There’s a scene in the second episode of The Walking Dead: The World Beyond where our four teenage protagonists are hiding from “empties” (walkers, zombies) in a treehouse, chewing through the short time by playing Monopoly and passing a bowling ball around while bellowing “Big Moe” – the ball’s given name. It’s amongst the most awkwardly acted and poorly written scenes I’ve seen in a big-ticket network show, even by YA standards.
But what’s more is that this particular scene is designed to show how naïve these kids are in a post-apocalyptic world that’s been wrecked by zombies for, according to the show’s timeline, a decade now. Up until the events that kickstart this new show, these kids have lived a life of swift adaptation, walled up in a relatively advanced Nebraska community, shielded from what’s really going on outside.
In this setting, walkers – or “empties” – are more of a casual nuisance than an active threat, something TWD has been moving towards in previous seasons as human enemies take on a bigger role. The writers have doubled-down with this here, which leaves these kids without a survival instinct once they thrust themselves into the kill-or-be-killed reality outside of the walls.
And the big issue here is that viewers are now asked to be patient while these characters learn how to survive. We’ve seen that, twice. We saw it with the still vastly superior mainline show; we saw it with the sometimes-great, often-terrible Fear The Walking Dead, and now we take that even further with TWB.
In fact, it’s even worse given the age of these characters and just how green they are when it comes to navigating this messed up world, which means that they make the same kind of incredibly stupid mistakes we’ve seen in shows like this a thousands times over.
Two Episodes In
Media have been given the first two episodes to form some kind of opinion on the show before it’s early October premiere date on Amazon Prime. Granted, ‘Fear’ didn’t pick up the pace until much deeper into the series (and then dropped it like a sack of potatoes with the most recent season). There’s still plenty of hope for this show, and I will continue watching just because I’m such a massive fan of the original, but also because the writers have cleverly made this compulsory viewing in order to understand the universes’ end-game.
Why this show is so necessary has to do with a simple acronym: CRM. This is the seemingly nefarious Government-like organisation that picked Rick up in a chopper when he exited TWD, and was briefly sketched in a standalone episode of ‘Fear’.
TWB wastes little time introducing this major playing card. The Civil Republic Military is the mysterious group that sits at the heart of this show, propelling our two apparent leads – sisters Iris (Aliyah Royale) and Hope (Alexa Mansour) – on their self-imposed mission. That is, to find their father (Joe Halt), a scientist who has been traded to CRM’s Portland base, seemingly to work on a “cure”. He’s allegedly in trouble, so along with two of their friends – who are tagging along with really boring motivations that make zero sense – the sisters set out to find him.
Tearing It All Down
If The Walking Dead is about people trying to re-establish humanity after the world goes to shit, The World Beyond is about going in the other direction. It’s about abandoning the certainty of four walls to save someone in a bad situation, and I can see that becoming incredibly monotonous, fast.
The most interesting prospect are two older and more capable characters who are trying to catch up with the sisters so that they don’t get themselves killed. That’s Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru), which should hopefully add a little experience to the group. Although neither are particularly unique, even though Felix is being treated with Lost-style flashbacks in an attempt to build him into what could be the show’s fan-favourite.
Is It Worth Watching?
Based on the first two episodes, things aren’t looking good for The World Beyond. And that’s really a shame, given The Walking Dead now has an official end date, and the quality of Fear is sinking fast. Though The World Beyond will be limited to two seasons only, there’s a lot riding on restoring interest to this universe, given so many have abandoned it over the years.
I have every confidence that the show will remain at least somewhat watchable as we head further into the first season. But as it stands, average acting, a terrible plot, cringe dialogue and uninteresting characters threaten to derail The World Beyond before it can find its feet.
TWO STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
The Walking Dead: World Beyond premieres on October 5 on Amazon Prime Video.