‘The Walking Dead: World Beyond’ Turns a Graphic Horror Story Into a Teen Series
If “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is indeed what follows an undead nation’s return to normalcy, we’ll stick with the zombies. This runs like an afterschool special if “TWD” started its run on the Disney Channel with Nickelodeon actors. At least they dealt with the frightening Dan Schneider specter. What’s keeping Iris (Aliyah Royale) up at night is being the best person she can be when everyone else around her is an ex-person. Her sister Hope (Alexa Mansour) stays up late for the hell of it. They’re teenagers in a living hell, and the devil outside looks better and better.
“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is set 10 years after the initial events of “The Walking Dead,” and things have gone downhill fast. The world has adjusted to a new normalcy and everyone who survived has been whittled down to a bland sameness. Walkers are called Empties, and it’s tough to tell which are the brain-dead. The action starts at “Campus Colony,” near Omaha, Nebraska. It is one of the communities in “The Alliance of the Three,” which identifies itself by the Three Rings symbol. We don’t know the location of the heavily-armed community called Civic Republic, which is where Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln) is being kept. While we do know the third republic is somewhere near Portland, Oregon, its name is too secret to say aloud. Maybe it’s called Fort Voldemort.
The Campus Colony is a walled community on what was called Nebraska State University prior to the apocalypse, and all the future world’s scientists are, apparently, raised there. Iris and Hope are junior chemists, and seemingly polar opposites. They are each told they’re just like their dad, who was helicoptered away, like Rick, by the Civic Republic Military, which they call the CRM, for his science knowledge. No one trusts the CRM, but they have to pretend to love them. The visiting Civic Republic envoy Elizabeth (Julia Ormond) is more frightening than zombies, but in a Dolores Umbridge, headmaster of Hogwarts kind of way. Sure, the secretive colony itself is scary because of its secrecy, but she pops up out of nowhere offering uneasy reassurances with random expectations.
If we have to choose between the regimented Karate Kid integrity mantras of the post-cataclysmic order and the insanely intricate world of pain which preceded the military brat life, give us the apocalypse. We haven’t rooted for the zombies this strongly since Robert Englund palmed the tips in “Zombie Strippers.” The broody silences of “The Walking Dead” have been replaced by persistent self-reflection. A stoic character named Silas (Hal Cumpston) breaks his silence with too much information. He doesn’t want to be what everybody thinks he is. Iris, at least, actually goes to a psychiatrist, though the analyst’s advice cuts about as deep as any random quote from an affirmation-of-the-day calendar. The analyst finally finds a true cure to trauma after graduating to a reanimated corpse. Every other character is a strutting psychological wound spewing therapeutic psychobabble, analyzing each other’s faults and confessing innocent sins. The dweeby Elton (Nicolas Cantu) says things like “in the time I have left on earth” in casual conversations. It’s a zombie show, shut up. Save the analysis for “Talking Dead,” at least Chris Hardwick can choose from a range of emotions.
After the four teens run headlong into the beyond to check on the father, they are tracked by Felix (Nico Tortorella) and Huck (Annet Mahendru), who usually guard the perimeter of the Campus Colony. They know what’s out there, and it scares them. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” has its share of gore. Elton notes that the innards of discarded Empties look like “ravioli and candy canes.” We do like the bee-spewing zombie though. It is also heartwarming to see the teenagers have a hard time taking down a walking deadster. We understand this is a coming-of-age story, but we don’t want them to. Like angst-ridden teenagers since society’s birth, the main characters believe they are humanity’s last generation. “Fifteen years til we’re gone,” Elton calculates. They’re at peace with it. Of course, they could screw and prolong it. But it’s not that kind of show.
Walkers. Empties. Lurkers. Rotters. Please, will one of “The Walking Dead” series call the undead “zombies?” The comic did. Do they hate George Romero that much? And would it kill them to let them eat some brains for a change? Entrails and blackened intestines are getting stale. “The Walking Dead” universe continues to expand into vast, complex and unnecessary terrain, and may very well continue to morph after we’ve all succumbed to a real extinction. The original series killed off boring characters all the time, so don’t get too attached to anyone. “The Walking Dead: World Beyond” is officially a ″two-season limited event” so it should be a ghost town soon. Oh, and where the hell is Rick Grimes?
“The Walking Dead: World Beyond” premieres Oct. 4 with new episodes airing Sundays at 10 p.m. ET on AMC.