we get comes from the situations and not the show forcing comic relief. And, in my opinion, the characters could do with a less stressful day like this one. Well, with the exception of Spencer, but more on that later.
It’s interesting to see Rick’s philosophy change as the series continues and more people are added to the community. After Morgan joined, Rick told Daryl that he didn’t feel anyone needed to go out on runs to find people. Now, having seen what the Alexandria residents can do, he’s more optimistic about finding the good in people. Cautious, but optimistic. I wager a big part of that has to do with Denise saving Carl’s life.
Daryl, on the other hand, despite seeing the good in people, is more pessimistic about trusting strangers. He’s already had his trusty crossbow swiped, but now Jesus comes along and makes both him and Rick look like idiots by getting the best of them more than once. Though, at the end of the day, Jesus did save Daryl’s life by shooting the walker.
If I can talk about Jesus for a moment, Tom Payne makes a very good impression in his debut. Jesus is crafty and a sly talker, but he also backs it up with great physicality. Rick and Daryl, whether together or on their own, can put up a hell of a fight, but Jesus makes quick work of them like they were nothing. It’s an impressive debut and good way to show that Jesus can’t just be overpowered with ease.
His intentions, as of now, are unknown. Like Aaron, you want to keep up your guard with a stranger, but as Rick pointed out, Jesus didn’t have a weapon on him and he killed the walker that almost bit Daryl. Granted, he did steal the truck and vending machine, so he’s a dick for that, but damn it if he wasn’t fun to watch.
Really, I find Jesus to be a breath of fresh air. He’s funny, crafty, and can handle himself just fine. His words about the new world indicate that there’s a larger group out there than Rick and others would have believed.
Rick and Daryl’s day was a comedy of errors. Whether it was Rick playing music in the car, the chase on the Benny Hill farm, Rick swerving the car so Jesus would swerve on Daryl, or Rick and Daryl shooting the walker after Jesus claimed they had no ammunition, their adventure was a nice, fun break from the more tense filled supply runs. And of course they would agree to go on another run, despite their misadventures.
At the end of the day, Rick at least got to come home to take a dip into the chocolate pool. Rick and Michonne is an interesting decision. Looking back, this has been building for some time.
I think back to when Rick, Carl, and Michonne were on the road to Terminus. Michonne formed a close bond with Carl that’s built over time as she talked about her past before the outbreak. She’s already been his surrogate mother for some time and showed great concern for him after his injury during “All Out War.”
So, from a narrative perspective, I think the seeds had been set for the two to develop a relationship. Like Rick’s current relationship with Andrea in the comics, Michonne is a longstanding character who has been there for Rick after he lost people close to him. With Jessie out of the picture, I could see Rick gravitating to Michonne.
And what’s better, Carl shows just how much he cares for Michonne when he explains why he wouldn’t be the one to kill Deanna, but he would kill Michonne if she turned. Amy, Sophia, Merle, and so on, there are many examples of characters we’ve watched be taken by walkers and reanimate. To Carl, it’s a personal thing. His own mother asked him to kill her, so I would bet that Lori’s final words have influenced him since then.
That’s what Spencer has been trying to build himself up to face. Like Nicholas, Spencer still strikes me as a bit of a coward. He was the only one of the folks in the infirmary who didn’t want to go out and face the walkers. But he’s had a strong, if not combative, relationship with his mother, and you can see on his face that he’s struggling with having to end her.
Both Spencer and Michonne are searching for a sense of purpose in light of Deanna’s plans for a larger community. But while Michonne finds herself becoming more involved, Spencer is now adrift without a place that he can call home now that his family is gone.
Same goes for Enid, who appears to have lost the desire to go outside the walls. Her conversations with Carl and Maggie are brief, but enough to indicate that she’s also going through a change.
The only other thing worth noting, since we don’t see many characters, is that Denise and Tara are an official thing now. Again, that’s a thing, so I hope it gives Tara more of a personality. I rag on Tara a lot, but it’s because I still feel the show hasn’t given her much to do. The most noteworthy thing she’s done as of recent was give Rick the finger, which was still awesome.
“The Next World” was a chance for the characters to exhale after facing a large threat to their community. Granted, the time skip jumps over things like Carl’s recovery or how Rick has dealt with losing Jessie. However, the introduction of Jesus, the amount of genuine humor, the character relationship growth, and prospect of a larger world made this an enjoyable watch.