Rick and Daryl Find Jesus in “The Next World” (Spoilers Ahead)
If last week’s mid-season premiere came across as a season finale, the follow-up episode entitled “The Next World” is like a new beginning. A new important character is introduced and two of the show’s main characters start a new romantic relationship.
The other reason why “The Next World” feels like a fresh start is that usually a time jump occurs in between seasons or after the mid-season break. Several weeks have gone by since Carl got shot in the eye. It’s a little surreal at first seeing Carl up and about, joking about toothpaste. But overall, the time jump worked to bypass story beats that didn’t need a whole lot of screen time and transitioned right into setting up the next major arc.
With a few weeks gone by and Alexandria back to being a safe zone, “The Next World” aimed for a lighter tone. Sure, there were zombie kills and close calls but the vibe overall was less tense than we are typically accustomed to. Some characters were smiling and joking for the first time in a while. Daryl was sort of playing cupid when asked to find soda pop to help Denise get her groove on with Tara. Also, parts of chasing Jesus around had a playful, almost amusing tone to it. If this episode was a bloody kill fest the quieter moments and the romantic scene at the end could have really felt out-of-place or at least more than it could have.
The strongest scenes as expected belonged to Daryl and Rick. It’s been half a season since the two spent quality time on-screen together and their brotherly bond is always great to watch. Their role reversal with Daryl now being the more pessimistic of the two makes sense I guess since the last few times he’s met new people it didn’t end well, most recently he had to blast a bunch of bad guys with a rocket launcher.
Aside from his noticeable wig, Paul “Jesus” Monroe’s introduction is a good mix of fun and intriguing mystery. Jesus is clearly lying that he doesn’t belong to a camp as Rick points out he’s clean and the beard is neatly trimmed. But Jesus is likely telling the truth that he’s not a bad guy. His actions back that up; for example, Jesus saved Daryl when he didn’t have to. He’s also a really good escape artist and fighter, taking on both Rick and Daryl without throwing a single punch. The way Jesus said “we need to talk” is as if it wasn’t an accident that he met Rick on the road and that he has now made his way into Alexandria without technically breaking into the safe zone.
Casting British actor Tom Payne to play Jesus is an interesting choice. I had envisioned someone a little more mature, like a grizzled veteran who has a strong physical presence. I’m also not sure that Payne pulled of the beanie, trench coat and gloves ensemble, probably few actors could. What I do like is that his agility and speed is very believable which lends well to him being a superior fighter, one of his defining traits. Payne also brings a good-natured and likable presence which is a good fit for the role.
Usually the most talked about scene is a crazy action sequence or a memorable death. “The Next World” switches things up by hooking up Michonne and Rick. I really like the potential of this relationship. It’s not really a spoiler to say (since it happened on the show) that at this point in the comics Rick starts up a romantic relationship with a lead female character. The TV show writers are keeping the essence of that relationship from the comics but taking it in a fresh direction by having Michonne take the place of the girlfriend.
Michonne and Rick have always had a strong connection. She’s basically like family already as Carl mentioned. As for the timing, since several weeks have passed since the last episode it puts distance between Rick and Jessie’s relationship, not that any of the survivors are mourning for her or her sons. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs also applies to the post-apocalypse; once the basic needs for food, shelter and safety are achieved, Rick can move on up the hierarchy to fulfill his need for love and feelings for Michonne.
When Rick brushed his hand against Michonne’s at the start of the hour it was rather unexpected. What might have helped sell the scene at the end is dropping more hints of attraction between these two in previous episodes although it would lose out on that surprise factor which worked nicely here.
We can understand why Michonne would be drawn to this refreshed, hopeful Rick compared to the crazed Rick that she had to knock unconscious last season. She’s searching to figure out what she wants in life, maybe she hopes she’ll find it through Rick and his family.
Transitional episodes like “The Next World’ are more about laying the groundwork than containing pivotal, game changing moments. But overall, it’s an enjoyable oddity that throws a curve ball at the end. It should be interesting to see how Rick & Michonne’s relationship plays out and whatever Jesus wants to talk about will likely form the foundation for things to come.
What are your first impressions on Jesus? What do you think about Rick and Michonne getting it on?