The Walking Dead, Ep. 6.10: “The Next World” will have to wait just a little longer

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The Walking Dead, Season 6, Episode 10: “The Next World”
Written by Angela Kang and Corey Reed
Directed by Kari Skogland
Airs Sundays at 9pm ET on AMC

Whatever criticisms one might have of last week’s “No Way Out,” it was at least refreshing for The Walking Dead to embrace genuine hope for a change. Sure, it senselessly cut down an entire family in the space of about two minutes and took out a principal character’s eye, but it was all in the service of a rousing walker-slughterin’ montage, proving that even the lowly denizens of Alexandria were worth defending in the days after the end of days. So it’s refreshing to see, in “The Next World,” that the series isn’t immediately bouncing back to its nihilistic status quo.

That’s the kindest thing to be said about “The Next World,” which may evoke flashbacks to the late Darabont era of the show in its ability to space out ten minutes’ worth of incident over about 42 minutes of television. The ideas at the core of the episode – the slow return of sentiment and ritual, the need for connection, the persistence oh hope, the importance of Orange Crushtm –  are all good ones, but Angela Kang and Corey Reed’s teleplay is simply too sluggish and awkward to make “The Next World” anything other than a time-marking lark.

Best things first: Rick and Daryl’s Midnight Run-esque dual supply run was almost…fun? Between the jaunty music and the semi-constant wisecracking, their scenes together seem hellbent on recasting The Walking Dead as a buddy action-comedy. It’s a good look for a series that often goes long stretches being almost impossibly dour. The big news for fans of the (unread by me) comic series is the introduction of Paul “Jesus” Monroe, played by the eerily Jared Leto-esque Tom Payne. For anyone not familiar with the comics, though, Jesus isn’t much to get worked up over just yet – mostly, he just seems like yet another character Rick would have been better off properly leaving behind. (If The Walking Dead has a moral, it’s that hell really and truly is other people.) The Walking Dead has a solemn duty to be both an entertaining television series as well as to satisfy the teeming hordes of Robert Kirkman fans; in “The Next World,” it errs almost completely on the latter side of the fence.

Really, everything that doesn’t involve Rick and Daryl wisecracking, or the final scene (we’ll get there), is kind of a mess. The notion of Spencer and Carl finding the “right” way to put down Deanna is a good one – there’s a real kernel of interest in the way these people are bringing some sense of ritual to the way they dispose of their loved ones, even when they’ve been transformed into flesh-rending monsters. Unfortunately, the staging and writing of both the Michonne/Spencer and Carl/Enid scenes is just plain awful. For the sake of stretching these b-scenes out as long as possible, both Spencer and Carl withhold what they’re actually doing in the woods with their respective scene partners, adding an obnoxious layer of chauvinism while making these scenes feel interminable. In a just world, the entire “let’s put down Deanna humanely because she was important to us” sequence would have run a powerful three or four minutes. Instead, the entire conceit is milked to an insulting degree, which only serves to dull the impact of Deanna’s actual (second) passing. What’s the opposite of killing two birds with one stone?

While it’s not the sort of cliffhanger we’re accustomed to on The Walking Dead, I confess to having a soft spot for the episode-ending coupling of Rick and Michonne. (RickChonne? Katana Grimes? Surely they must already have a ‘shipping name.) Ottawa’s own Kari Skogland does a fine job establishing the easy domestic rhythms they have fallen into in the weeks since Carl’s injury, with Rick’s ever present knife being used not for walker slaughter but for mere belt maintenance and Michonne nearly as concerned about keeping up on dental hygiene as keeping watch over Alexandria, so the ending should not come as a surprise to any astute viewer. Still, it’s just nice to see two characters we actually maybe give a damn about – and who actually stand a chance of living for a while – find some solace. It certainly beats having characters shack up with obvious zombie fodder, anyway. (Apologies to the weirdly unmourned Jessie.)

To sum up: we’re very glad you’re introducing a little tonal variety, Walking Dead. Now can you do it without wasting quite so much of our time?

Other thoughts:

Michonne is the last person who should be worried about dental hygiene. Look at those pearly whites!

It’s “Thanks.” Thwak. “That’s my gun!” vs. “So long, ya prick!” as Daryl’s best Daryl-ism this week.

Carl’s newfound lack of depth perception does not seem to have diminished his confidence around walkers.

This episode brought to you by Orange Crush.

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