the walking dead, season 6, 610, the next worldYou know you're in for a good hour of television when the first thing you hear is the opening guitar riff to Boston's "More Than a Feeling," and that was certainly the case on tonight's installment of "The Walking Dead." The episode was filled with inspired music cues – including a great Old 97's tune that scored Daryl and Rick's scavenging road trip – but that first scene really set the tone for the episode, and almost read to me like the beginning of a romantic comedy (leading man gets ready for his day to the strains of classic rock, banters with his children, teases his live-in girlfriend friend about toothpaste). Taking that lighthearted introduction into account, the episode's amorous ending really shouldn't have come as much of a shock.

It says a lot about how well the writers have developed Rick and Michonne's friendship over the past few seasons that it was both surprising and yet made perfect sense when they hooked up at the end of the hour. Alexandria's co-constables have drawn considerably closer recently, and not just because they're both single, attractive, and happen to share a roof. They're both well-versed in weaponry, they've both suffered tremendous loss, but neither suffers any fools; they also push each other, with Rick urging Michonne to look out for herself, while Michonne tries to open Rick's eyes to the inherent goodness and promise still lurking about in this zombie-ridden world.

Rick's recent willingness to adopt that point of view – which really comes into play this week with his upbeat "law of averages" refrain – is perhaps partially why they finally fell into bed together tonight, after countless desperate pleas from the Richonne 'shippers in the audience (who were no doubt doing their happy dances when Rick's latest love interest bit the big one last week). After six seasons of running, rebuilding, and then running again, you'd think Rick Grimes would be a broken man (and at times, he certainly was). Instead, after the Alexandrians proved themselves worthy of saving last week, the sheriff's deputy decided that maybe this place can be a permanent home after all, and is now more invested than ever in making his current situation a lasting one.

"If there's still people out there, we should bring them in," Rick tells Daryl earlier in the episode, despite Daryl's recent change of heart on the subject. "... You all tried to tell me. So shut up. 'Cause I'm finally listening."

With Michonne, it looks like Rick finally has a worthy partner with which to build such a future. While Rick and Jessie's attraction was based purely on lust, Rick and Michonne's coupling springs from a strong foundation of love, one that blossomed over time from platonic to sexual. From their breezy back-and-forth about toothpaste and their cute little handshake before Rick left for his run, to their easy, comfortable nudging and teasing of each other while slouched on the couch at the end of the day ("Oh, so you had a day." "Yep. All on account of your dental hygiene."), it was clear that these two people cared for each other immensely.

Eventually, their conversation culminated in some accidental – then totally intentional – hand-holding, and progressed to tentative kissing, then full-on making out (excuse Rick while he removes his gun – loved that little touch), then some off-screen sex. (This show is still on basic cable, after all.) The camera picks back up on the couple entwined in bed, looking like they've been doing this for years. (And really, it seems like they should have been.)

But sadly, Jesus had to come along to ruin the beautiful moment. Stupid Jesus.

No, the son of God hasn't suddenly joined the cast, but another enigmatic survivor (nee: Paul Monroe), who's decided that it's cool to take the Lord's name as a nickname, so long as he also sports flowing locks and a long beard and knows how to strike a crucifix pose. Rick and Daryl run into the man – or rather, he runs into them – while out on a supply run earlier in the episode, where they score a truck full of food to bring back to the starting-to-starve Alexandrians. Rick (who deduces that Jesus is lying about not having a camp, based on his clean appearance and well-kempt facial hair) starts to ask the squirrelly survivor his patented Three Questions, testing the waters to see if Jesus is suitable to join their ranks, but Daryl quickly shuts him down. "No," he says, citing that self-important nickname. "Guy calls himself Jesus." Jesus doesn't feel like blessing Alexandria with his presence anyway, though, running off and calling out to Daryl and Rick, "This is the next world. Hope it's good to you guys."

Unfortunately, this Jesus isn't as charitable as the biblical one, since in the commotion he sneakily swipes Rick's keys and steals their food-filled vehicle for himself. Rick and Daryl sprint to chase him down (Jesus helpfully left behind a bunch of burnt-rubber tracks, like footprints in the sand) and catch up to him while he's changing a busted tire. After a struggle (this guy is a lot better at fighting than he looks), they eventually are able to tie him up, with Rick suggesting he can undo the ropes easily after they leave him in the dust.

But Jesus works in mysterious ways, and somehow almost immediately escapes his ties, climbing up on the top of the truck and hitching a ride, unbeknownst to Rick and Daryl. As they make a detour to check out an abandoned barn, they hear Jesus making a ruckus on the roof, and Rick slams on the brakes to throw him off. A chase – with Rick in the truck and Daryl on foot – ensues, underscored by another excellent musical cue, as our survivors seek some serious retribution. In an unexpected move, Jesus saves Daryl from an oncoming walker, but he also hits the truck's gearshift, sending it and all its food plunging into a nearby pond. Later, he once again inexplicably, infuriatingly escapes his ties when they bring him back to Alexandria (and he walks in on Rick and Michonne, spoiling the afterglow).

As of right now, it seems like his character's sole purpose is to cause trouble, and I'll be curious to see just how much more chaos he creates in the coming weeks. He's clearly quite clever (setting off those firecrackers as a distraction while he stole the truck was pretty inventive), and also adept at BS. But is he dangerous? Perhaps he's part of Negan's crew, who harassed Daryl, Sasha, and Abraham in the midseason premiere? Or maybe he's simply just a weird dude in need of a savior himself.

"I think you know I'm not a bad guy," Jesus tells Rick and Daryl at one point. Of course, on "The Walking Dead," it's almost always safe to assume the worst until proven otherwise. As I mentioned last week, Rick has picked an inopportune time to become an optimist, and Jesus will surely complicate things even more. We can only hope that the sheriff's newfound happiness isn't short-lived, but I think we all know better.

Other thoughts:

- Kudos to the shot-blocking of that final scene, in which Rick and Michonne, naked, spring out of bed and brandish their weapons. (With all their naughty bits surreptitiously covered, of course.) Jesus got quite the eyeful.

- Another clue that things were bound to progress between Rick and Michonne: Rick leaving his wedding ring sitting on his dresser at the beginning of the episode. I can't remember him ever taking it off before now (please correct me if I'm wrong). He even left it on when he was making out with Jessie.

- Carl has a heart-to-heart with Michonne about not killing zombified Deanna, who shambled up to Carl and Enid in the woods, and who Carl refused to take down, because he wanted to let someone she loved (i.e., Spencer) do it. Without saying so explicitly, he references having to kill his own mother-turned-walker, who died after giving birth to Judith. Carl lets Michonne know that he'd do the same for her; Michonne says she would, too, and they share a sweet hug. So Carl basically just made Michonne his new mommy (and gave her his blessing to boink his dad), right?

- Speaking of Spencer, he wanders off into the woods to do just as Carl suspected, having spotting his reanimated mother during the night of the battle to take back the town. Michonne accompanies him on his quest, telling him that she liked Deanna and didn't want to see her son die. You have so many better people to be concerned about, Michonne.

- Maybe Deanna was wandering around the woods because she was looking for the bathroom?

- Alexandria is going through a food shortage, demonstrated by Rick boring another hole into his belt (aside from the notch he puts in his belt after his romp with Michonne. Hey-o!), and Denise prioritizing food over medical supplies. Eugene says they're in a "scary" situation, and suggests Rick and Daryl be on the lookout for sorghum, an oft-overlooked grain that could be extremely helpful in planting future crops. And whaddya know, Daryl and Rick drive right by a barn marked SORGHUM, in one of the biggest contrivances coincidences ever seen on this show. As Daryl would say: Law of averages, my ass.

- Maggie really wants to talk to Enid. Enid is furiously journaling and does not care. I do not care, either.

- I can't wait to see the look on Father Gabriel's face when Jesus introduces himself.

- Aside from Rick and Michonne's interactions, there were lots of little character moments and conversations that I loved during this hour: Daryl pleading with Rick to "please, don't" play that awful rockabilly song in the car; the twosome shotgunning a can of Orange Crush together like a couple of bros at a frat party; Daryl and Denise's exchange in which she asked him to get her some soda as a surprise for Tara ("What the hell's pop?"), then hems and haws over its importance (definitely behind food, medicine, gas, batteries, books for the kids, and clothes – "It's just, if you see it, if it happens to, you know, be right there"); Eugene's use of the phrase "hunky-dunky"; Daryl giving Jesus the finger, putting his feet up on the dash, and shouting "So long, you prick!" as they pulled away. I could go on. This episode reminded me a lot of season five's 13th installment, "Forget," and it turns out that it was co-written by that episode's screenwriter, Corey Reed. I really enjoyed these smaller, slice-of-life interactions, and I hope we get more of them as the season progresses. Sometimes it's important to remember that these characters are all still people, not just zombie-killing (or Wolf-killing, or future-Negan-killing) machines.

Photo credit: Gene Page/AMC

The Walking Dead
Based on 25 critics

Based on the comic book series written by Robert Kirkman, this gritty drama portrays life in the weeks and months following a zombie apocalypse. Led by police officer Ric... Read More