Spoiler Warning for this week’s episode of “The Walking Dead”

Tom Payne as Paul "Jesus" Rovia and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes (Photo courtesy of AMC)
Tom Payne as Paul “Jesus” Rovia and Andrew Lincoln as Rick Grimes (Photo courtesy of AMC)

The world of “The Walking Dead” is truly growing and the newest episode clearly demonstrates it. Following the devastating and climactic mid-season premiere episode last week, “The Next World” slows things down a bit to develop and flesh out a handful of the characters. A true sense of calm is felt within the walls of Alexandria, but viewers soon discover a larger world exists outside.

The episode picks up about two months after the events of “No Way Out” and life in Alexandria is returning to some sense of normalcy. Rick gets dressed to head out on a supply run with Daryl, but not before playing with Judith and joking with Michonne about a shortage of toothpaste. We also get our first look at a still recovering Carl, who wears a bandage over his eye-gunshot wound. Meanwhile, Denise and Daryl go over a list of needed supplies, including medicine and food. She also asks him to bring back soda as a surprise for Tara, who is about to leave with Heath on an extended supply run. Maggie checks in on Enid and encourages her to get more involved in the community. Before they leave, Eugene presents Rick and Daryl with a map and instructions to find sorghum, which Eugene deems necessary for solving their food shortage. These scenes were extremely enjoyable to watch, especially after all of the death and despair in the previous episode. Alexandria is shown to be expanding and growing similarly to how Deanna planned.

While standing guard on a lookout post, Michonne notices Spencer walking into the forest with a shovel strapped to his shoulder; she leaves her post and follows him. Being that Spencer is the sole survivor of his family, he shares with Michonne that Alexandria is no longer his home, rather it’s just the place that he lives. He also tells Michonne that he just wants to be alone, but she refuses to leave him, referencing her friendship and appreciation of Deanna as the reason why. Michonne also shares the discussion she and Deanna had in “Start to Finish” about Michonne needing to find out what she truly wants in life. Elsewhere in the woods, Carl and Enid spend time snacking and reading comic books. Enid questions Carl about why they spend so much time outside of Alexandria to which Carl responds by saying “because we’re kids.” They hear a noise, but quickly realize that it’s only Michonne and Spencer. Moments later they are spooked by another noise; this time, however, it’s a walker. Enid tells Carl to leave it alone, but Carl has plans for the walker and tells Enid to go home.

On the road, Rick and Daryl discuss their positions on bringing new people into Alexandria. Rick believes that new people should be allowed in, while Daryl is understandably hesitant. His worry may stem from the encounter he had in “Always Accountable” that led to his motorcycle and crossbow being stolen, as well as, the explosive run in with the group of Saviors. They discover a sorghum barn with a truck inside packed full with supplies, a rare and exciting find. Before heading back to Alexandria, they stop at a gas station where Daryl finds a soda machine filled with a few cans of orange Crush. Out of nowhere, a mysterious masked man with long hair crashes into Rick. At gunpoint, the man explains that he was running away from walkers. Rick and Daryl introduce themselves to the man who reveals his name to be Paul Rovia (Tom Payne), although he also goes by the name, Jesus. Rick begins asking the famous “recruiting questions,” but Daryl cuts him off and Jesus leaves. Rick then decides that they will follow and watch Jesus to see where he goes. However, a loud noise from behind the gas station prompts the two to investigate. They discover the noise was a distraction set by Jesus so he could steal the truck full of supplies.

Back with Michonne and Spencer, they notice Carl leading a walker through the woods. The walker is revealed to be Deanna, who must have wandered outside of Alexandria in the chaos of “No Way Out.” Spencer pulls out his knife and approaches his undead mother before tearfully stabbing her in the back of the head. Seeing Deanna as a walker was a major highlight as Tovah Feldshuh always gives a remarkable performance. Spencer and Michonne dig a grave for Deanna in the forest with an appropriately placed “D” carved into a tree. Michonne assures Spencer that he still has a family in the survivors in Alexandria. This was an incredibly touching and emotional scene that provides necessary closure to Spencer. Both Austin Nichols and Danai Gurira gave exceptional performances, as well.

Spencer and Michonne encounter Deanna as a walker. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)
Spencer and Michonne encounter Deanna as a walker. (Photo courtesy of AMC.)

Back on the road, Daryl and Rick run after their stolen truck. They manage to catch up after the truck breaks down, allowing for Rick and Daryl to catch Jesus and hold him at gunpoint. Jesus is able to put up a strong fight, however. They tie him up and drive off, but not before Daryl flips the middle finger at the stranger. While driving, they notice another farm and Rick begins driving through a field to explore. A thumping sound is heard by Daryl from the roof of the truck; he quickly realizes the sound is Jesus. Rick slams on the brakes, causing Jesus to fly off the truck and land on the ground. He stands up and runs, but Daryl jumps out of the truck and chases after him. Being that Jesus is unarmed, Daryl sees no reason to harm him and instead chases him around the field. Rick parks the truck to kill some nearby walkers. Jesus tries to steal the truck once again while Daryl hurriedly tries to stop him. A walker nearly takes a bite out of Daryl, but Jesus saves him. While fighting, they accidentally hit the gear shift causing the truck to reverse into a pond. They jump out, but Jesus is knocked unconscious. Daryl and Rick decide to tie him up and make their way back to Alexandria. The entire sequence of Rick and Daryl trying to capture Jesus was well done and humorous to watch as Daryl always throws a joke into hectic situations.

Back in Alexandria, Carl and Judith sit on their porch and stargaze. Michonne appears and scolds Carl for leading Deanna through the woods. Carl explains that he knew Spencer needed to be the one to put her down claiming “it should be someone who loved her.” This scene highlights the sheer amount of care and love that Michonne has for Carl. Rick and Daryl arrive at the gates of Alexandria with Jesus still unconscious. The camera focuses in on a new sign outside that reads “Welcome to the Alexandria Safe Zone. Mercy for the lost. Vengeance for the plunderers.” They bring Jesus to Denise for a quick check up before locking him in a townhouse basement with water and a note. Over at Rick’s house, Michonne and Rick plop on the couch and chat about their day. Rick hands Michonne a pack of mints and their fingers interlock. They passionately kiss on the couch; they are later shown sleeping together in a bedroom. Before the episode ends, Jesus appears in the room as Rick and Michonne leap out of bed naked and armed with their weapons; Jesus then tells Rick “we need to talk.” For many fans like myself, a romantic relationship between Rick and Michonne has been long awaited. Will their relationship last or is this just a one-time thing?

“The Next World” is a much needed slower paced episode that serves to further develop the characters. The introduction of Jesus is an interesting turn in the overall story. Where does he come from and can he be trusted? Fans of the comic-series will know these answers. The growth and expansion of Alexandria also represents a shift in the story as each character helps in rebuilding the community. Be sure to tune in to “The Walking Dead” next Sunday at 9 p.m. on AMC.

Jeffrey Kopp is the Community Editor of the Niner Times. He is a senior double majoring in Communication and Political Science. His interests include writing and keeping up with an excessive amount of television shows. He is also the go-to expert on all things “The Walking Dead."