Monday, February 22, 2016

The Walking Dead Season 6, Episode 10: The Next World

This week's The Walking Dead is a fun, uncharacteristically lighthearted romp, and a welcome respite from the typical suffering and despair.

Who the frak is in charge of scheduling over at AMC? Last week's episode you know, the one that brought the whole "Terrible, Horrible No Good, Very Bad Day" storyline to a head should have been the mid-season finale (and nothing anyone says will ever convince me otherwise). This week's episode, which features a goddamned months-long time jump should have been the mid-season premiere.

Everything that happened in this episode  from Carl's complete recovery to the Rick/Michonne pairing would have had much more impact if we'd have had to wait three months to see it.

In the first half of the season the writers dragged their feet as they stretched and padded to make two hours of story fill up eight hours of air time. Then suddenly in this second half of the season, they jump two or three months ahead between episodes. It just makes no damned sense.

I don't know if this lack of understanding of how storylines and drama work should be laid at the feet of The Walking Dead showrunner or with the Programming Director of AMC. Whoever it was needs fired, with gusto.

On the other hand, these time jumps are nothing new. They've already done it at least twice before, most notably between the second and third seasons. Plus we've already scene Carl recover from serious wounds back in Season 2, so I don't think any of us want to go through that again. So maybe we should count ourselves lucky they skipped ahead a bit.

SPOILERS!

The Plot:
The episode begins a few months after the previous one. Alexandria's been swept clean of walker bodies, and Carl's fully recovered from his grievous injury. Michonne seems to be living in Rick's house, but we're not sure what the sleeping arrangements are just yet. She tells Rick to be careful when he goes out on his supply run with Daryl.

Meanwhile Dr. Cloyd gives Daryl a supply list, asking him to bring back any pop he may see for Tara. Cloyd and Tara are apparently a couple now. Eugene gives Rick & Daryl a map of likely farm supply spots, and tells them to look for sorghum. The two head drive through the gates on their run.

Rick & Daryl find a barn labeled "Sorghum." When they open it they don't find any grain inside, but they do find a truck loaded with food and supplies. For some insane reason, they both drive the truck back, instead of taking separate vehicles like normal sane humans.

On the way back they stop and search a gas station. Daryl breaks into a vending machine to get the "pop" inside. Suddenly a man, literally wearing a highway robber bandanna, runs into Rick. When the two pull their guns on him, he explains he's running from a group of walkers. He asks if they have a camp nearby, but Daryl lies and says no. Rick introduces them, and the man says his name is Paul Rovio, but his friends call him "Jesus." Not "Hay-soos," but regular old "Jee-zus."

He goes on his way, as Rick and Daryl wonder about him. Rick thinks Jesus is just alright, but Daryl says they shouldn't be looking for new people, as it just leads to trouble. They hear "gunfire" behind the gas station and go investigate. The sound turns out to be firecrackers in a trash can, and they hear their truck being driven away. Looks like Jesus bamboozled them and stole their supplies. They start running after him.

Michonne notices activity outside the walls, and sees someone walk into the woods carrying a shovel. She secretly follows, and finds out it's Spencer, Deanna's son. Carl wanders through the woods as well, with Enid in tow. He sees Michonne and Spencer in the distance. A walker approaches Carl and Enid. She tells him to kill it, but he orders her back to Alexandria, and pushes the walker to the ground.

Amazingly Rick & Daryl catch up to Jesus, who's changing a flat tire on the supply truck. After a scuffle Rick ties up Jesus and takes the truck back. A few miles later they hear something on top of the truck, and realize it's Jesus. How the hell he got loose and up on the truck before Rick drove away is left to our imaginations.

Rick stops and there's another scuffle between the three men. Rick and Daryl chase Jesus back and forth through a grassy field full of walkers. The only thing missing is the Benny Hill Yakkety Sax music. Jesus is finally knocked out, but the truck begins rolling backwards and right into a lake, where it promptly sinks. Cue sad trombone.

Meanwhile Michonne tries to talk Spencer into going home. He says he has something to take care of, and spots Carl in the distance, with a walker following behind. Michonne sees the walker is a zombified Deanna, and realizes Carl was luring it to them. Spencer says he spotted her the night the wall fell, and has been searching the woods for her ever since. Michonne now understands and holds Deanna so Spencer can "kill" her. They dig a grave and bury her.

Rick and Daryl drive back to Alexandria with an unconscious Jesus in the back. They return home and put him in their makeshift prison. Rick says Daryl's right, and they shouldn't look for people anymore. He says, "It's pretty stupid of us to go out there, isn't it?" Daryl replies, "Yep. We'll do it again tomorrow?" Rick says, "Yep."

Michonne confronts Carl and says she knows he lured Deanna to Spencer, and asks why he didn't just kill her himself. He says she needed to be killed by her family, or someone who loved her. He says he'd do the same for Michonne, and she hugs him and says "Me too."

That night Rick and Michonne lay on the couch together. After talking about their respective days, they kiss. Cut to the next day, when they're both lying naked in bed. So I guess that happened, eh? Suddenly Jesus enters the room and says he has to talk to Rick about something important.

Thoughts:
 Everything is so green and idyllic in this episode, and it was such a tonal shift from the previous one, that for a minute or two I thought it was a dream sequence.

Enjoy this lighthearted respite from the usual misery while you can. If the series follows the comics as it has been, things are gonna get bad again very quickly.

• As I said earlier, I'm grateful for the time jump, so we weren't subjected to endless episodes of Carl recovering. That said, sweeping his convalescence under the rug like that downplays the seriousness of his gruesome injury. He was shot in the head, lost a freakin' eye and was in a coma! And in the comic he even suffered memory loss for a time! Now suddenly he's up and around as if nothing ever happened. Like he got a minor cut to the forehead or something.

 Before Daryl goes out on his supply run, Dr. Cloyd asks him to bring back some pop if he sees it. Daryl asks "What's pop?" 

I realize there are all kinds of regional names for soft drinks, like "soda," and "coke (no matter the brand)," but "pop" seems pretty obvious and self-explanatory to me.

 I enjoyed this (relatively) lighthearted romp with Rick and Daryl quite a bit. That said, why are they going on supply runs in the first place? Doesn't Alexandria already have several groups that regularly do this? Like the barely-glimpsed Heath and his crew?

 As Rick and Daryl leave, we see a shot of Alexandria's Memorial Wall. Deanna and the Anderson family Jessie, Sam and Ron— have all been added.

I have no idea who Maya, Ted, Pascal and Lucy are. They apparently died either the same time as the Andersons or shortly after.

 On the supply run, Rick ignores a stop sign and flies right through an intersection. Fans of The Last Man On Earth will get a laugh out of that scene.

 Blatant Plot Trickery Alert! Rick and Daryl set out together in one car. They find a food-laden supply truck. Amazingly, Rick then tells Daryl they'll both drive the truck home, and come back for the car later, instead of each of them driving a vehicle home. Sigh...

Obviously the only reason they do this is so Jesus can steal the truck and leave the two of them stranded, forcing them to run after him like Aragorn and Legolas chasing Orcs. Gosh, it they'd brought their car with them, they could have driven after Jesus. It's a painfully obvious trick, but instead of being humorous, it makes our two battle-hardened, strategically-minded heroes look like complete idiots.

And who the hell would leave a car miles from home in a zombie apocalypse, so they'd have to risk their lives to retrieve it later?

Fifty points from Gryffindor for writing such a stupid scene!

 Jesus finally makes his appearance on The Walking Dead! No, not that Jesus. He's a major character in the comics, and it's nice to see him at long last. 

Looks like they've changed his name for the TV show. In the comic his real name is Paul Monroe, but here it sounds like he says his last name is "Rovia." I'm guessing they changed his name to avoid confusion with Deanna Monroe, former leader of Alexandria. I don't know why they bothered though. I doubt more than five percent of the viewers could have told you Deanna's last name in the first place.

 Rick and Daryl argue over whether they should bring Jesus back to Alexandria with them. Daryl's against it (and rightly so, given what Jesus does to them during the episode). Rick votes "aye," saying they didn't know Dr. Cloyd at first, but she turned out to be a good person and saved Carl's life.

Um... that's not the same thing at all, Rick. Cloyd was already living in Alexandria before you came along. In essence YOU were the Jesus that time.

 As he patrols the woods, Spencer sees a nearly headless walker approach him. It's tough to see in the above photo, but there's daylight showing through several large gaps in its neck. That had to be a greenscreen & CGI effect.

 While chilling out in the woods, Carl reads an Invincible comic. Invincible's one of the many, many, many comics written by Robert Kirkman, creator of The Walking Dead.

Kirkman's been pushing Invincible really hard lately. Earlier in the season we saw that Sam had a set of Invicible action figures. I wonder if Kirkman's hoping The CW or some other network will make an Invincible TV series?

 Did Orange Crush sponsor this episode?

 Actress Tovah Feldshuh returns one last time as Zombie Deanna. Only on this show can you keep coming back for guest appearances after your character dies!

 Carl tells Michonne that people who turn should be dispatched by their loved ones, and that he'd kill her if she ever becomes a walker. Awwwww, Carl loves his stepmom, and tells her so in the only way he can.

 So... Rick and Michonne are a couple now. At the beginning of the episode I got the vague impression they were shacking up, but then again they could have just been platonic roommates. It wasn't until the final scene that we finally got confirmation. Kudos to the writers for holding back just enough info at the beginning to keep us guessing all through the episode. That almost makes up for the boneheaded plot glitch earlier. I said almost!

The Rick and Michonne pairing is uncharted territory, and doesn't happen in the comic. In the comic Rick ended up with Andrea, who is an awesome character and nothing at all like the terrible, botched version we saw on TV. Since Andrea no longer exists on the show, Michonne's a pretty good substitute.

Some viewers are worried about Michonne's wellbeing now, as every woman Rick hooks up with ends up dead. Eh, I wouldn't concern myself too much about Michonne. She seems like she can take care of herself.

 Readers of the comic will know what Jesus wants to talk to Rick about. The rest of you will have to wait until next week to find out.

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