As we role up to the 10th anniversary of when The Walking Dead first premiered on AMC, the idea of seeing a show set ten years after zombies took hold of the world in The Walking Dead: World Beyond is a clever one. In particular, following a group of characters who have never stepped away from their comfort zone makes for an intriguing concept when faced with the unfamiliarity of the outside world. Being a pilot episode, there’s only so much that can be done, which is why I’m willing to play ball with seeing things ramp up, let alone become more interesting. That said, The Walking Dead’s pilot episode is still one of the series best efforts, while the opening hours of Fear and now World Beyond simply feel like muddled announcements by comparison.
“Brave” opens with a recurring nightmare had by Iris (Aliyah Royale). She’s a model citizen in a Nebraska settlement, which has an alliance with another settlement in Portland, and something known as the Civic Republic, which is represented by a shadowy military leader played by Julia Ormond. Iris also has a sister, the more rebellious Hope (Alexa Mansour). The two quickly establish the love they have for each other, the complicated and boxed up feelings they have concerning the death of their mother ten years ago, and the reality that is their shared distrust for the current form of government.
All that is good stuff and the episode is best when focused on putting this sister relationship on display. Yes, The Walking Dead seems to be using this latest spin-off as a way to key into a younger demographic, but if we’re seeing “Generation W” on full display here, at least the cast is capable. I can’t say there’s as much to be excited about, so far, when looking at the two other teens that eventually make up this unit (Hal Cumpston’s Silas and Nicolas Cantu’s Elton), but one knows they’ll be fleshed out soon enough.
Speaking of flesh, this is a zombie show, and despite lacking more in the way of action, we do get a sense of how well-oiled the walker killers are trained to be at this point (actually, they call them “Empties” on this show). This includes Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (The Americans’ Annet Mahendru). As the episode eventually becomes an origin story for Iris and the gang heading out on a mission to find she and Hope’s father (a brilliant scientist), Huck and Felix seem to be factoring in as badass Empties killers with an eye on tracking down this group, and probably protecting them from harm.
I feel like there should be more going on in this episode to help set it apart, beyond the setting and younger cast. As it stands, not a lot more than table-setting takes place, complete with ambivalence to doing anything interesting with the zombies. Understandably, keeping things character-focused makes sense, and the show is not without its share of zombie-related elements, let alone a pretty brutal final minute. However, this is a series premiere. One would think something more pronounced would be taking place to place the show into a higher gear, as opposed to merely highlighting Ormond’s character really is bad news.
The previous announcement that Jordan Vogt-Roberts (Kong: Skull Island) would be directing the pilot had me excited. Sadly, he exited, and Magnus Martens directed a script from Scott Gimple and Matthew Negrete. I’m not sure what to add here, because I can’t say there was much that really stood out. Perhaps the second episode (part of a ten-episode season) adds more of the “oomph” I’m looking for to help this series make a statement, but I can’t deny having little to praise in terms of spectacle.
At this point, I’m in a “wait and see” mode. There’s enough potential here to deliver a sort of Walking Dead meets Stand By Me type series that could allow for an interesting approach to a series that’s ridden hard on nihilistic qualities. As it stands, Fear was able to eventually pivot towards being a show about saving people from this nightmare to some degree, rather than embracing inevitable doom. We’ll see what World Beyond wants to be, but with only two seasons to work with, I just want the show’s thesis to form soon.
- Zombie Kill of the Week: Ormond’s’s Kublek lets her troops handle 5 empties at once. They get the job done.
- “The Night the Sky Fell” is a cool way to reference the end of the world.
- Elton is dressed like a Wes Anderson character.
- Spray painting empties faces. We’ll see what that does.
- So… more reasons not to go to Nebraska.
- Not sure if I’ll be writing this show up week to week, but we’ll see what happens.
- Thanks for reading and feel free to hear what me and a few other fans of the show have to say about the series on The Walking Dead TV Podcast.