The Walking Dead – “The Next World”

Jesus Saves postJesus saves. Or does he?

After spending a painful amount of time on the lives of the Alexandrians – the first half of season six takes place over only a couple of days – we break with the comic book narrative and jump ahead two months. The comic spends time watching the community develop while Carl is bedridden, but we begin here with Carl upright and able-bodied, albeit with a certain lack of depth perception.

“The Walking Dead” hasn’t ever taken such a positive turn. We see domestic quibbles over who used the last of the toothpaste. We see clean-shaven faces and signs that the community has tethered it’s resources and established a new sense of unity. There’s a confidence in this new-found domesticity and cooperation. It’s something that viewers haven’t seen since Hershel’s farm. And even back then, there were serious problems.

It feels alien to have the show’s trademark ‘horror film’ violin music fade-in for the opening credits when nothing bad has actually happened. Quite the contrary, we’re actually left chuckling at Rick’s ultimate redneck honkytonk music as he and Daryl drive off in a plume of dust on a scavenging run.

Given how the story of “The Walking Dead” has unfolded, it’s unlikely that this newfound repose will last. The real question is, what terrible thing is going to happen to disrupt the peace?

Is Jesus going to be a savior? Doubtful. Fans of the comic book will be delighted that this mysterious new character has been introduced, and it’s the opinion of this writer that the nature of Jesus need not be prematurely revealed here.

One of the wonderful things about “The Walking Dead” is that the writers have gone to great lengths to change key plot points. This is likely an effort to keep the story relevant and prevent fans of the graphic novel from spoiling the television show. In the end, both formats have strengths and weaknesses, and the adaptation to the screen exploits every opportunity to remain it’s own distinct experience.

In the comic book, for instance, there isn’t even a Daryl Dixon character – he was written for the early episodes and was never intended to survive. He become such a beloved character so quickly, the decision was made to keep him in. Similarly, it’s Michonne who first encounters Jesus, at the gates of Alexandria, and not Rick and Daryl out on the road. And no, Michonne doesn’t share an intimate moment with Rick at all in the books. Chances are, the producers felt inclined to bend to the will of the fans, who have been more than vocal about their desire to see the two hard-core survivor-leaders, the two characters with the thickest skin, fall into bed together. It’s pleasantly disarming to see these two, hardened warriors both, actually smiling – a lot. In a world so broken, with characters who have endured as much tragedy as these two, it was something akin to relief to see them come together in one peaceful moment.

Will it last? Who is Jesus, and does he have anything to do with Negan and his band of highwaymen? It is true that he wasn’t carrying a weapon, and he didn’t attack Rick and Daryl. He might have stolen from them, but he didn’t hurt them. Hell, he even managed to save Daryl from a walker. Is he going to play a larger role in “the next world” he makes mention of? Are there really other communities out there that can be trusted? Only time will tell. The one thing we do know is that the show leaves us with more questions than answers, and it definitely keeps things interesting.

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Bonus factoids.

  1. Rick is no longer wearing his wedding ring.
  2. The comic book we see Carl reading in the woods is “Invincible,” another comic series penned by “Walking Dead” creator Robert Kirkman.
  3. You can see Glenn’s name scratched off the casualties list at the beginning of this episode.
  4. In the comics Jesus’ real name is Paul Monroe. It’s changed to Paul Rovia to avoid confusion with him being a member of Alexandria’s Monroe family.
  5. Rick shares a passionate kiss with Andrea, not Michonne, in the opening to ‘Volume 16: A Larger World’
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