by Thom Yee
6×10: “The Next World”
There’s a version of The Walking Dead, once posited by creator Robert Kirkman well before it was a TV show, that would have seen the series conclude with Carl being the last survivor of our group. And in a way, that makes a lot of sense and provides a surprisingly satisfying catharsis in a series where Rick has pretty much always been the lead. The passing of the torch, the student becomes the master, the son becomes the father and like that, so it’s also sensible that Carl would be the ultimate untouchable character in the show if only because of what he represents. And then he gets shot right in the eye.
Last week, I paid a lot more attention to just about everything going on other what happened to Carl in a pretty busy episode where the whole town came together to save itself from invading walkers, and that’s because, whether or not you believe in a scenario like the one above, Carl is probably the one character besides Rick whose death would kill the show. It’s not that he’s a universally beloved character like Daryl or Michonne, it’s mostly because his death would represent a foundational shift for the show, one likely to leave a bitter taste in people’s mouths. And besides that, and maybe more importantly, I already knew his comicbook counterpart was fine when the same thing happened to him, and even many of you non-comicbook-reading viewers may have seen articles featuring an eye-bandaged Carl from a few days before the midseason premiere. For a pretty major event in the show and a very major event for the character and those who care about him, it’s a moment pretty far removed from any real drama. And this week they skipped right past it. No repercussions, no fuss, no muss, not even any comments about lost peripheral vision or complaints about what a pain it is to have to change bandages.
In “The Next World”, which takes place about two months after the events of last episode, some of our heroes reach a bit of closure over the recent devastations of Alexandria when several of them step outside the wall on their own private but intertwined missions. Carl and Enid go for a walk outside, ostensibly to read comicbooks and eat snacks because that’s what kids do, while Spencer is stalking the grounds around the Alexandria camp for his own reasons and is soon joined by Michonne. It all coalesces in a relatively strong moment when Carl finds the zombified remains of Deanna and leads her to Spencer to put down. You see, Spencer had caught a glimpse of his undead mother sometime during the walker raid and has been trying to find her ever since, and now he and Carl have an unspoken bond having both killed their mothers to put them in a better place (or at least take them from one that’s worse). Last week I left these weird walker conversions to an item of note, but I felt compelled to write about it more openly this week: What happens when people get attacked by walker hordes? I’ve never gotten the sense that walkers get their fill and move on, so when you’re overcome by a group of walkers, don’t they just eat everything? Both Deanna and the Wolf looked relatively intact, almost as if they weren’t eaten at all past their first bites. What’s up with that?
Meanwhile, Rick and Daryl do their best impression of the Duke boys with a transport truck as the General Lee while out on a supply run. In striking contrast to whatever Spencer’s and Carl’s individual stories were supposed to be in “The Next World”, Rick and Daryl chasing after newcomer, “Jesus”, was a breath of fresh air. No pathos, no symbolism, no literary devices, no trying to understand inner turmoil(s), just fun. The Walking Dead is a show whose biggest problem might be that it always seems to be marking time until the next big event occurs, and that can be a real drag not only because it feels like a waste of time but because these filler episodes just aren’t that good, but if we can get more episodes like this where our favourite, most dynamic characters screw around, chasing bad guys across the Alexandria countryside then I’m all for it. It’s a great change for the show in execution, and it even looked like Rick and Daryl themselves were both having fun with the whole thing.
But obviously everything I’ve just talked about is beside the point that I’m sure most everyone will remember “The Next World” for — Rick and Michonne finally, finally hooked up. And I didn’t care for it. It makes enough sense given their domestic situation, it’s something a lot of “Richonne” shippers have been begging for, and the showrunners gave it enough space that it felt natural, but I still far and away prefer them as friends and confidantes. I just see them as peers and close friends, so close that a physical relationship is almost completely beside the point. I guess I’m happy for all you shippers out there, and I’m not against the relationship, but I’m not totally onboard and the Rick and Michonne stuff might distract you from a pretty significant point: Jesus easily slipped his restraints (twice!), followed Rick and Daryl for quite a while without them knowing, lurked his way around Alexandria without detection, snuck into Rick’s house without being caught, and caught Richonne completely off guard in bed. He has huge potential for the show as a truly new type of character, and I’m surprised at what a good job the writers did in introducing him as an incredibly dangerous and deceptive character but also one who seems largely kindhearted and free of malice.
The Walking Dead — “The Next World” final score
Items of Note
- “More than a Feeling”! How on the nose.
- Orange Crush sucks! And y’know it had to be plenty warm too (not to mention old).
- Invincible comic!
- Is it easier to run with your hand on the holster by your side to keep your gun from flopping around or to just grab the gun and hold it in your hand while you run?
- God, Jesus’s jacket looked heavy and hot. That whole outfit had to be uncomfortable in that heat.
- So is Daryl’s crossbow long gone? Is he never gonna get his revenge on those assh*les?
- First they start growing sorghum, pretty soon they’ll start running a sex farm round back! It’s a slippery slope.