Finally, we take a step back from the direness and negativity that’s surrounded Rick and the gang since they left the prison. It feels like years since we’ve seen a relaxed episode that’s fun, but also pushes the plot forward. For as good as “The Next World” is, I’m super agitated this wasn’t the beginning of the half-season and “No Way Out” wasn’t the midseason finale. These two episodes contrast with each other beautifully, so much so that I’d almost think the characters in them are completely different people. There’s no feeling of dread in “The Next World;” people are just living like they did before Rick arrived. Plus – the biggest reason why “The Next World” should have been the midseason premier – there’s a time jump of about two month clearly discerning past events and moods from present and future.
“The Next World” plays out like a buddy comedy rather than a zombie horror episode. We just have Rick and Daryl, a couple of good ol’ boys on an adventure into the wild zombie world looking for goodies to bring back to Alexandria. The stakes are really low, making it feel like the Alexandrians aren’t desperate for supplies, but a lot more couldn’t hurt. Like I said before, the mood of Alexandria two months after the big zombie invasion is extremely mellow – life’s going on as it’s supposed to. There’s time for an awkward exchange between Daryl and Denise about finding “pop” if Daryl happens upon it and one between Eugene, Rick and Daryl as they’re about to leave. I’ve added that one below here.
These interactions felt out of the ordinary for me because we never expect these absurdly different characters to interact. So far, we’ve seen them in their cliques – Denise and Tara are always together, Rick and Daryl are pretty inseparable and Eugene associated with Abraham, Tara and Rosita – but never really intermingling. I hope the geeks and jocks intermingle more often going forward.
So two big events happened that’ll have repercussions for next week’s episode and hopefully the entire series from this point on: Rick and Daryl find Jesus and Rick get’s a bite of that sweet jungle fever.
As Rick and Daryl are out, they stumble on a truck filled to the brim with useful supplies
and food. The new optimistic Rick sees this as a sign that things are turning around, while the newly pessimistic Daryl isn’t so sure. Why they stop I don’t know, they should have gone directly home, but they stop and Paul Rovia (Paul Monroe in the comics) aka Jesus steals the truck when Rick and Daryl are distracted. We’re lead to believe Jesus is a bad guy at this point, stealing our heroes’ supplies, leaving them without transportation home. A chase ensues, but when the dust settles, Jesus is unconscious and the truck is at the bottom of a lake. Daryl, again having been burn so many times by strangers in the wilderness, wants to leave Jesus there, but new, sunny-side Rick decides to bring Jesus back to get medical attention.
At this point, Rick and Michonne are doing something very out of the ordinary for The Walking Dead – they’re sitting on their couch relaxing. In this new world, Rick’s new Alexandria, we’re lead to believe there’s time to loosen up and unwind from the day’s events a little bit. Rick doesn’t have a care in the world other than to sit there and talk to Michonne about his day. And Michonne tells him about hers. One they touch hands, stare each other in the face and before you know it, Rick’s housing his katana in Michonne’s sheath if you catch my drift.
What does all this mean for the rest of the season? It means that our small group of heroes is about to expand a lot, a whole lot. We’re about to experience more characters on The Walking Dead than we have ever seen at once, for better or worse. Jesus leads the Alexandrians to his community called the Hill Top, then later on introduces them to Ezekiel, leader of The Kingdom. These groups are filled with mostly good people, a few shit birds, but mostly awesome characters. However, this larger world Rick’s walking into isn’t without its vices – namely Negan who we’ve already heard about in the show. For those of you who haven’t read the comic, don’t be so quick to brush off that spat Abraham, Sasha and Daryl has back on the road. If Rick actually wants to make the world a better place for Carl, he’s going to have to fight for it. Oh, and my prediction for Negan offing Daryl is stronger than ever. Start saying your good-byes now, friends.