The Walking Dead: World Beyond





Paul Asay

TV Series Review

Skip school? Dangerous business, people.

Cutting class always comes with a slice of peril. You could miss something important. Get an F on an unscheduled quiz. And if your mom or dad found out, why, they just might kill you (metaphorically speaking).

But when four students from the Campus Colony of Omaha decide to skip campus—not just for algebra class, but for the foreseeable future—they’re putting themselves in more danger than they can even imagine. And they can imagine quite a bit.

It’s been a decade since the world was overrun by zombies. And the undead who’ve, um, survived for (or been created in) the last 10 years are still staggering around, looking for a few fresh brains to eat. For all that time, the walls around the Campus Colony has kept its inhabitants safe. To leave the grounds is utter madness. Here, truancy can get you killed. Literally.

Zombology 101

By the end of the first episode of The Walking Dead: World Beyond, we learn the campus itself isn’t necessarily all that safe:  These teens might’ve decided to leave at just the right time. But without any texts to send or internet to surf, they can’t know that. And besides, they have other business to attend to.

See, these kids aren’t just heading out to the local fast-food joint a couple of blocks away: They’re on an 1,100-mile trek across half the country, heading to what was once upstate New York. Sisters Iris and Hope Bennett believe their father’s there, and that he might be in need of rescue.

It’s about the first thing that the two have agreed on in ages. Ever since their mother died, Iris has been the optimistic and reliable one; the practical, forward-thinking student-body president with an eye toward saving humanity. Hope, meanwhile, is a bit hopeless about the whole future-of-the-human-race thing. Oh, she’s been taught how to kill zombies and she knows how to brew bootleg alcohol with the best of them. But she knows better than most that the real monsters aren’t just the “empties” staggering around the wasteland. If the zombies don’t kill all the people, the people themselves will.

“Everybody’s so torqued up about building things up again, but it’s so pointless,” Hope grouses. If Iris is the teacher’s pet with her hand raised in the front row, Hope’s the kid in the back, rolling her eyes and scratching graffiti on the desk.

The two sisters are joined by Elton, an analytical 15-year-old on a quest of his own; and Silas, a quiet 17-year-old with a violent past (so the rumor mill says, anyway) and a hankering for a fresh start.

But they’re being chased by more than just zombies. Felix, head of the school’s security team and (in their father’s absence) Iris and Hope’s legal guardian, is on their collective tail, too—as is his tough-as-iron security partner, Huck. They want to find the kids before they’re zombies themselves.

Pawns of the Dead

The Walking Dead universe is pretty self-explanatory, in that the title tells us much of what we need to know. The original AMC series finally crumbled to dust in 2020, just as World Beyond was digging itself out of the ground. Both, obviously, have their own unique stories and goals and characters and even vibe. World Beyond gives us our first look at a generation that barely remembers a world without zombies—just like today’s crop of youth has always had the iPhone. And like previous iterations in the franchise, World Beyond wants to explore themes that, if you will, dig beneath the skin.

But as the characters in World Beyond might themselves say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. And this show has the same old problems as the others.

Don’t let the show’s teen characters and vaguely Breakfast-Club-meets-The-Living-Dead vibe fool you. This spinoff’s just as bloody and gory as anything we’ve seen before. And while fans of the franchise have surely been desensitized to it all by now, that doesn’t make the flying entrails any more appetizing.

Language can be an issue, too. Few of the characters here have much opportunity to sit around and fall in love with each other, but romance still might be in the wind. (It should also be noted that Felix was disowned by his own family for being gay and taken in by the Bennett family, explaining his loyalty.)

AMC’s title, World Beyond, suggests that its creators hoped that this installment of The Walking Dead franchise would feel different. New. As fresh as a show about decomposing corpses can feel. But for our purposes, this world feels all too familiar.

Episode Reviews

Oct. 4, 2020: “Brave”

For Monument Day (a holiday commemorating those who have died and saluting those who’ve survived the zombie apocalypse), the Campus Colony of Omaha welcomes Lt. Col. Elizabeth Kublek, a representative of the shadowy Civic Republic. That’s the same organization that strong-armed Leo Bennett (Iris and Hope’s dad) into working for them. Hope doesn’t trust Elizabeth at all. And while Iris would like to, some secret messages apparently sent by their father change her mind. They decide to leave school and to rescue him—receiving some apparent, unexpected help from Elizabeth herself.

Several zombies wind up dead again. One is purposefully obliterated by a racing SUV (the “empty” explodes in a shower of blood and gore). Another tries to crawl into a bus luggage compartment but is eventually torn away by the wind (leaving a massive bloody mark along the side of the vehical). Others are shot or stabbed as well. In flashback, we see dozens of zombies who were once passengers on a downed airplane in various states of goo and dismemberment.

We witness the death of two actual people during this flashback, too—three, if you count the unborn baby in the womb of one of the victims. Both people are shot, and both leak plenty of blood.

Hope cooks up a batch of illegal liquor that gets her thrown in a holding cell. (The hooch is mentioned several times, with one character admitting to having drunk too much of the stuff.) Hope and Iris drink most of a bottle of brandy that their father left behind, and both wake up the next morning feeling hung over. Felix, head of security for the school, is gay, and someone mentions his boyfriend. We hear one s-word and several other vulgarities, including “a–,” “b–ch,” “d–n,” “h—” and “crap.” We see several crude hand gestures.

[Spoiler Warning] After the four students and two security personnel leave campus, something devastating happens. We see a hole in the campus wall, and the bodies of hundreds of humans have been strewn across the grass. Elizabeth and some Civic Republic soldiers are calmly dispatching of the still growling zombies that are left. The show seems to imply that everyone who was left was killed (likely indirectly by the Civic Republic). That would equate to a casualty count of nearly 10,000.

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Paul Asay

Paul Asay has been part of the Plugged In staff since 2007, watching and reviewing roughly 15 quintillion movies and television shows. He’s written for a number of other publications, too, including Time, The Washington Post and Christianity Today. The author of several books, Paul loves to find spirituality in unexpected places, including popular entertainment, and he loves all things superhero. His vices include James Bond films, Mountain Dew and terrible B-grade movies. He’s married, has two children and a neurotic dog, runs marathons on occasion and hopes to someday own his own tuxedo. Feel free to follow him on Twitter @AsayPaul.

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