It’s a double episode review! Watch out for those spoilers. We've got a sale on The Walking Dead action figures this week!
At the beginning of season 6 we saw an awesome cliffhanger episode move into a scattershot coverage of the life of an average Alexandrian. Reviewing the new first two 2nd half episodes together gives us an opportunity to see what the showrunner’s changed about kicking off the rest of the season.
They have maintained focus on the core characters a lot better. Of course, they culled an entire family out of the line-up in a couple of minutes in the “No Way Out” premiere; so there are fewer characters to divert our attention. The pacing contrast of the opening episodes stayed exactly the same, though.
We started this second half of Season 6 with an action packed episode best summarized as Daryl with a rocket launcher, lots of people die, then Daryl with a rocket launcher. The episode was called “No Way Out” and there was no way out of Daryl using the heck out of that rocket launcher.
“The Next World” threw the brakes on that train by spending a lot of long, slow time with (differently and better than Season 6, Ep. 2) core characters. Who doesn’t love a Rick and Daryl buddy road trip?
The Walking Dead thrives on this head whipping pace change between episodes. It’s a formula to get us invested in the characters and then have us drowning in tension as they face new danger. You might have gotten whiplash from the quick turn they did with Carl, though. We ended “No Way Out” with Carl in a potential coma from eye loss (can that kid ever stop getting shot?). We start “The Next World” with a scene that could have come out of Modern Family (save the gun belt and lack of toothpaste). The show has time to save, but man, could a kid losing an eye to a gunshot have ever been less remarkable?
So, no toothpaste sets us up for the Rick & Daryl show. There is a side story involving Spencer, Michonne, Carl, and Enid. It’s a long slow burn to say goodbye to Deanna again (not sure why) that leads Carl to tell Michonne he loves her in a way only appropriate for the zombie apocalypse. Moving on.
Whether you enjoyed “The Next World” or not has a great deal to do with whether you like watching your characters interact for the sake of interacting. It works when the dialogue works (it mostly did) and when you see some sort of character growth or plot development. This episode introduced a little slap stick in the character exploration. Can our hapless buddies ever just hold onto that darn miracle supply truck? Turns out, no. Or, maybe, what’s too good to be true, is.
“The Next World” introduces an effectively mysterious character, by the name of Jesus, to our crew. Like Rick, we don’t know Jesus’ motivations, but we can’t help but think they might be halfway decent. Daryl, in his Daryl way, spends most of time glowering over the new guy inconvenience. The character growth comes from seeing Rick and Daryl switch places in their respective regard for “others” in this “Next World”. Rick wants to prioritize growing Alexandria. Daryl has retreated to being suspicious of all “others”. You have to assume it’s due to running into the rocket ker’sploded gang at the beginning of “No Way Out”. Strangely, Daryl and Rick never talk about that gang during the episode. Maybe they did it during the super-fast forward healing of Carl’s eye (and psyche).
The coup de grace of the episode arrives when Rick and Michonne (finally!), let’s say, make more than a friendly connection. Seriously, was there some chick named Jessie? The episode sets this moment up well with the two hardened survivalists talking about their hard (but not life endangering) day. It’s an election year, vote Michrick! Hopefully, we’ll see more of the Rick, Michonne, Carl, & Judith family unit on screen.
In case you were wondering, Jesus does come back. To Alexandria. We leave the episode on the lightly humorous note it started with, this time, the image of Rick and Michonne wrapped in sheets and Jesus waiting to talk with them.
Please your thoughts or comments about the start of the new season!