'The Walking Dead: World Beyond' Review: AMC second spin-off is compelling, ambitious and injects fresh horror
The season opener wastes no time in establishing the key factor of the series: The Civil Republic Military
This review is spoiler-free.
'The Walking Dead: World Beyond' is the latest entrant in the 'Walking Dead' franchise. The much-anticipated series was slated to debut in April this year, except, the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, which mercifully hasn't converted the dead into zombies pushed the AMC spin-off to premiere later in the year. 'World Beyond' is a new way forward for the franchise. It's fresh, it's coming-of-age, and from the first two episodes provided by the network for review, it hints the series is more than just survival of the fittest.
It's clear the series is targeted for a new audience — a lot younger than the ones who tune in to watch 'The Walking Dead' and 'Fear the Walking Dead'. The cast, all in their teens live in a world that's changed massively from the zombie-filled world we're accustomed to seeing. There's Aliyah Royale's Iris, the quintessential good girl, a natural leader, president of her high-school class. There's a sense of calm around her that's reassuring and respect-gaining at the same time.
Then there's her sister, Hope (Alexa Mansour). Naturally, she's a stark contrast to Iris and spends her time violating the community laws by making huge quantities of alcohol. She's the exact opposite of just about everything Iris believes in. While they live together, what they never open up about is the death of their mother on the night of the eventful zombie apocalypse. The season opener wastes no time is establishing the key factor of the series: The Civil Republic Military (CRM).
The CRM tease and references were made heavily in the predecessor shows, but at the same time, much about them was a mystery. Headed by Lieutenant Colonel Elizabeth Koblek (Julia Ormand), the insulated, quiet community in Omaha buzzes with her entry. The CRM looks like soldiers trained for war. There's no hand-to-hand combat or bloody scrimmages with the walkers, or in the case of 'World Beyond' — 'Empties'. This army is deadly, capable of doing intense damage, and certainly well-equipped to survive the apocalypse.
Hope doesn't trust the CRM. Despite the fact they consider themselves allies, the sisters have no absolute way to communicate with their father who left them to work on a cure for the virus attack in the Civic Republic. Iris, on the other hand, doesn't openly show the same hate to the organization Hope does. Like we said, as different as chalk and cheese. The sisters decide to take matters into their own hands by planning to rescue their father sparking off the next act in the series.
Joining them in their mission are Nicolas Cantu's Elton, a wise (read nerdy) teen, and Silas (Hal Gumpton). And in Annet Mahendru's Huck and Felix (Nico Tortorella), who serves as the sisters' guardian in their father's absence, there are two warriors keeping a constant eye on Hope and Iris. If the first major portion of the episode is all about CRM that fans have been eager to know more of, the character plotlines take precedence soon after.
The actual story begins in Episode 2 where the teens have to fend off not just the empties, but also Felix and Huck, who are on their tails. The fact these kids are not accustomed to surviving outside their comfort zone poses as the first hurdle as they try their damnedest to stay alive and safe. It's an interesting watch to see how they go about surviving a threat they'd only read about. And that makes the series establish the connection for first-timers exploring the 'Walking Dead' universe.
'World Beyond' is promising primarily due to its fresh narrative. It's got new faces and some impressive talent. While there are flaws, lack of horror for one, it makes up for it by putting out a compelling storyline where horror's more than just the empties. With two episodes, the room to identify flaws gets tougher, but for now, the potential has the upper hand. We'd recommend 'World Beyond' not just for hardcore 'Walking Dead' fans but for the new batch of the audience, it's created to cater to.
The series debuts on Sunday, October 4, at 10 pm ET on AMC.