TV

The Walking Dead: Season 6, Episode 10 - "The Next World"

M. King Adkins

There's some peace and quiet for Rick and company this week; and that's a good thing.


The Walking Dead

Airtime: Sundays, 8pm
Cast: Andrew Lincoln, Norman Reedus, Steven Yeun, Melissa McBride
Subtitle: Season 6, Episode 10 - "The Next World"
Network: AMC
Air date: 2016-02-21
Amazon

In this week’s episode of The Walking Dead, "The Next World", Rick (Andrew Lincoln) and Daryl (Norman Reedua) play with the phrase, "law of averages". Rick insists on looking to the bright side of their current situation, arguing that, despite the fact that they've had a dry spell lately in finding supplies, the "law of averages" says their luck is bound to change. While Daryl remains skeptical, Rick does seem to be proven right when they come across a truckload full of supplies.

The problem is, the law of averages, it turns out, can be somewhat fickle. In an unusual, though welcome bit of humor in this post-apocalyptic world, Rick and Daryl wind up losing the truck, only to get it back again, only to lose it again, get it back again, and finally lose it once and for all, watching helplessly as it sinks to the bottom of a lake. All of which works well as a metaphor for the balanced back and forth structure the episode as a whole offers.

I think a number of fans may be disappointed in this episode (the same sorts of fans who complained about the season spent on Herschel's farm) and in many ways, that's a shame. "The Next World" doesn't have the high-octane action of the previous episode ("No Way Out"), or even the slow boil of a non-action episode like the Morgan-centric "Here’s Not Here" from earlier this season.

Complaints about a lack of action, however, miss a number of the important elements in an episode like this one. If nothing else, it’s worth remembering a line from the Irish poet William Butler Yeats: "Come near, come near, come near – Ah, leave me still/ A little space for the rose-breath to fill!" ("To the Rose Upon the Rood of Time"). In short, if we get nothing but action, action ceases to mean much. We need moments, episodes, of reflection, time to catch our breath, consider where we are, and prepare for what’s to come.

In truth, important events do occur in this episode, even if they don’t bring us to the edge of our seats: moments that force us to consider this post-apocalyptic situation from new perspectives. To begin with, the very fact that our band of survivors has experienced a few months of relative safety and peace matters. We've seen very little of these sorts of moments in the course of the series, but if for no other reason than the sake of realism, it makes sense that they would happen eventually (the law of averages again).

Again, not only do we get moments of calm, but we get moments of real humor -- the back and forth between Rick and Daryl over what music to play on the car’s radio; the way the stranger "Jesus" (Tom Payne) manages to con them and steal the truck; the physical comedy that plays out as Daryl and Rick try to tackle a particularly wily Jesus; the long slow way in which the truck seeps below the lake’s surface. Even in a world full of zombies, life can’t be unremittingly bleak.

I would suggest though that, more than anything else, this episode offers a kind of structural beauty. In the early- to mid-twentieth century, "structuralism" was one of the most important buzzwords of literary analysis. Critics based their praise on how well a work achieved balance in its construction, how well the various pieces fit together.

Structuralism eventually lost its cachet, and post-structuralism took its place. In his book Literary Theory: An Introduction, Terry Eagleton ridiculed structuralism as too mechanical: "What a structuralist critic would do [with a story] would be to schematize the story in diagrammatic form […] Flushed with triumph, the structuralist rearranges his rulers and reaches for the next story" (82-83).

Yet a well-structured plot, like that in "The Next World", does offer its own pleasures. In this case, the writers create a nice symmetry by dividing the plot line into three pieces, each one involving a pair of characters: Rick and Daryl, Carl (Chandler Riggs) and Enid (Katelyn Nacon), and Michonne (Danai Gurira) and Spencer (Austin Nichols). In each case, the characters struggle to understand one another.

Both Carl and Enid and Spencer and Michonne, wander the woods around the town (in fact, the two sets of pairs cross paths), but the plotlines mirror one another in several ways. Michonne discovers Spencer roaming with a shovel, and though he initially wants to be left alone, she follows anyway and the two develop a friendship. In contrast, Carl and Enid start out together, exploring and eventually winding up at a sort of clubhouse they’ve built, where they eat candy and read comic books. Where Spencer and Michonne draw closer together though, Carl and Enid have a falling out, and Enid heads back to town alone. In this case, Daryl and Rick serve as a fulcrum point: they bicker almost like an old married couple over the radio, but ultimately it’s all in good fun.

Other parallels develop as well, and the three plot lines intersect at interesting angles. So, for example, Carl -- normally eager to kill walkers -- hesitates and decides ultimately not to kill a turned Deanna Monroe (Tovah Feldshuh). In contrast, Spencer, Deanna's son and a character who has been hesitant to kill in the past, overcomes his emotional hesitation and succeeds in killing his mother, a kill for love as opposed to most of the defensive killing in the show. There’s also the obverse duality of one familiar character's death at the same time the new character, Jesus, arrives.

Finally, though, there’s the intersection of these plotlines at the end, when we discover a relationship between Rick and Michonne (the mirror image of their black and white skin as they lie next to one another in bed a bit like a yin-yang symbol), one that is interrupted by Jesus at episode’s end. All the threads of these plotlines come together neatly in other words, but finally open up into an entirely new direction: plotlines resolved and plotlines begun. Perhaps it’s no surprise then that this coming week’s episode is titled "Knots Untie". After all, the law of averages tells us the show can’t avoid chaos forever.

6

From genre-busting electronic music to new highs in the ever-evolving R&B scene, from hip-hop and Americana to rock and pop, 2017's music scenes bestowed an embarrassment of riches upon us.


60. White Hills - Stop Mute Defeat (Thrill Jockey)

White Hills epic '80s callback Stop Mute Defeat is a determined march against encroaching imperial darkness; their eyes boring into the shadows for danger but they're aware that blinding lights can kill and distort truth. From "Overlord's" dark stomp casting nets for totalitarian warnings to "Attack Mode", which roars in with the tribal certainty that we can survive the madness if we keep our wits, the record is a true and timely win for Dave W. and Ego Sensation. Martin Bisi and the poster band's mysterious but relevant cool make a great team and deliver one of their least psych yet most mind destroying records to date. Much like the first time you heard Joy Division or early Pigface, for example, you'll experience being startled at first before becoming addicted to the band's unique microcosm of dystopia that is simultaneously corrupting and seducing your ears. - Morgan Y. Evans

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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