The following article contains spoilers.
The Walking Dead has made a lot of its most passionate fans’ dreams come true. Unfortunately, it wasted an episode to do so.
“The Next World” should have ushered The Walking Dead into a place far more terrifying than it’s ever been. “No Way Out” ended the reign of walkers and set the red carpet for Negan’s debutante ball. Instead, “The Next World” refers only to the emotional place Rick and Michonne finally come to grips over. They’ve been together all this time. Only now have they finally accepted it.
The 10th episode of The Walking Dead’s sixth season is possibly the show’s first ever attempt at British comedy. Its main plot, in which Rick and Daryl are on a supply run and get ambushed by Jesus (not that Jesus, but actually a major comics character making his TV debut) could have been another necessary lesson in trust in the “new world.” Instead, The Walking Dead becomes a zombified Looney Tunes cartoon, climaxing in a field chase that’s begging the editors to set it to yakety sax (and one fan actually did). No major development worth remembering happens otherwise except for Spencer’s closure on his mother, Deanna, a significant plot made insignificant as a result of it feeling like a chore than a conclusion.
The whole episode is underscored by waste, from the literal wasted supplies in the truck to Deanna’s unsatisfying resolution, and it’s only when Rick and Michonne find each other at the end of it does “The Next World” actually mean anything. The episode began with Rick and Michonne in a platonic morning ritual, and it ends with them couch-side like two working parents after a long day. “The Next World” isn’t about Negan or walkers, but about settling into a life both familiar and scary. For Rick and Michonne who have been through hell together for three seasons, accepting each other is equally familiar and terrifying.
After three long years, #Richonne fans saw their dreams come true in what was the only significant moment of an otherwise silly, if useless episode.
I’m generally agnostic to fandom shipping and character romances, but Rick and Michonne getting together is, like walkers, a no-brainer. The Walking Dead may not have entered the terrifying new world in which it needs to be, not yet anyway. But it has arrived in a place it deserves to be.