Airdate: February 21, 2016
Directed by: Kari Skogland
Showrunner: Scott M. Gimple
Written by: Angela Kang, Corey Reed (episode); Robert Kirkman, Charlie Adlard, Tony Moore (graphic novels); Frank Darabont (creator)
The bad news: tonight’s episode does not maintain the high standard put up by last week’s episode. The good news: that bar was pretty damned high, so even falling short this was a very enjoyable episode, with some nice twists and more than a few surprises. Click through for my complete review.
<<Spoiler Alert: The following review will discuss plot points of The Walking Dead S06E10, “The Next World” – read more at your own risk.>>
Tonight was a tale of two stories: the Rick/Daryl supply run, and the Michonne/Spencer – Enid/Carl excursion just outside the wall. But of course, the real story can be boiled down to two main points – Jesus, and the kiss (well, technically a bit more than a kiss, but we’ll go with that for now).
The episode begins with everyone safe and sound in Alexandria. Time has passed since the events of last week – two months, according to the panel on Talking Dead tonight – something which is shown by the relaxed nature of the conversation between Rick and Michonne (and Carl), as well as through little moments such as Rick using his knife to poke a new hole in his belt, a lingering shot of a photo of a bandaged Carl holding Judith, of the clean streets and work going on to expand the town. Daryl and Rick are planning a supply run, and they get several orders. Michonne wants toothpaste (mint with baking soda), Dr. Denise wants a bunch of medical supplies and some orange crush (for her new girlfriend, Tara), and Eugene wants them to look for sorghum, as he feels it might have been overlooked by earlier scavengers.
Before I get into their run, I’ll briefly discuss the events immediately around Alexandria first. Michonne spies Spencer heading out into the forest alone, a shovel and a rifle on his back. She follows, and he refuses to tell her what he’s doing. Meanwhile, Maggie approaches Enid and tries to thank her/get all sappy we’re family and you belong with her, but Enid just kind of sullen-teens her off. We then see her and Carl heading outside. They go back to the hollow tree we saw them in last season, and they have a little cache of comics and other things they’ve stashed there. Enid is resistant, and Carl insistent, and I found the scene more than a little bit creepy. Carl is growing older, and as he is he’s also getting harder, to the point that he seems to be losing the ability to empathize – although this notion gets challenged a bit later. What really bothered me, however, was the dynamic between him and Enid. She clearly states that she doesn’t want to be there, and he gets verbally aggressive with her, and then dismissive a short while later. This came across as mentally abusive to me, not the way anyone should be treated. They’ve all been through a lot, and have had some major traumas, both psychological and physical, but Carl needs to take into account that it isn’t just him who has lost a mother, or has a debilitating physical scar. Perhaps it’s just angsty teenage Carl rearing his head again.
In the midst of this, they hear some noise, and see Spencer and Michonne passing by in the woods. A little later, they hear another noise – a couple of walkers. The one he knocks down, but the second makes them both hesitate. Carl yells at Enid to go home, that he’ll deal with it – again, a little heavy on the misogyny here, a path I really hope they don’t take Carl down. Enid leaves, and we cut back to Spencer and Michonne a little later. Carl has carefully followed them, maneuvering the walker to where they are, but he takes care not to be seen (although Michonne does spy him going by). We quickly see the reason that Enid hesitated, and that Carl brought the walker here – it’s Deanna. She’s been wandering the woods the past two months, and this is why Spencer has been coming out on his own carrying a shovel.
Michonne has been trying to get him to open up about why he’s outside, and upon seeing Deanna, she realizes his reasons. Although he’s been claiming he doesn’t need help (much like Enid earlier, and even Carl when he was talking with Rick in the opening), Michonne holds Deanna-walker for him as he almost gently uses his knife to put her down. This reminded me a lot of Hershel’s first walker kill back at the prison, as well as how Bob was ended last season. Even in such a violent act, there can be compassion, making it an act of love in the midst of grieving.
After Deanna is at rest, Spencer and Michonne bury her, before heading back into Alexandria. We see Carl sitting on his porch, looking at the stars with Judith on his lap. He points out the North Star, and tells her that she should follow it if she ever gets lost in the dark. Again, here we see the theme of getting help from others, as he’s acting as teacher to his little sister. Michonne sees Carl, and confronts him about not killing Deanna. He says “I couldn’t,” and she disagrees, telling him he could; but she’s misunderstanding him. He means he couldn’t, because Deanna was a person to someone (Spencer), and thus had to be put to rest by someone who loved her. This is the same Carl that had to kill his own mother after Judith’s birth, and Michonne realizes what he’s saying. He tells her he’d do the same for her, telling her that he loves her in so many words, and she tells him the same. They hug, and she goes inside.
Meanwhile, Rick and Daryl are ripping down the highways and byways, looking for food stocks. Rick’s taste in music apparently rubs Daryl the wrong way good old rockabilly from the Blond Bomber, Ronnie Dee Dawson. Here’s the song (“Action Packed”) if you’d like a listen:
As they’re going down the road, they see a barn which is conveniently marked “SORGHUM” – seems almost a bit too convenient. They open it up, and find a truck inside…a truck packed to the brim with food and supplies, even the toothpaste that Michonne has asked for. They get the vehicle started and head off down the road.
A bit later they stop at a gas station. They try to get into a vending machine (Daryl’s after the Orange Crush) by using the truck and some chains to overturn it. Just as they succeed, a man comes out of nowhere and runs into Rick. Jesus has found Rick (who has been, in all honesty, the series’ primary savior up to this point, so perhaps not so ironic after all). He apologizes, and tells Rick and Daryl that he’s just running from some walkers, and that they’d be best advised to move on as well. They let him go, Rick wanting to ask him the three questions, and Daryl telling him not to (in a reversal of their usual roles).
Moments after Jesus (real name Paul Monroe – or Rovio, as it sounded in the show; not to worry, it’s unlikely you’ll need to remember that outside of a The Walking Dead trivia night at the local pub) leaves, they hear what sounds like gunfire from the back of the gas station. They run around, guns drawn, only to find firecrackers going off on top of an over-turned barrel. Daryl looks at Rick – “He took your keys, didn’t he?” They run back out front just in time to see Jesus take off in the cube van, vending machine in tow, with a shouted, “Sorry!” out the window.
The two decide to track Jesus – something they’d already discussed before the theft of the van, but now rather made more necessary due to all the needed supplies carried in the back. After a good long run, they find the vending machine. Daryl smashes it open, and he and Rick share an Orange Crush, stashing the rest in Daryl’s bag. They keep heading down, and see skid marks on the road near the peak of a shallow hill. They edge up, and see Jesus fixing a blown out tire just ahead of them. They sneak up and surprise Jesus, but he shows that he’s pretty damned capable, taking them both out momentarily with some nifty hand-to-hand moves, before Rick pulls his gun, Daryl following suit. Jesus tells them they need to talk, and then questions whether they even have bullets. In answer, they both shoot an approaching walker.
Rick ties Jesus up – loosely, he claims – and he and Daryl leave in the truck. On the way back, they see another barn, and decide to investigate. A banging noise above them alerts them to the fact that not only is Jesus some kind of martial artist, he’s an escape artist to boot. Rick slams on the breaks, sending Jesus flying. Daryl jumps out to chase him down, and Rick uses the van to try to corral him. Some wrestling ensues, and when Rick gets out to kill some walkers who are approaching them, Jesus tries to take the van. Daryl tackles him, and Jesus gets Daryl’s gun. He pulls it up, and points it straight at Daryl’s head. “Duck!” he shouts, and Daryl does – Jesus pops a walker that was just about on our favorite redneck. Daryl thanks him, then clocks him a good one and grabs the weapon, saying, “That’s MY gun.” Jesus accidentally knocks the gear stick into neutral, and the van starts to roll backwards into a large pond. He and Daryl jump clear, but the open driver’s side door hits Jesus in the head, knocking him out.
Daryl’s first impulse is to leave him where he lies, but Rick questions this. Daryl then suggests that he’ll leave Jesus up in a tree (symbolism, anyone?). In the end, we see Rick driving another vehicle, with Daryl sitting beside the still unconscious Jesus in the back. Rick seems to be playing a little game with Daryl, turning the wheel of the car a couple of times so that Jesus’s head keeps falling against his shoulder (it actually reminds me of the VW Tiguan ad you can find here). Daryl’s dead against bringing Jesus back to Alexandria; Rick’s so gung-ho about the idea, that he keeps talking about everyone back there. If Jesus were, say, faking his unconscious state (but who would think that, given how capable he was at fooling Rick and Daryl a few times already today), he’d know a whole bunch without having to do any spying whatsoever.
They get back, and they carry Jesus to Denise’s clinic. After she takes care of him, they take Jesus to the brownstone that’s doubled as a prison before (remember how well it held the Wolf?), leaving him a cup of water and a brief note.
Rick head’s home, and joins Michonne on the couch. They look at Judith via the baby monitor as she rolls around in her crib, and everything reeks of domestic bliss. This is a mirror image and bookend to the opening of the episode, when we had a real domestic sensibility with Michonne walking around in her robe, asking Rick to pick her up a tube of toothpaste. Of course, he’s lost the toothpaste, but he did bring her mints. He places the pack in her hand, and their fingers touch. Was that a spark I saw fly?
Their fingers interlace, and they lean into each other. They kiss, and Michonne laughs – she’s never looked so happy. They continue for a bit, and we fade out and back in, the two of them lying naked in bed with sheets just barely covering them. “Rick,” a voice says, and the two jump out of bed, Rick grabbing his gun and Michonne her sword, confronting a now free Jesus at the foot of their bed. “We need to talk.” Smash cut to credits.
Tonight’s episode introduced a new character in Jesus, one who will be familiar to readers of the comics. Now, knowing how much Gimple and co. tend to go off-script, I won’t speculate here as to who Jesus will end up being for the TV show, but I will say that I really like the character as he is portrayed in the books. If he’s half as interesting here, he’s going to be a lot of fun moving forward. He’s obviously a very talented individual, getting out of ropes twice, climbing on top of the cube van without either Rick or Daryl hearing him, and taking both men down before they resorted to guns to stop the fight. He’s also able to break into Rick’s house, with three very capable warriors within (Rick, Michonne, and Carl), none of whom hear him entering. Let’s just hope he’s going to turn out friendly (although his non-killing ways so far would seem to indicate that).
Richonne. Yvette Nicole Brown coined this term a couple of years ago on Talking Dead, and she’s been pulling for this relationship ever since. In the ensuing time, there has been a growing movement among fans who have wanted to see this come to pass, and while this might on the surface feel like fan-service, it makes total sense when you think about it. After all, Rick and Michonne are clearly the Alphas of the group. Michonne lost her entire family, and was taken in by Rick and the group (despite some initial suspicion). She’s taken Carl under her wing in a clear mother-figure relationship, and has been acting maternally toward Judith for some time now. Rick relies on her more than anyone else (other than perhaps Daryl), and on top of that, they’ve already been in a sort of domestic relationship since they got to Alexandria (she’s been living in the spare room). There is a chemistry between them, and watching them consummate their love was a pleasure to watch. They so clearly enjoyed discovering their feelings, that I couldn’t help but smile along with them.
Spoiler Alert: This relationship comes as a surprise for most (where the events of last week largely didn’t) because there is a clear divergence with the comics at work here. If you’d like to see what that is, you can mouse over the blacked out text below:
In the comics, Rick begins a relationship with Andrea about this time. Of course, she’s been dead in the show now for three seasons, so it looks as though Michonne is stepping into that role.
Another ongoing theme in tonight’s episode was that of asking for, and receiving, help. Michonne, Denise, and Eugene ask Rick and Daryl for help; Maggie tells Enid that she wants to help her in kind for helping both her and Glen earlier; Michonne insists on helping Spencer; Carl’s misguided conversation with Enid is his attempt to help her, and he does in fact help Spencer achieve closure; and Jesus, despite stealing the van, seems to actually want to talk with Rick and Daryl, and does save Daryl’s life. Rick is recognizing the need for others, the strength to be found in diversity, so even if Daryl is becoming more cynical (and who can blame him, after that couple stole his bike and gear recently), Dale/Hershel/Glen’s collective lessons finally seem to be having a lasting effect on the usually pessimistic Rick. It isn’t weak to admit you need help from time to time.
Overall, I enjoyed this episode quite a bit. I thought that Jesus was presented in an intriguing and cool way, with tons of promise going forward. Enid and Carl’s relationship is hugely complicated, and Carl’s going to need to come to grips with his angst around her lest he become a full-blown misogynist. And the new Richonne relationship was deftly handled, with a clear sense of love, fun, and hope from the characters. This, of course, would lead one to believe that things are about to go horribly, terribly wrong. But it wouldn’t be The Walking Dead if they didn’t.
Steve’s Grade: B+
Another strong episode after last week’s home run. Jesus does just about everything short of walking on water (which would be handy with regard to the cube van), and Rick and Michonne have finally found a way to open up to each other. Now the question is: What Will Jesus Do?