The Walking Dead: "The Next World" Review



All new stuff. Brand new things.

Warning: Full spoilers for the episode below.

Whoa. So I really liked this one!

Even more than last week’s carnage-filled Alexandria bookend, “No Way Out.” Yes, even given the fact that “No Way Out” held super-high stakes and this week’s chapter, “The Next World,” seemed to hold very low ones. I think that’s what I got a kick out of. Not only was there a…

…[polite pause for spoiler despite spoiler warning at the top of the page]…

…HEALTHY REFRESHING TIME JUMP, but – dare I say – actual humor? Not that calling “The Next World” the funniest episode of The Walking Dead is a stretch. I mean, there really isn’t any stiff competition on this front. Any attempt at humor here kind of makes this episode the funniest of the bunch just by default. And I liked the lighter touch. And the idea that these characters have been enjoying a nice little rest. A much deserved break from horror. It took a massively pyrrhic victory to get here – if you’re to include ALL the fall episodes and the midseason premiere as one long battle against the quarry herd – but now there’s peace during wartime.

And I LOVE Rick being with Michonne. It was delicately implied at the top of the episode. I mean, why else would she be there in a robe and talking toothpaste? But we didn’t see them in bed together. And when Rick went to go leave for his run he merely touched her hand. They didn’t kiss goodbye. So there was a touch of uncertainty there. Elements were being held back. There was still an odd chance they were just close roomies.

Until the end when it was confirmed that they were a full-fledged couple. And I think that was by design. To keep us wondering and – even – a bit excited over the prospect. In the comics, Rick does wind up with a tenured character, post-Jessie, so this pairing is somewhat in line with the books. And it still feels great. The idea of Rick and Michonne has been a bit of a tease ever since the prison fell and they wound up on the road together. Then the show held back for a bit. But then when they both became Alexandria cops, the spark sort of returned. At least from a pure costuming standpoint.

So I’m way into this. A great pairing. And I also love how much they feel like a family, Carl included. And the fact that Carl loves and accepts Michonne (enough to kill her if she ever turned, which is Carl-speak for “I love you sword-wielding stepmom”) is fantastic. Granted, I still only care about the core characters here. The Ricks, Michonnes, Daryls, etc. The show still struggles to make peripheral characters feel worthwhile. In fact, the only real heaviness to “The Next World” was Spencer dealing with the walker version of his late mother. It was fine, but considering how so much of this episode felt like a fresh start, Spencer’s story felt a bit off. Like a hinky holdover from that last big arc. Plus, Spencer still feels off himself. He was one of those characters who kept doing weird, cowardly things last fall when we were all desperately wanting people to step up their game.


So there was still lingering stuff with Spencer and Enid that didn’t fully land. But the rest of it was awesome. Rick and Daryl going out on a playful run? Arguing about Rick’s choice of rambling music? Daryl hunting for soda so Denise can give Tara a gift? All wonderful. Oh, yeah, Denise and Tara are also an official couple now. Not that their prospects were ever in doubt, but because we didn’t see every character this episode (no Glenn, Carol, Morgan, etc) it’s worth bringing up every news-worthy item from the time jump.

The show’s skipped over months before. Most notably between Season 2 and 3, and then again between Season 3 and 4. A handful of months blown past. Mostly to skip over winter. The first jump found the group in a desperate position. The second, in the prison, was more promising, but doom soon fell in the form of sabotage, walkers, sickness, and the return of the Governor. And it’s not like these current happy times will last, but this time jump felt the most necessary. And vital. I mean, this entire episode went by and nothing went to s***. I mean, Rick and Daryl had themselves “a day,” but nothing monumentally terrible happened. I’m sure there are dark times on the horizon because the show is the show, but I very much appreciated that darkness not overcoming this particular installment.

Plus…JESUS! A new comic book character has found his way onto the show. The impish kung-fu prankster (played by Tom Payne) burst onto the scene by politely stealing Rick’s cargo. And then causing Rick and Daryl an afternoon’s worth of headaches. Again, not in an overly menacing way. Just a friendly game of “steal the goods.” A few walkers here and there, but by Walking Dead standards it was a picnic at Yosemite. All the while, Rick and Daryl discussing their respective 180s on the idea of recruitment. Daryl – now having run into an assortment of asshats out on the road (one who left him crossbow-less, dammit!) – currently enjoying the lack of human interaction while Rick’s become the bright-eyed optimist. I’m assuming Daryl’s tale of having to bazooka an entire motorcycle gang had no effect on Rick’s new outlook.

So, yes, the “law of averages” will catch up with everyone. Eventually. Death will rain down in spectacular fashion. Eventually. But not this week. And making this episode even better was the fact that, usually, in this spot, would be the solemn come-down chapter. The sad, reflective episode that comes after one containing great loss. But we skipped over that. We skipped over Carl having to initially deal with his eye. Or everyone mourning for the Anderson clan. I don’t even mind skipping over Rick and Michonne’s initial moves on one another. We landed in just the right spot. In the middle of these characters actually having casual conversations about pop and sorghum.

Now, what did Jesus want to talk about right there at the end? When he set himself free and decided to hover over Rick and Michonne’s naked bodies like a creeper? Well, comic fans may have a good idea though nothing’s ever set in stone as far as the TV show goes. Most importantly here, Jesus was after all that truck food for a reason. He does runs for someone. So we still need to learn a lot more about him. The question is though: Does he “need to talk” because of something good or bad?

The Verdict

Despite having a few moments of danger, “The Next World” was the lightest, most joy-filled episode of The Walking Dead since the start. Hell, there were actual moments of (intentional) humor. Rick’s new life feels earned and deserved and I loved how this episode allowed “No Way Out” – from last week, to be the definitive end point for the whole initial Alexandria arc by skipping over (what’s usually) obligatory reflection and wallowing.

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