As most of you know, I wasn’t exactly thrilled with the Richonne hook-up in last week’s episode — in fact, I was downright pissed with a good portion of my review turning into a rant. However, the one thing that prevented my from giving “The Next World” a much lower rating was our new long-haired, bearded friend, Jesus (Tom Payne). He provided a refreshing air of mystery and not to mention the humor, which was greatly needed in an episode which would have otherwise fallen flat. The only question that remains is friend or foe? Here you have a guy who is out there all by himself, has no weapons, but still manages to sit our 2 best fighters, Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedus), right down on their asses. Well, the good news is we learn in tonight’s episode that, yes, he’s one of the good guys. What’s more we discover that the timing could not have been more perfect, with Alexandria and Jesus’s community forging a very beneficial, symbiotic partnership at a time that they both will need it the most.
RICK, YOUR WORLD IS ABOUT TO GET A WHOLE LOT BIGGER
After the initial shock of Jesus awkwardly barging in on Rick, Michonne, and their naked butts in the final scene of last week’s episode, he finally reveals that he, too, had lied about being part of a community. He explains that he is part of what they call the Hilltop Colony and has hopes of trying to establish some kind of diplomatic relationship with Alexandria that can be used for trading. As we all noticed last week, Jesus was out on a supply run and had not a single weapon. It is evident from his fighting skills that the guy is one tough SOB, but still, going around with no weapons is pretty damn ballsy especially since there’s a risk he may run into a herd or people like those Saviors. As it turns out, that may have not been his choice, as he immediately notices that Alexandria appears to be low on provisions, but has no shortage of weapons and ammunition (he even has the stones to check out their arsenal). From the get-go, that seems to be his main motivation for trying to create a trading partnership. Stay tuned because there’s much more on that later.
After some discussion, a small group that includes Rick, Michonne, Glenn (Steven Yeun), Maggie (Lauren Cohan), Daryl and Abraham (Michael Cudlitz) decides to check it out, or at the very least, return Jesus to his people with the hopes of a trade. On their way, they encounter an overturned car at a gas station, which raises suspicion with Rick and Co. However, Jesus claims that the car belongs to his community and of course, wants to check for survivors. He goes on to explain that his group doesn’t have many fighters, and so, if there’s anyone left alive, it’s imperative for their survival that they be rescued and brought back home. The others believe it may be a trap, but they are proven wrong after 4 people are found still alive, and nobody attacks anyone. One of the survivors, Harlan, mentions that he’s actually a doctor — an obstetrician, in fact — which, of course, gets Maggie’s attention since she’s pregnant (we assume this is Harlan Carson from the comics. Yay, another comic-book character!). He promises that he’ll provide her some medicine and prenatal vitamins since her group rescued him and his people. Not much more on this, but it does become important by the end of the hour when he also offers her an ultrasound, which is something Maggie doesn’t have access to in Alexandria.
They finally arrive at the Hilltop, and both Jesus and the 4 people they rescued help gain them some trust so that they are allowed in. As was suspected earlier, the guards of the compound have only knives and spears and definitely no guns nor ammunition. Thus, it appears that Jesus’ motivation for trying to establish an alliance may have been on point. The Hilltop needs Alexandria because of their firepower, and Alexandria could sure use them because they seem well-stocked on food.
They immediately are taken to meet the community’s leader, Gregory (Xander Berkeley), who by the way, gets to live in the main house, a mansion, in fact, that was called the Barrington House before the apocalypse happened. For those who were expecting the guy to be another Rick Grimes or Deanna Monroe, you will be sadly disappointed. I’m not sure how this Gregory became the leader of these people, but he is very pompous and very condescending and even goes as far as telling Rick and the group that they need to clean themselves up before they can talk. Are you kidding me?! It’s obvious that Jesus is bothered by his leader’s behavior, but he just rolls his eyes and follows Gregory’s instructions.
Well, it doesn’t take long for Rick (who I bet was starting to have flashbacks of the Governor and Woodbury) to lose his patience and ultimately leans on Maggie because of her diplomacy lessons from Deanna. But, even Maggie doesn’t have much luck, at least initially. She tries to make a deal of trading food for weapons and medicine, but Gregory doesn’t budge. In fact, all he does the entire time is make passes at Maggie and seems to have no interest in working with Alexandria. Nothing is free, and if Alexandria wants something, then they’ll have to work for it. However, hold onto your pants, everyone, because it’s not over yet. Sometimes it takes a good wake-up call for people like this to see the error in their judgement.
AN ALLIANCE FORGED IN THE FACE OF A COMMON FOE
After Gregory digs his heels into the dirt and refuses to do business with Alexandria, a very critical thing happens that will ultimately turn the tide. Another Hilltop group that had been out on a run returns home but this one is gutted, and it’s clear that something had gone very wrong. Gregory immediately wants to know where the rest of the group is, and one of them named Ethan answers that they were killed by Negan because the “drop was light”. He was also ordered to bring back a message to save his brother, Craig, who had been captured and being held prisoner by the Saviors. Gregory stares, waiting to hear the message, and then out of the blue, Ethan lunges forward and stabs him. In other words, stabbing Gregory **was** the message. For those who have not read the comics or who isn’t familiar with Negan, I think you see clearly now that this guy is a serious bad-ass not to be reckoned with.
After the attack on Gregory, a huge fight breaks out where Rick kills Ethan, and Abraham is damn-near choked to death. However, thanks to Jesus and his gift of being able to keep order (why isn’t this guy in charge instead of this clown, Gregory!), things finally settle down, and everyone is relieved to see that Gregory is wounded but still alive. For those who have been sitting on the edge of your seats, waiting for the next Negan breadcrumb, you are about to get the mother load. Jesus explains that the Saviors are a group of violent marauders who demands food and supplies from communities in return for not attacking them (no, really, I’m serious). The Hilltop is one of those communities and have been under the Saviors’ thumb for quite some time. In fact, Negan had shown up very early on and killed one of their own, a 16 year-old boy, to make sure Gregory understood “right off the bat.” (yes, I DO think that means the boy was Lucille’ed) Daryl then mentions that they killed a bunch of the Saviors without much trouble and is convinced that Negan is nothing more than a buffoon filled with hot air and empty threats.
Your boogeyman, he ain’t shit — Daryl
Yeah, confrontation isn’t something we’ve had trouble with — Rick
In other words, Daryl is pretty confident that Alexandria can take Negan and his entire crew out, just like that, and still make it home for dinner. Umm, Daryl, are you sure about that? Yes, those Saviors you blew up were pretty easy targets, but you haven’t met Negan, have you? If you’re a comic-book reader, I’m sure you know the answers to these questions. In short, it’s not going to be that simple.
Later on, Maggie has another talk with the wounded Gregory and decides to approach her argument for an alliance a different way. If anyone had any doubts that she could negotiate, that she could be a leader, that she could be just as strong as any man, you were proven wrong tonight. Hot damn! She goes on to explain hat her group knows how to deal with assholes like the Saviors and offers to try and rescue the guy who had been taken prisoner and get rid of the Saviors once and for all. However, there’s a catch — in return, they have to give Alexandria one half of the Hilltop’s resources. And right now too. After everything that has happened, Gregory doesn’t see much room to negotiate and finally agrees.
ABRAHAM AND ROSITA OR ABRAHAM AND SASHA — OR NEITHER
It’s been a while since anything has been mentioned about that very unexpected reveal that Abraham may just have a thing for Sasha (Sonequa Martin-Green) in the 6A episode “Always Accountable.” Of course, they had been busy taking out Saviors and saving Alexandria from the herd from hell, but now that everything was getting back to some level of normalcy, Abraham begins tonight to think about it once again. He had been with Rosita (Christian Serratos) since he had lost his family, and they have been through a lot together. It’s pretty clear that Rosita loves him very much. But, at the same time, Abraham can’t stop thinking about Sasha and so much that he imagines her while he’s being intimate with Rosita. At the beginning of the episode, he and Sasha are returning from their patrol, and he is obviously flirting with her in the same painful way that he had earlier on in the season. However, to his dismay, Sasha informs him that she has changed her shift, and Eugene will now be his partner. Uh, oh.
So, was this a gentle and subtle let-down by Sasha? I’m really not sure at this point. Remember, Sasha has had some terrible losses recently, including Bob and Tyreese, and it could be that she’s not ready for any kind of relationship right now. Of course, we also shouldn’t forget her erratic behavior in the season 5 finale, with her coming dangerously close to having a complete mental breakdown. However, it turns out to not matter much because by the end of the hour and after Abraham is nearly strangled to death at the Hilltop, he finally decides it’s all a moot point. With everything that has happened and how things are, a relationship and any kind of normal life is just not an option for him. What’s more, he seems almost relieved at the revelation.
Now, all of this is nice and good, but the part that really set off the alarm bells for me is the fact that Abraham and Eugene are now paired off for patrol. If you’re familiar with the comics, you’ll know exactly what I’m thinking of and had the same “Oh crap!” moment. I really don’t want to give everything away, but let’s just say if they follow the original source material, one of these 2 may not make it to the end of the season. And, honestly, I had originally thought the writers were going to mix this one up and give the death to someone else, but with this reveal tonight, I’m not so sure anymore.
All in all, I thought this was a good episode and much better than last week’s installment. One of the big complaints from viewers (myself included) about the first half of season 6 is that the plot moved at a snail’s pace and not much happened after the premiere episode. However, the pace has definitely picked up after the mid-season premiere, and in tonight’s episode alone, we covered so much ground. We got to see the Hilltop for the very first time. We met the community’s arrogant, but effective, leader, and a partnership was formed with Alexandria that will prove to be invaluable once Negan and the Saviors make their presence very well-known by the end of the season. Oh, and how can I forget there is one added bonus — no additional Richonne sex scenes in this episode! There is a brief scene with Carl where Rick explains the situation to him, and he seems to be OK with it all, but that’s about it. Whew! I know a good portion of the fandom may feel let down after last week’s big Rick/Michonne hook-up, but honestly, if they keep such scenes to a minimum, they will score big points with me.
The Walking Dead airs on Sundays at 9/8c on AMC.
Critic Grade — A
Geeky computer and math nerd by day and TV fanatic by night. My beats are The Walking Dead, The Strain, Person of Interest, Z Nation, and anything that most people would call freaky. Editor-In-Chief and Lead Writer of TVGeekTalk.com