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I thoroughly enjoyed last night’s episode of The Walking Dead. It wasn’t a great episode, but “The Next World” managed to capture many of the things that make the series strong. We were introduced to a new potential threat in the form of Jesus, we were given the chance to learn a bit more about Spencer and Enid, and we got some serious story movement in the form of Rick and Michonne finally getting together. And that’s not even touching on the absolutely delightful road trip with Rick and Daryl.
Andrew Lincoln has been great at capturing the darker sides of Rick Grimes, but he is really at his best when the show lets Rick relax a bit and have some fun. And pairing him up with Norman Reedus’s Daryl (arguably the show’s most popular character, but one who has had almost no screen time this season) was a stroke of genius. The duo are two of only five “original” characters left on the series (six, if you count Morgan as one of the OG), and it was great to see them spend some time together. For some reason, the writers seem to have an aversion toward letting original characters spend too much time together. Yes, I know that the show needs these characters to mingle with new ones to allow us to care about the new arrivals. But, when you have characters with years of deep shared history, you need to utilize that as well. Some of the show’s greatest moment come from these characters working together (the great Carol-Daryl road trip comes to mind), and it’s a joy when we get episodes that play off these seasoned veterans.
After spending so much time watching these two men be suspicious and on their guard, I enjoyed watching their playful sides emerge. Sure, they had to track down Jesus and they lost the truck of supplies (that no one had found that truck this far into the apocalypse was the least believable part of the episode- even less believable than Jesus’s pretty awful wig), but getting to hear Rick admit he needs to change the perimeters of the Alexandria Ricktatorship was a huge step in the right direction for the series. The show needs a new direction and exploring the world around Alexandria (and any settlements that might be there- for good or ill) is a solid start.
While I greatly enjoyed the Rick-Daryl storyline this week, I was most intrigued with the arc given to Spencer. Frankly, I’ve only been slightly interested in the story of Deanna’s sons since we met them. And, considering Spencer was the least developed character out of her whole family, I really never gave him much thought. But watching him wander the woods trying to find Deanna to put her down was a really great look into the type of man he is. It was pretty crushing to watch him make peace with the loss of his final family member, but it was heartening to watch him realize that he can trust these newcomers. After all, there’s nothing Deanna would want more than for her son to accept Rick’s people and become a linchpin in this new society. Austin Nichols did great work, emphasizing the silences wrought by the weight of what he had to do.
Finally, I want to touch on the interesting path the show is sending Enid down. Now, my disdain for how the show treats Glenn and Maggie has been talked about a lot in these reviews (short recap: the show refuses to let them exist as individuals and they can’t have a single conversation without mentioning the other), but if the series wants to throw Enid into the mix, I won’t complain. The wayward and angry teenager route isn’t ever a good choice for a series to embark on (it only makes audiences resent the character for their continual whining), and was the main cause of Enid grating on a number of viewers. Sure, she has every reason to be mad at the world, but just having her wander around in the woods and be mad doesn’t create a compelling character. But turning Enid into the scared dog that might have found a home at least gives the character direction. And it might allow Maggie and Glenn to have a deeper storyline with someone outside of their insular pairing. I’m going to reserve judgment on the success of this arc until things are a bit more clear, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction.
— I didn’t want to get too much into questions about Jesus, as I am aware of his role in the comics. But I’m really excited to see how he fits into the TV series.
— I’m glad the show finally gave into the Rick-Michonne chemistry. I understand why they wanted to include Jessie as a character (and her comic significance), but she always seemed like a placeholder until the time the writers decided to pull the trigger on Rick getting together with Michonne. The chemistry between Andrew Lincoln and Danai Gurira is electric and the two characters make complete sense together.
— I like that the writers are continuing to develop Denise as well. I was worried they were going to let Merritt Weaver sit around in the background, but I’m thrilled she’s getting a chance to develop her character into one of the more interesting additions to the show.