‘The Walking Dead’ Episode 6.10 “The Next World” (9 out of 10) Created by Frank Darabont; Starring Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Danai Gurira, Chandler Riggs, Lennie James, Lauren Cohan; Sundays on AMC.

This was the right way to come down from that adrenaline-filled mid-season premiere. After getting to see the Alexandrians finally represent, they’ve had a relatively peaceful couple of months. I said this last week, but I’m really glad that our heroes are starting to catch a few breaks. Tonight’s episode not only maintained that momentum, but quite possibly broke the Internet with its concluding scenes. Executive-level spoilers ahead!

Rest in Peace

Spencer (Austin Nichols) has been acting weird—watching your relatively safe community slowly crumble to the point where you wake up one day and your whole family has been killed will do that do a guy. Michonne (Danai Gurira) notices that this weirdness has been causing Spencer to take long, wistful walks into the woods by himself. In what I thought would be a fairly angsty storyline involving Spencer wandering into the woods to take out his rage by killing zombies (most everyone seems to go through this phase), we actually got a decent story about reconciliation. Spencer and Michonne’s little adventure leads them to cross paths with Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon), who appear to be wrangling a zombie rather than killing it—curious, right? As it turns out, Spencer was combing the woods for the zombified version of his mother Deanna (Tovah Feldshuh) so he could regain some closure for her death.

When Spencer and Michonne put Deanna’s zombified corpse out of her misery, we can’t help but think of that moment way back in season three when Carl had to put his own zombified mother to rest. His cursory involvement in this scene was a cool little footnote—he understands what Spencer was going through better than most anyone else, and Chandler Riggs nailed it when he and Michonne debriefed the situation. The relationship between Carl and Michonne is one of my favorite things about the show, and this scene between them was beautiful.

Rick and Daryl Find Jesus

It’s been some time since we’ve seen Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus) get some one on one time, and their bromantic road trip was great for several reasons. Perhaps my favorite thing about seeing Reedus and Lincoln share the screen together is how much of their connection comes from their ability to communicate without any words. Daryl’s grimace as Rick starts off their supply run with some godawful honky tonk music is a perfect example of this.

While trying to bust open a vending machine for a few sodas, they meet a suspicious fellow named Paul (Tom Payne), but whose friends call him Jesus. As far as the comics go, Jesus is from another community called Hilltop, and his appearance in the show implies that the show is planning to follow Kirkman’s original narrative.

His introduction on tonight’s episode was slightly different than it was in the comics. He leads Rick and Daryl on a Benny Hill-like chase through the Georgian wasteland after conning them out of their stocked supply truck. While these scenes maintained the show’s trademark grit, there was something lighthearted about the whole encounter—much of which was due to Payne’s portrayal of the character. All three of these actors played well off of each other, and I’m happy with the decision to cast Payne in the role of this beloved character.

Shipping News

In what will soon come to be known as a historic moment on “The Walking Dead,” fans who have been shipping Rick and Michonne were treated to one of the most—dare I say romantic?—scenes in the show’s entire run. The show hints at the possibility of this relationship with the opening scene that finds a post-shower Michonne asking to borrow Rick’s toothpaste, but there’s something about the low-five that they give each other in passing that hints at their mutual residence in the friend-zone. At the conclusion of the episode, when Rick and Michonne sit on the couch and talk about their day while their fingers timidly intertwine over a roll of mints, the collective sighs of all zombie-lovers could be heard worldwide. Did I mention that all of this adorable hand-holding ends with Michonne naked and armed with her katana? I tell you, there’s something for everyone in this episode.

Verdict

I know it’s going to be short-lived, but I am totally loving the happiness that I’m seeing so far. It’s refreshing to see a show that has found new ways to make beauty out of grit, gore and grief let its cast take a breather. Plus, the zillion people that were pulling for #richonne got a hell of an eyeful tonight. Not only was it beautiful to see these two characters slowly come to the realization that they could be amazing together, but having Rick and Michonne seal the deal means the writers have to commit to this romantic storyline. No more having a main character strike up a romance with someone only to have them lazily killed off before it goes anywhere. If Rick and Michonne don’t end up working out, they can’t simply have a walker shamble in and eat one of them. As the episode ended on a cliffhanger that featured both Rick and Michonne naked and armed, next week’s installment promises to be one of fractured timelines and a bit more exposure for the mysterious man known as Jesus. See you then, zombie-friends!

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Tags: Zombies , AMC , The Walking Dead