After a clumsy mid-season return last week, The Walking Dead 6.10 (written by Angela Kang and Corey Reed) provided a refreshing change of pace when it took a detour towards comedy in the light-hearted yet still moving episode “The New World.”
The episode jumped forward in time, showing us an Alexandrian community in a state of rebuilding, and its residents in an unusual state of peace. This seemed especially true for Rick, Michonne, Carl, and Judith, as they spent an easy, familiar morning together. It was interesting that the only trace of the trauma Carl recently experienced was the patch on his eye and a quick mention of using eye-hand coordination activities (bouncing the ball against the wall) as PT. It seems like there’s a lot of story potential in how the loss of his eye could affect Carl physically, emotionally and psychologically, so I’m hoping the show will explore that a bit at a later date.
Rick and Daryl are about to go on a supply run, but first they get some advice from Eugene to keep on the lookout for sorghum (a grain which will help rebuild the community’s dwindling food supply). And then, from the moment Rick and Daryl drive away, we’re treated to a buddy comedy, complete with bickering over taste in music, truck chases, and one liners delivered with deadpan humor.
The pair spot a sorghum sign and end up finding a truck full of everything they could want – from paper products to canned goods to toothpaste (a specific request from Michonne). They decide to take the truck and come back later for the car (which was an odd choice, given how valuable cars are in this world – but maybe they just didn’t want to separate.)
They stop at a gas station where Daryl tries to get Denise’s soda surprise for Tara, and literally run into Paul Rovia, AKA Jesus, in the process. At first glance, Jesus seems sly, charismatic, and smart, but one thing’s for sure – he certainly has learned to fend for himself: He swipes Rick’s keys and drives off with their truck full of supplies.
Rick and Daryl track the truck, and as their luck would have it, Jesus gets detained by a flat tire. The three fight and Jesus holds his own, until Rick and Daryl pull guns on him (and their simultaneous firing at the walker to prove they had ammunition was priceless). Rick and Daryl loosely tie Jesus up on the side of the road to stop him from following them, but Jesus manages to untie himself and silently climb up on the roof of the truck in the time it took Rick to twirl his keys around his finger.
When Rick and Daryl discover Jesus, Rick hits the brakes and knocks the sneaky stranger off the truck, but then things get even more out of hand. I’m wondering why Rick and Daryl chose to go after Jesus – they could have easily driven off with their load of supplies and been done with it. Their decision to chase Jesus resulted in an unnecessary encounter with walkers and their truck rolling into a lake. So either the writers wanted to go for more laughs or they wanted to show Rick and Daryl’s time of peace has left them a bit too complacent. Whatever the case, the sequence ended with one of the best lines of the night: When Rick has second thoughts about leaving an unconscious Jesus in a field, Daryl grumpily says, “Fine. Let’s put him up a tree.” They don’t of course, because Rick has a fresh perspective on new people and Jesus did save Daryl from a walker, but Daryl’s counter to Rick’s certainty that Daryl wouldn’t have left Jesus (“I would’ve. Right up in a tree”) was pretty darn funny.
But all was not humor and bantering in this episode. A moving sub plot featured Michonne’s accompaniment of a shovel-toting Spencer on a mission in the woods, and Carl and Enid’s brief sojourn there as well. When Carl and Enid encounter a walker and Carl refuses to kill it, leading it toward Spencer instead, we find out why Spencer has been taking walks in the woods all this time. A moment later, Deanna comes shambling out of the trees, and Spencer has to come face to face with what his mom has become. Michonne convinces Spencer to let her help him, and why she holds the reanimated Deanna, Spencer kills her. It was an understated but very poignant scene – the kind that The Walking Dead does very well, and the kind that was notably absent in the heavy handed deaths of Sam and his family in last week’s episode.
The Michonne/Spencer story was a very interesting juxtaposition with what was happening with Rick and Daryl, but it didn’t feel jarring or out of place. Somehow the two stories complimented each other, providing an accurate context of the world these characters now inhabit: For every light moment, there’s also a moment that someone has to come to terms with loss.
Overall, this episode was a nice departure from regular Walking Dead fare, providing a rare and humorous look at Rick and Daryl on the open road, while still giving us the emotional character beats we’ve come to expect from this show. We also got to meet the character of Jesus, who so far looks like he will be an interesting addition to Alexandria. I’m actually looking forward to seeing all of our group members interacting together again. My favorite episodes are the ones where Rick is working with his people.
It looks like next week Jesus will lead the group somewhere, showing them that the world is “about to get a whole lot bigger.” I don’t expect we’ll see Negan until the end of the season, so I’m not sure where everyone goes from here. With The Safe Zone secure and the community rebuilding, it’s a sort of blank slate for our group. Anything can happen, and knowing TheWalking Dead, it probably will.