The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 – The Next World

“You still got a family. You still got a home.”

This week’s episode of The Walking Dead gives our characters a much-needed breather. It was fun and light, which are words we don’t often get to use when describing this show. No hordes of hungry walkers, no vicious humans out to slaughter innocent lives. Just a community of people rebuilding their lives and finding some peace in the middle of the apocalypse. There were some touching moments, including two major characters finally getting together, but more on that later.

The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 - The Next World“The Next World” featured a time skip of several months after the bloody massacre in the mid-season premiere. Alexandria is on the mend and it looks like no major walker-related incidents have made trouble for the townspeople so far. Carl seems to have recovered from his injury, and the others look more light and cheerful than we’ve seen them in a while. Denise even asks Daryl to try and get some soda pop for Tara.

Rick and Daryl go on a supply run that is relatively uneventful by The Walking Dead‘s standards, and still somehow ends with them losing a truckload of supplies as it sinks into a lake. This time, though, it wasn’t walkers or rogue Wolves that made their lives difficult, but a new and intriguing character named Jesus. Jesus. He even has the beard to match.

The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 - The Next WorldBut he’s proven to be no pushover and even manages to outsmart Rick and Daryl a couple of times in one episode. That’s saying something. And their reactions about saving him show how much their worldviews have been inverted as of late. After meeting so many jerks on the road (even one who took his crossbow!), Daryl is now reluctant about welcoming new people into the fold. And it’s Rick, who had been adamantly against taking new people into the group, who has had a change of heart and who is willing to give people a chance. It’s a strange new dynamic, but it’s refreshing to see Rick less grim about the future.

Jesus is an intriguing addition to the group and though we don’t know much about him at this point, he will surely make things interesting. Comic book readers would know better what to expect but for now, it’s clear that this guy knows how to survive and may be hiding a secret or two.

The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 - The Next WorldBack in Alexandria, several people deal with facing the walker version of Deanna. Michonne spies Spencer wandering in the woods with a shovel and when she confronts him about this, he says that he has some unfinished business.

Later on Carl, who was also wandering in the woods with Enid, spies the walking Deanna but refuses to kill her. Eventually, Michonne sees Deanna too and helps Spencer properly deal with his mother’s reanimated corpse. They bury her properly and Michonne reminds him that though the people bound to him by blood may be gone, he still has a family and a home left in Alexandria.

The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 - The Next WorldScenes of domestic felicity abound in this episode, which is a rarity for this show. We had Michonne in a bathrobe at the beginning, reminding Rick about toothpaste, and then Carl cradling baby Judith and talking to her about the north star. There is a particularly touching moment when Michonne confronts Carl about Deanna, where he says that a walker should be killed by someone they love and then that he would do the same for her. That’s as sweet an “I love you” as anyone can get on The Walking Dead, and Michonne appreciates it.

And now let’s get down to it. Richonne is happening. And what a wonderful way to introduce this couple. We see them bantering at the start of the episode and then settling down together at the end to talk about their days. There’s a natural chemistry that’s always existed between them, so it makes sense that now that they finally have some down time, Rick and Michonne decide to take their friendship to the next level. They are two warriors who have been through so much together that this development feels logical and earned.

The Walking Dead, S6 Ep10 - The Next WorldTheir scenes together felt authentic and even sweet as they clearly showed how much they care about each other, and how thrilled they are at the prospect of this new relationship. They’ve been functioning as a family unit for ages, with Michonne always being fiercely protective of Carl and Judith, and with Carl constantly looking to her for support and guidance. Rick has always respected her opinion and her fighting skill and trusted her wholeheartedly. They watch each other’s backs and call each other out when the one is behaving irrationally.

The Walking Dead doesn’t often do romance (and not always successfully), but this time it makes perfect sense and I’m glad we are going to see it play out. It’s great to have the characters get to enjoy a well-deserved break and find their footing in this new world before the next chapter of chaos begins.